“Hurry up, Dad! We’re going to be late for school!”

William tries to take a bite and almost drops the toast his wife so lovingly prepared for breakfast, as his son Arches pulls on his sleeve. “It’s field trip day, Dad! Come on!”

Amelia rolls her eyes. “Always busy, this family.” She smiles and gives her husband a quick peck on the lips before he leaves. “Pres still asleep?” he asks. She nods. “Give her a big kiss from Daddy, I’ll try not to be late tonight.” The last part of his sentence trails off as he closes the door behind him.

“Do you hear that, Pepper?” The dog looks at her, her head cocked sideways in confusion. “Peace and quiet. That’s rare, isn’t it?” As if on queue, the dog starts barking as Pres starts crying. “Did you guys practice that or something?”

“There’s my little girl!” She smiles genuinely at the sight of her only daughter. One arm outstretched while the other wipes off a tear, Pres reaches for her mother. “What shall we do today, girly?” The toddler looks like she is in deep thought, her tiny fingers scratching her equally tiny chin. She mulls it over for a few seconds and then squeaks her current most favourite word in the whole wide world: pawk.

Amelia turns to Pepper, who had followed her all the way up to the toddler’s room. “You hear that? The tiny human wants us to take you for a walk to the park.” At the word “walk”, Pepper starts wagging her tail, knocking over a tower of blocks Arches had so carefully built for his little sister the night before. Tears well up in the little girl’s eyes. “That’s okay,” Amelia smiles, “we’ll ask him to play with you and help you rebuild it tonight, right?” Pres nods. Crisis avoided. I sure am getting the hang of this, after three children.

Speaking of which, where is my third child? She hurries to the door across the hallway. A door that has remained locked ever since Isaac hit puberty. Amelia didn’t think Isaac had anything to be this secretive about, but wrote it off to a teenage phase. As long as the room stays clean, and by that I mean, our hallway doesn’t start smelling like high school locker room, he’s entitled to his privacy. He’s a smart and independent young man, he’ll be fine.

She knocks on the door. And again. And once more. She tries the handle, but as expected – locked. “Isaac, are you in there?” she yells tentatively. No response. He must have got up early to do some of his research before school. “At least your big brother plays outside a lot, right, girly?” she asks Pres in a mocking sing-a-song voice. “Let’s go play outside too.”