I was a bit shell-shocked after school drop-off yesterday, like I’d surived an attack. Birthday presents were the machine-gun-fire topic in the car. I tried to let the chatter wash over me, like white noise, but the little buggers are so persistent. When I don’t respond to every single remark they make, they just repeat it again and again – louder and louder – until I do. It’s exhausting making appropriate remarks at appropriate moments about inane things. Anyway. Sprog 2’s birthday is next month and she’s seen a dolly on the TV – must be someone else’s TV, damn them, since we haven’t had an aerial for three months – that she wants. No, not the dolly with the jet ski she so desperately craved last month, or the one with the windsurfer, or the one that burps. It’s the one that crawls, and possibly talks, and maybe cries. Have I seen it? She will need a cradle for it too, so she can rock it to sleep. Can she have a cradle? And a dummy, so it doesn’t interrupt our dinner with its crying. Does it take dummies? But what if it cries during the night, what will she do? And she will only play with her other dolls when the crawling one is asleep, so it doesn’t get jealous. The dolly has hair. White hair like her. She doesn’t normally like dolls with hair, but because this one can crawl it’s ok. She will really like combing its hair. Can she have it, pleasey, please, please? (Husband wants to know if I’ve explained to Sprog 2 that she’s turning six.) Sprog 1 simmers in the corner, making the occasional crack about how boring dolls are. Then she catches the acquisitive bug and starts angling for a lizard for her birthday. Sprog 1’s birthday is in November. It’s a little early to be starting the campaign. But she’d like a spiky lizard, if possible. They’re really cool. Can she have a spiky lizard if they’re not too expensive? She knows how to make a lizard habitat and how to catch lizard friends for it. Can she please have a lizard for her birthday? Can we go to Pet Barn after school and look at lizard stuff? I stared at their little faces in the rear-vision mirror, one dark-eyed and brooding, the other bright-eyed and bubbly, and wondered how I gave birth to two such different children. Then I agreed to go dolly and lizard window-shopping after school. Shell-shock, it makes you do crazy things.