To future girlfriends of my sons, “I’m sorry!”

“Mummy, I have something to show you.”

“OK… what is it?”

Shoulders hunched in a protective stance he slowly worms his fingers into his coat pocket. Carefully he pulls out a big ugly grey stone. “It’s a fossil,” he whispers, cradling his treasure.

“Um, is it sweetheart? You sure?”

“Yes, it’s a gazillion years old, do you want to touch it?

I don’t have the heart to tell my innocent nearly-five-year-old that it’s just a stone. And it’s not the first time he’s brought random bits of junk home with him that he’s picked up from the school playground. He has little collections of such things dotted around the house.

And it’s not just stones, but also sticks, leaves, sweet wrappers… anything he comes across really. It seems I am the mother of a collector of random junk. I frequently have to wrestle litter from his hands in an effort to prevent our home looking like a landfill site.

I have no idea if I may have done something to cultivate this love of rubbish he has, if I did I’d like to apologise profusely for it, mainly to the future women in his life. But his love of litter is not all, not by a long stretch, there are things my boys do that has me pulling my hair out… Why did nobody warn me of this?

Five years ago as a mother-to-be, I hoped and prayed for a son, a golden boy who would carry his father’s genes and name into future generations like a gallant captain of destiny. To my utter delight, two years later I had a hot-headed, tantruming toddler with a penchant for sucking everything that came within his reach, including his playmate’s dummy and any old soggy fag butt that he came across on the street. I also had another six-month-old who giggled at every move the two-year-old made.

Three years later and I am a lone woman in a household of males who see fit to taunt me constantly with upstanding and moist toilet seats. Lego pieces constantly litter the carpet, and armpit farts are the late afternoon’s entertainment. I have to pretend to enjoy little ditties that feature the word ‘poo’ several times in a row, sprinkled with the odd ‘fart’ chucked in for variety and added giggle fodder.

I worry that, because my boys fight everything that moves, with anything remotely elongated that could possibly resemble a sword or gun, that I have spawned a couple of violence-loving maniacs, despite their only exposure to violence of any sort was watching Iggle Piggle get ratty with his blanket. We don’t even have the News on for fear that it would report on some gang warfare somewhere and the boys would pick up a few tips. Seems that the effort was futile, because to them every tree branch is a weapon of destruction. Am I destined for a life where I have to bail out my sons from a police cell every Saturday night because they’ve had a violent run-in with some townies?

You know those rats on a wheel that spend all day long just going around and around getting nowhere? Well, I am one of those rats. But instead of a perpetual wheel, it’s perpetual cleaning up of toys. They empty their full toy chest onto the floor so that they can make a boat, or they make dens with their duvets, not 5 minutes after I’ve made their beds, and they pull every book off the shelf in search for one specific favourite-of-the-day book they just have to have right this minute. Toys occupy every surface of the house. Even when the boys are nowhere to be seen, cars, transformers and Lego characters seem to materialise out of thin air onto a surface I have just cleared, it’s inexplicable and utterly dispiriting.

I haven’t even started on food yet. Every mealtime, even breakfast, especially breakfast will come with a request for ‘pudding’. Immediately after school I get chants of “’Ungry, ‘Ungry, ‘Ungry” before we’ve even walked through the front door. Eldest son’s default phrase is, ‘mum, I’m hungry, what can I eat?” I swear he does it whether he is hungry or not in the hope that one of these days I will forget myself and let him have a between-meals chocolate bar, but pigs will fly before that happens, my resolve is not so weak. Still, my food bill is rising exponentially with every year that passes.

Dinner, followed by pudding, is then closely followed by supper (as in, immediately afterwards) and god forbid I ever run out of Shreddies, a staple needed to satisfy their voracious hunger at any time of the day they demand. Each trip out in the car begins, as soon as the wheels roll off the tarmac of the drive, with a demand for a snack. Eldest son can barely reach the fridge yet he can stand with his face in it, pulling an expression much like that of a hungry predator.

Anything resembling chocolate or biscuits has to live, in secret, on the top shelf of the food cupboard, it is not talked about, not even hinted at. At age three Sam already knew what C-H-O-C spelt, I swear he could smell it; either that or he’s a child prodigy at spelling.

Hands in pants is another of their favourite pastimes. Both of them will lounge, horizontally on the sofa, starring at the TV, one hand firmly lodged into their joggers, absent-mindedly fiddling about. Yet, they are only five and three now. I dread to think how this will look during their teenage years, when, um, things are bigger and we have visitors?

If my boys don’t get out at least once a day, they will turn feral, and will run and jump at top speed around the house, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake, regardless of the game. Even a quiet game of snakes and ladders turns into a dance of destruction for both snake and ladder. They climb everything they can possibly get a foothold onto. We bought them bunk beds in a vain attempt to dissuade them from climbing up the curtains but said curtains still hang limply off the injured pole, by a thin thread.

Once outside, the monkeys will run amok. If, by chance, they should see a puddle, then they are, of course, naturally compelled to jump in it, and, not content with muddy wellies they will continue to jump until they are drenched through to their pants. On numerous occasions I’ve had to strip them down to skin because they were dripping head to foot, before getting into the car naked to travel home, the heating at full blast to try to dry out both them, and my car seats.

It’s not that I don’t love them just the way they are and perhaps I am just about to contradict myself but I just hoped they might be a little more refined and a little less loutish, is all. Because, just when they are having a quiet moment, and I wonder why I ever made a fuss, one screams down from the toilet, “Mummy, “I’ve done a POOOO” at the top of his voice. A deep tinge of red will then appear on my face and I feel the need to excuse my children to the neighbour I am entertaining in the kitchen below.

So what does all this mean? I would be inclined to think this was typical boy behaviour except that too many of my friends have boy children who behave impeccably. So I need answers – will they grow out of, eventually? Or will I have to apologise to the women they bring home and introduce me to, for having unwittingly produced such messy, untidy sons who’ll eat them out of house and home?

Is my house to be a sanctuary to any kind of crap my sons find on the street? Maybe I’ll grow to love it, the mess and the chaos… I imagine my future self, bereft of the noisy, messy greedy boys, who have fled out into the wider world to make mess anew elsewhere, and I will be left with their detritus, which I will stockpile. Maybe I’ll be on the TV as one of those people who hoard rubbish in their home and I’ll have to be psychologically assessed as to my state of mind. I will protest that it is my sons’ doing, that it is their junk, alas to deaf ears for that will serve only to confound my craziness.

So, with all that in mind, to the future girlfriends of my sons, I’m sorry!