Monday, July 29, 2013

Six or Sixteen, I Keep Getting Them Mixed Up

Lately my daughter has been threatening to leave the house.

If she was sixteen I would probably just consult the parenting books, assume it’s normal teenage angst, and ignore her. But she’s not sixteen. She’s six. Barely.

Despite living in a 1930s house with all the door handles located mere inches from the ceiling (sidenote: I thought people were shorter in the olden days), the only two doors which have average height handles are the two front doors. (Yes, we have two. One for each of my personalities).

This means, it is very easy for my alarmingly tall six year old to let herself out whenever she chooses. Like in the middle of the family BBQ on the weekend.

Distressed that her three year old sister - whose single brief in life is to irritate her – was annoying her, she left in a huff and stood just outside the front door, where she could be seen, huddled against the Perth winter rain, barefoot and wearing a very sparkly party dress.

When I went to see her, and try and coax her inside, she told me she wanted to leave the house. I kindly pointed out she had already done so. She then upped the ante and began moving around the verandah, down the front steps and into the garden. The last I saw of her (as I was called back inside to sort out a rabid one year old who was upset she wasn’t allowed to help Daddy with the BBQ) was of the Bombshell, standing at the very edge of the carport. One foot on our land, one foot ‘out there.’

Out there.

In her eyes, the world outside our house has no annoying sister, no Mum telling her to pick up her toys, no set bedtime, no forced consumption of weird foods like mayonnaise, a room to herself and an endless supply of TV. As far as I can tell, the only place like this is jail, but they probably have mayonnaise there.

In my eyes, the world outside our house is cold and full of cars going very fast around corners and is far, far bigger than a six year old could possibly imagine, and full of things that she doesn’t yet need to know.

With the help of the Awesome Aunties we eventually lured her back in with the promise of Lego. But she assured us she still hated her sister and thought life was much better when there was only one kid.

Later that night, when I was pursing more intellectual pursuits and watching ANTM, she snuck out of bed for a chat. Even though the crisis had been averted, she calmly told me that the following morning she was going to leave the house for a whole month.

And so I did what I will probably do when she says this to me as a sixteen year old.

I said ‘yes’.

I told her that she could probably go and live with the Young Aunty and Uncle, and even though they lived almost 40 minutes away, they worked around the corner from her school, so they’d probably be able to drop her off at Year One every day.

I then told her how much I would miss her, but I was sure she’d be very happy as an only child.

She sat silently for a few minutes after that.

She hasn’t mentioned moving out since.

Which is probably lucky, because if she calls my bluff with the whole living-with-the-aunty-and-uncle thing, I would have some serious explaining to do, as they don’t know a thing about my brilliant plan.
(You do now!)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What Happens in the Bathroom, Stays in the Bathroom

‘I’m going to leave this family. I’m going to go out and leave this family because I hate the Mop so much.’

And so it begins.

Six year old Bombshell is sitting on the toilet, wailing about how annoying her sister is. The sister in question, three year old Mop, is in the bath with the baby, either oblivious to what is erupting around her, or just being quietly crafty. I have my money on crafty.

I am sitting on a small plastic stool, eyes on the baby who likes to belt the Mop over the head with toys, eyes on the Mop who likes to dump water on the baby, and eyes on the Bombshell who looks like she is going to implode.

‘I remember when she was born and I was so jealous because I was afraid you were going to love her more than me. And it’s true. You all hate me, so tonight I am going to leave.’

It’s difficult to take her seriously. She is completely nude with a shower cap on, and as she moans and wails dramatically, she is watching her reflection in the shower screen. Every now and then she adjusts her posture or facial expression for maximum impact. Not once has she actually looked at me or the target of her derision.

‘That was three and a half years ago, so I don’t see how you can possibly remember that. Besides, it is obvious I don’t love the Mop more than you. Mum’s can’t love one kid more than another, we’re not allowed to,’ I tell her. ‘Besides, why aren’t you jealous of Baldy then?’

‘Because she is smarter than the Mop.’

We both look at the baby who is trying to wrap a soggy wet face washer around her neck like a scarf. She pokes herself in the tummy, laughs, then pulls the washer off and starts sucking on it.

‘Okaaay,’ I say. Even the Mop rolls her eyes.

The Bombshell is now standing next to me. She is refusing to get in the bath if the Mop is in there. Considering the Mop is capable of staying in the bath until the water evaporates, I can’t see the standoff ending any time soon.

‘Listen, can you go and get me a pen and paper please,’ I ask the Bombshell.

‘Why?’ she asks.

‘So I can write down everything that you say, so I can reflect on it later.’ This isn’t actually untrue.

‘I’m saying I hate my sister!’ and she flounces off.

The Mop looks up. ‘Is she getting a pancake?’

What? ‘No,’ I say. ‘A pen and paper, not a pancake.’


