Emma Hollingworth: The green-eyed monster sibling

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My children seem to fight with me about everything at the minute. From putting away their toys to brushing their teeth: eating their greens to doing their homework, the battles seem endless.

It may only be three weeks since the school term started, but it seems like three months. Our lovely sunny holiday seems like a very distant memory. Even the glorious mini heatwave last week did not put me back in the holiday mood.

This was largely due to the fact I am constantly exhausted. I go to work knackered and I return even more worn out knowing I have to put in several more hours of work before I can finally tumble into bed exhausted. But then I am so tired that bizarrely I find it difficult to sleep. My brain seems to be permanently on and I can’t seem to find the off switch.

I am convinced that most of the exhaustion is to do with the energy I waste every day trying to sort out one fight or another.

I have arguments with the children over what time to get up, what time to go to bed, what to watch on TV and even what book to read at bedtime. I am sure the experts would all be telling me that the children are just establishing themselves – hence the constant battles. And I am sure they would be right.

This week was our son’s fourth birthday. And for the first time in his short little life I think he actually understood what it was all about. For the last few years his birthdays have really meant an extra party for the eldest complete with all her friends and even presents she could play with as her brother was too young to realise they actually belonged to him.

But this year he decided what he wanted for his birthday – a train set and a very realistic rescue helicopter. And much to the elder daughter’s annoyance he doesn’t want to share these new toys with her, preferring instead to play with them by himself tucked away in his room rather than the playroom.

He also had a say in which friends came to his birthday party, held at a local indoor play centre. Since the start of this term he has made a few new friends in his nursery class and they were all invited – leaving less room to invite our eldest’s cohort of buddies, which seem to troop along to all our parties.

But what this weekend really established was just what a green-eyed monster she could be. Until now I never realised just what a jealous nature she had.

In order to try and teach her why this was not a nice thing to be, I have been reading her some of Enid Blyton’s best known stories. Her acerbic wit and sharp ways leaves avid readers like my daughter with no doubt as to the misery that can be caused by various sins, like envy. Ms Blyton doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to telling kids the truth.

It will be interesting to take her along to meet some modern day writers, including children’s ones, at this year’s Sheffield City Council’s Off The Shelf Festival, which begins this weekend and lasts all month.

The writers and famous faces coming include Jeremy Paxman, Polly Toynbee, Ian Kershaw, Alison Weir, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as well as Sir Michael Parkinson, and Rob Brydon. Visit: www.offtheshelf.org.uk/index.php