Who is She, this other woman who supplants me between the hours of 7.40pm and 7.55pm each evening if the Boys don't get to bed on time? Because I've got to tell you, she's pissing me off, with her temper tantrums and her short fuse.
For the rest of the day, there I am, (mostly) sweetness and light - or at least, quite reasonable, anyway - enjoying spending time with my Boys, delighting in their quirks, cracking jokes with them, rolling my eyes sure, when I have to ask them for the 5th time to put their shoes on when we leave the house in the morning, but generally fully aware of the fact that they are (mostly) great to be around.
This afternoon, for example, I was 'present in the moment' enough to be able to enjoy it and make sure that I remembered it when my youngest son suggested that if I was going to call for Jesus (following an unfortunate tripping over a crack in the pavement incident on my part), I should make sure to do it loud, so that he can hear me.
And I was able to sit down perfectly happily with both my sons after school and start the lego equivalent of a 5000 piece jigsaw in the full knowledge that we would never finish it today, and that the 'City Police Station Construction Project' is likely to form a core part of our activities for some time to come.
(I should add here that in addition I finally got to make use of what I think is probably one of the best pieces of advice a friend ever gave me about bringing up boys; when you start with the Lego, do so on a sheet on the floor so that when you need to stop / finish / give up because it's time for tea, you can simply pick up all the corners and tip the remaining plastic shrapnel back into the box. Sammie, at the time I didn't know what a gem you were passing on, but now I finally get it; thankyou.)
So today I was aware of how fleeting these moments can be and am now able to sit down and record the memories here, safely storing them away so that I can pull them out at some indeterminate point in the future and turn them over in my hands like lucky pebbles...
And yet, the moment the Boys reneged on our deal regarding an extra 15 minutes of 'Wild Russia' on National Geographic Channel in exchange for not having a book read to them in bed, She arrived. I mean, it's not like they were watching 'Deal or No Deal', for chrissake. This was interesting, riveting stuff; of course they wanted to watch more on how the brown bears like to eat flies on the shores of Lake Baikal. (I know - don't ask). In hindsight, it was perfectly reasonable for them to want to push the envelope and nag me for a story as well after they had previously expressly promised they would go straight to bed. They're 3 and 6 - that sort of double crossing is their job.
Not that She sees that. She felt taken advantage of, exhausted, put-upon. It was all shoutiness and crossness and general childish behaviour for a good 5 minutes. There may even have been a Thomas Tank Engine book flung to the floor when a plastic cup (it wasn't even a breakable glass, for goodness' sake) got knocked over necessitating a swift clear up with a hand towel. Which can, of course, be washed, although you wouldn't have thought that from the huffing and puffing that ensued.
And then, as ever, She left as quickly as she arrived. Two minutes in the kitchen refilling the spilt water glass was enough to bring to me to my senses and send Her packing. She's gone, and I'm left with a sense of shame, a guilt hangover and a resolve that tomorrow I will be a better mother to my two darling Boys.
She should be ashamed of herself. And I am.
It's not all a barrel of laughs, this parenting lark, is it?