Soon she returns with a notepad and pen, and I begin writing down the conversation (see, I don’t make this stuff up). She is fascinated at being the source of Mum’s attention and her attitude momentarily changes. She has stopped moaning and staring at herself in the mirror. She is trying to read over my shoulder, but even I can’t read my own writing.

Suddenly the baby cries out. The Bombshell has tipped a bucket of water from a great height right over her head. Baldy looks stunned, and a little cold – they have been in there for ages and the water is getting a bit on the tepid side, not so great for a 10 degree Perth night.

‘Stop! What did you do that for?’ I cry at her.

‘See, everyone hates me,’ she sobs, fists clenched at her side. ‘I’m outta here,’ she yells in my face and flounces out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

I bundle the baby out of the bath, rubbing her vigorously to dry her wet hair.

Meanwhile, the cause of all the commotion, who hasn’t made a single sound, continues to play quietly in the bath, a small smile just flickering on her face.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

How the Third Child (Almost) Gets What They Want: A Photographic Essay

Look. There's Mum mucking around with that stupid camera again. I wonder if I can get her to do what I want if I be cute for a while.

Get these crappy soft toys out the way. I need the good stuff.

With my super-human speed I can destroy this DVD cupboard in record time.
What's this crap? Downton Abbey? Must be one of Mum's movies. Better chuck that one away.

Now we're talking... Shaun's the bomb.

Yeah, Mum. I'm gonna need you to put this on for me.

Man, I wonder why she didn't put it on for me. It's G rated. Maybe if I bang it against the glass for a bit, and be really annoying so she gives in and let's me have what I want.

Oh crap. Get lost Mop, this is my gig. I'm going to watch Shaun, none of your Dora crap. Now get lost before Mum yells at us both.

Foiled by a hug. Ok. We can watch Dora.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Love Sydney Except For One Minor Detail

Last week I had the good fortune of a few days holiday sans kids. The first night I stayed with my friend and her family before we drove up to the Hunter.

This is something I wrote very early the next morning. Don't fret about the ending. Obviously I did not die...

This is no way should be construed as a Sydney bashing post.

I lived here for three years and I visit as often as I can. But compared to Perth, land is expensive and houses are small. Where a 3x1 in Perth may be considered modest, in the heart of Balmain it is a palace. 

However none of this changes the fact that when houses are small, bathrooms no longer have the luxury of being discretely located at one end of the house, tucked behind the laundry, or half a mile down a lonely corridor.

No, here, bathrooms are quite reasonably centrally located. In this case, bang smack in the middle of the house, right off the central hall.  Next to all the bedrooms.

This makes it very challenging if you are a shy toileter like me where you muffle normal bodily function noises with well-timed coughs, piles of toilet paper or angling your bum so your wee doesn't hit the loo like a water cannon. 

I desperately need to pee right now.

The relentless rain in Sydney is mocking my pain but the toilet is located about a metre from my wonderful hosts' bed. I may as well climb into their bed and pee in a metal bucket.

I watched 127 Hours on the flight over here. You know, the one where the guy is hiking and falls and gets his hand stuck under a rock. He drinks his wee. Maybe I should do that.

Though the look on his face kinda indicated it was quite gross, and I'm probably not that desperate. Yet.

If I had brought Baldy with me I could use one of her nappies. People do that, like that woman astronaut who drove across the country wearing an adult diaper so she didn't have to stop to wee. But she was crazy and on her way to kill someone, I think.

Surely if I wait long enough my body will just reabsorb the wee, right? Or will I explode, right here on the fold-out sofa bed.

Farewell, fair readers.

The Weight of (All the Places in) the World

‘I wonder what I will be when I grow up,’ mused the Bombshell from the backseat.

I glanced back at her in the rear view mirror. It was pyjama day at school and she was in her pink flannel PJs covered in perky little fairies. Dressed as she was she would make an excellent lazy uni student or Sarah-Marie wannabe but I wasn’t going to tell her that.

‘You’re lucky because you belong a generation of girls who can do whatever they want. When your grandmothers were going through school almost fifty years ago, girls were only allowed to be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary.’

‘What’s a secretary?’ she wanted to know.

We were driving past the building site of the new children’s hospital.

‘You could be an engineer and help design new hospitals,’ I said. ‘Or be a doctor to help the sick people.’

‘Or I could be a nurse like my friend’s Mum,’ she joined in.

‘Yep, or you could grow lovely gardens or be an artist and paint beautiful pictures…’ I continued.

‘To make the sick people happy?’, she wanted to know.

‘Absolutely,’ I said, happy with the way the conversation was going. Full points Shannon, I thought. I was covering all the bases, physical and mental, cerebral and artistic. There are so many ways I could screw her up, I didn’t want to start now by getting this conversation wrong.

She was nodding thoughtfully.

Suddenly I caught sight of a jet flying overhead.

‘Or you could be an airplane pilot and fly people all over the world,’ I said.

Sadly she shook her head. ‘That could be difficult,’ she told me.

‘Why?’ I asked, surprised that she thought there was something she couldn’t do.

‘Because I don’t know where all the places are.’
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