Coffee! Croissants! But birthday bliss soon degenerates
FORTY-SIX today, your husband cheerfully chimes. It's almost 7am and you've both been awake for half-an-hour - since you first heard the Wolverine's bedroom door open and clocked her tip-toeing down the stairs.
"Relax," your husband tells you, switching on 'Morning Ireland', "everything's under control," and he leaps out of bed whistling as the news headlines begin.
Shortly afterwards there's a quiet knock on your door and your daughter appears, fresh and brisk in her uniform, followed by the younger ones, still in their pyjamas.
"Happy birthday, Ma," she says, handing you a tray with orange juice, croissants, scrambled egg and coffee. You rub your eyes in amazement, and look at your assembled children. "Did you all do this together?" you ask. "Oh, I just woke them a second ago," the Wolverine says dismissively, adding casually that actually she rose at 6.30am to prepare the feast with her own hands. She then presents you with a birthday card and a pair of earrings. You try them on.
"They're beautiful," you tell her, and she shrugs her shoulders. As the small ones giggle, she orders them to get their school uniforms on and be quick about it. "I'm in charge. You lot can give her your little presents tonight."
You take a half-day off from work and, that afternoon, although your husband is taking you out for dinner at the weekend, you prepare a special celebratory meal. A cake is produced, the little ones hand over their presents and your husband surprises you with a voucher for a weekend in a luxurious lakeside mansion. Then he claps his hands authoritatively.
"Now, everybody, let's start the wash-up. Mum's not doing any clean-up tonight," he says, in the tones of a benefactor granting you an unforgettably wonderful surprise.
The Wolverine points out that, ahem, she won't be helping with the wash-up because she rose early to make your breakfast.
The little ones clamour that they would have, but she wouldn't let them because she wanted all the credit for herself and now she's trying to wriggle out of the wash-up.
A squabble ensues with tears and accusations.
In the midst of dirty crockery, wailing and "I hate you"s, a text arrives from your sister, who is returning from a business trip to New York on her company's corporate jet. "Happy birthday," the text reads. "I bet they're spoiling you to death."
Too right, you think, sourly.