ONCE you have kids, the shine comes off Valentine’s Day. In fact, the shine comes off lots of things.

Bank Holidays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, nights out, nights in, time off work, holidays, hobbies, interests, basic relaxing. Essentially, any free time you thought was yours, you self-centred so-and-so!

Childless readers are now thinking: “Why did you have them, then?”

So do I, sometimes.

Young children are great if you don’t think sleeping past six on a Sunday morning is your legal right.

Complain about it and other parents will say: “Ours get up at four” or “mine always sleep till ten.”

Big sister – aka ‘child of the sunrise’ and converted Buddhist – was always worse for competitiveness.

If I modestly infer any minor educational advancement in our two, I’ll be cuttingly informed that her boys cracked Advanced Algebra on an abacus at 18 months, and are able to recite the Complete Works Of Shakespeare. In Latin.

Sometimes, in the early days, one of you gets to ‘lie-in’.

But your body clock is so attuned to waking early, you’ll have the hearing of a Tawny Owl. You’ll jump out of bed, saying: “What on earth was that horrendous crash?!”

Forget any ideas of trying to leave the house quickly. The rule is: pack for an extended stay on the North Face of the Eiger, with no air support.

“I’ve booked us a nice weekend away, for a treat,” she told me.

I knew there’d be a catch. Personal enjoyment is generally forbidden.

“Just me, you and…the kids,” she said.

My brain: “That isn’t a break. That’s us doing this, somewhere else but with fewer toys.”

“Why don’t we just stay here, push all the beds into one room and hide the batteries for the remote?”

The kids will ask: ‘Are we there yet?’ while I’m still reversing the car off the drive.

I Spy will be stretched out for 100 miles, with only road, tree, car and sky to go on. I can’t wait.