How to raise boys

They have gone rock climbing with their dad. One will be scared, distrustful of the ropes and buckles, the hired shoes. He might cry, crack the shits and demand they come home after ten minutes. One will be too confident, arrogant even, annoying everyone with his bravado and swagger. It’s hard to say which will be which. They operate in relation to each other, like yin and yang. One up, one down.

At a Christmas party, I am given a pair of inflatable plasticky logs, meant for play fighting in a pool. I plan to save them for our next river swim, but the boys grab them from my hands and puff out their sweaty cheeks, before passing me the nozzle, gummed with their saliva. They circle around my legs like excitable fish. ‘As if you need another reason to fight,’ I laugh, and they both lift their arms in the air, cheeks red. They take them onto the trampoline and belt the crap out of each other, screaming, and I keep running to the back door thinking one is hurt, but they are red and sweaty and laughing.

I had an acupuncture session this morning, to strengthen my uterus. I have too much fire in my heart, the therapist tells me. Too much heat, too much excitement. More yang than yin. I think of the nights spent awake in the dark, thoughts racing. I promise to drink the herbs and teas she has prescribed.

In the night, one will climb into my bed. His head is permanently damp with sweat. He brings an armful of teddies: Sophie, Frankie, Blue Bear, Snoozy, Baby Bear, Dusty Martin, Fluffy, Bubble Bear and Bunny. He sleeps with them all every night. Their faces are squashed and the fur is matted where he rubs it in his sleep. I wake up face to face with the enormous eyes of a pink Beanie Boo.

I am on the toilet when the door is pushed open. There is a scramble of muffled giggles, and then a chicken named Jack Riewoldt is thrust into the bathroom and the door is slammed shut. Hysterical screeches from outside the door. The chicken and I eye each other, then the door opens again. They want to surprise me but also to see my reaction.

‘We put a chicken in the bathroom! While you were on the toilet! And shut the door!’ One states the obvious, the other rolls his eyes. Both are red faced and giggling maniacally.

The chicken shits on the floor and I wonder if you can die from laughing too much.