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All we need to know is just what buttons to push...

It seemed a long time coming, but, in the past twelve months, the kids have reached a stage where they can manage to make breakfast on their own (theirs, not ours. I'm currently working on the latter).

It's a boon on the weekends where it buys my husband and I an extra hour's sleep. With weekday breakfast eaten around 7.40am most days, it's inevitable that my crew will be starving by 8am on a Saturday or Sunday.

Last weekend, I was flying solo - my husband away on a stag party. The kids had woken me going downstairs, but I'd drifted straight back into a delicious slumber. Easy come, easy go, they say: before long, my reverie was rudely interrupted by a cacophony of three wailing voices drifting up from the kitchen below.

Various strains of "Mum, come quick!" and "Emegency!" were being roared up the stairs, although I knew from their tone and laziness (none was so concerned that they'd actually left the kitchen to waken me properly) that it was probably nothing more than a culinary misadventure.

How right I was.

I shouted, several times, that I was coming and dragged myself from my warm bed, cursing and rolling my eyes.

Downstairs, I was met by the eldest, looking part-sheepish, part-concerned. Chief Porridge Maker (using the microwave oven), he had taken his eye off the ball, or in this case, bowl, and overfilled it with milk.

There were puddles on the floor, the counter, all down the cupboard doors, and a bowl, filled to the brim with oats and milk, was abandoned on the worktop.

Groaning and moaning to an uninterested audience about how hard it is to clean milk off wooden floors, I began to mop up the mess, only to have the middle child request that I pass the milk for his second bowl of cereal.

"Sure," I told him. "In just a moment." He wasn't happy to wait and began padding through the milky mess in bare feet to retrieve the milk. "Stop!" I shouted. "Get out of the milk and sit back down."

"I want Bran Flakes now!" he insisted, attempting to approach the milk by doubling back and circumnavigating the kitchen island, leaving milky footprints in his wake.

"Listen," I hissed. "Sit yourself back down and wait until I am ready. I have to clean up this mess first. And while you're waiting, get yourself some patience."

The youngest, who thus far, had been quietly munching her cereal, chimed in in agreement.

"You need a Patience Button!" she announced gleefully, stopping us all in our tracks.

"What's a Patience Button?" I asked, relieved that someone had snapped me out of my cranky start to the day.

"It's how you make yourself patient!" she declared, a wide smile on her face.

"That sounds like a wonderful idea," I agreed. "Imagine we all had buttons we could just push that made us behave in a certain way!"

Before I could escape into a fantasy land of Behaviour Buttons (Listen, Clean-Up and Behave being the ones I'd express-order for my offspring straight away), my daughter elaborated on her solution. "I have a Patience Button. I have lots of buttons. They all do different things."

Mess cleaned up, I poured milk for the impatient middle child and asked, in wonder and delight, what other buttons my daughter possessed.

"I have a Good Button, a Happy Button and a Naughty Button. I just push them and they work."

At this point, her two brothers were in thrall to her story, and asked if she had any others.

"I have a Friend Button too," she smiled mysteriously.

"How does that work?" I asked, echoing the curiosity written across her rapt brothers' faces."


"It makes you be a friend. You have to be a friend to have a friend," she elaborated, like some age-old guru.

"How do you know that?" I asked, floored by the wisdom far beyond her almost five-years-of-age.

"We learnt it in Montessori," she explained. "If you're nice to people, then people will be nice to you."

How true, I nodded (while mentally acknowledging that she isn't, in fact, a child genius). How cute, I thought.

And how powerful the imagination of a small child. Her Button philosophy may have come straight out of her head, but it also came at the perfect time to distract me and teach me, her mum, a bit of patience and stop me having such a bad start to my day.

Sometimes it's the small things that get you through.