When Moving Forwards into the Unknown is too Challenging

‘Higher, Mama,’ she says, her tone tight and sharp. My eldest’s frustration levels are maxed out with the amount of Dutch spoken at her school. She feels confused and misunderstood, I imagine it is like her world feels as though it is spinning wildly out of her control. Some days she cries. Most days she is angry.

‘Not like that,’ she snaps.

‘Please don’t talk to me like that,’ I say biting my tongue to stop the sharp retort that wants to be let free into the world. I breathe in and out slowly and keep pushing the swing. 

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Amsterdam, The Reasons We Stayed.

I wake up to the birds singing, and check my clock.  5.50am.  It’s the best alarm clock.  I wonder if they are larks?  I have no idea and it throws me.  It’s a poignant reminder that I’m foreign here.  

I do really like it here though.  I don’t know what it is exactly, something about the lifestyle, the cycling everywhere, the not having to worry about a car, the girls both being in school and the mental space in my head and in my life that that has created.  I feel more like myself again.  And there is something different here, about how you are expected to parent.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s an effortlessness to it.  A relaxed, good-enough attitude.  

Yesterday, as the girls and I cycled around Vondelpark, deciding which playground to go to, I couldn’t help but notice the number of kids out and about, completely unsupervised.  A group of boys were playing soccer in the field, they couldn’t have been more than eight years old.  

The girls decided on the tunnel slide park, and as we pulled up, I noticed once again, that all the parents were seated on the benches around the sandpit, while the kids dug in the sand, or climbed on the bars or chased each other around the trees.  No one was hovering, or even watching.  Two women were sitting, chatting, one of them handed over a drink bottle absentmindedly when her son returned.  She didn’t even pause in her conversation.  Other mothers were busy on their phones or reading.  There seemed to be an assumption that the kids will be fine.  

I watched a video clip on Facebook, it had come out of the USA,  it showed a father sitting on a park bench on his phone while his daughter played.  Unbeknownst to him, a stranger came up and enticed his daughter away, carrying her off without a sound.  When he finally looked up, his daughter was nowhere to be seen.  It’s a fair point, I guess, but watching those kinds of videos tend to make me hypervigilant.  Those are the videos that make me feel like parenting is a relentless 24/7 job.  

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Our First Spring Easter

Easter has become a bit of a non-event in our little family. For the last few years, we’ve been away, usually in Bali. It hasn’t always been that way, at least not in the family I grew up in. Our easter, or the ones I remember, usually involved a ridiculously large number of eggs hidden around the house and in the garden, a pairing off into teams, where one member holds the spectacularly festive white plastic bag and points out eggs that they spot, while the other, kindly goes and fetches said eggs. In the original version of the game, it’s all very pleasant, and everyone has a lovely time collecting eggs, trying to best the other teams and come out the victor with the large chocolate bunny prize. Over the years, the besting got a little more savage, the game a little more rough and tumble, there may or may not have been tears, and if I recall correctly, one year the large chocolate bunny prize was claimed early and may or may not have lost its ears. That may have also been the same year two of my brothers decided that anything in the kitchen was fair game and emptied the biscuit tin and an assortment of other household goods into their plastic bag.

But all of that was beside the point because the main point of easter, beyond the celebration of spring – even though it was autumn, and the thing about Jesus coming back from the dead, is that after all of the easter eggs are sorted and divided equally between all the players the real game begins. We open the trading floor, and the eggs are traded at prices determined by want and need. A simple supply and demand issue. The Wolf of Wall Street wouldn’t survive a minute in our house.

So it was always a little sad for me, that my husband never wanted to participate in the games and instead booked our annual holiday at this time. Some years the family rescheduled easter, that way people could make the most of the public holiday and still celebrate the festivities. Slowly though, life got in the way, and the whole thing kind of faded a little. Since having kids though, I’ve wanted to celebrate easter and all of the crazy shenanigans it has become to include. I want it to be something they grow up with too

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The new 20 somethings and social media

I scroll through my Instagram feed. I’m meant to be sleeping, and I really should be doing one of the many things that will actually help me get to sleep, but I’m not, I’m looking at Instagram. Suddenly I am face to face with the inside of my fridge. That’s strange, I think slightly delirious, did I post that? I didn’t post that. Why would I post a picture of the inside of my fridge? I know it is my fridge because even though it may be a well-organised piece of machinery, mostly because every Saturday after the Farmer’s Market, I cook and prep and set the fridge and freezer up for the week ahead in a weird game of Tetris that only I seem to know the rules to, it is not always clean.

Let me be upfront, I am a terrible cleaner, okay, I’m not, but I really hate doing it. I have strong memories of having to vacuum the kitchen, family room, bedrooms, bathroom, laundry, toilet and hallway before school every morning. Mum swears she only made me do that for a week to prove a point but I am sure it was much longer than that.

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On doing it all and the gift that is accepting help

We have an au pair. Yes, we have officially become that family. The one I only ever heard about in books and movies. The one I’ve heard people talk scathingly about and judge for ‘outsourcing’ their responsibilities. The one my husband has been suggesting we evolve into for years and I have stubbornly, dragged my feet (and my adrenals), kicking and screaming as I insisted, No, No, No, I could do it all, I would do it all, and in fact, I should do it all. I cannot do it all. My body has made it very clear that I should not be doing it all. And most importantly I’ve discovered, I do not actually want to do it all, not alone anyway. I’m not a very nice person when I’m doing it all.

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Amsterdam, a city where wheelchairs are cars, cars are bikes and nobody wears a helmet.

As I drove home in an uber from my Alexander session, my body was busy confusedly exploring its new positioning in the world. ‘Your ankles have much more movement than you think,’ says Paul, my adorable teddy bear of a teacher who hugs me a lot, giggles like a buddha, and has fast become a highlight of my week in this crazy country we now call home. The car I was in, stopped to give way to a wheelchair. This, in and of itself is not really so strange, nor worthy of commentary, had he not given way, there would have been much to say. But he did give way, so that point is moot. Perhaps, I thought to my self, she is simply crossing the road and there is no pedestrian crossing anywhere nearby. But that was not the case either. What was unusual about it, was that the lady in the wheelchair was zipping along the road as though she were driving a car.

Up ahead the lights changed to red, and I swear, her break lights flashed on as she pulled to a stop. A bike pulled up beside her and then the cars lined up behind them.

Here in Amsterdam, bikes are akin to cows in India.

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Dutch bugs think fresh Aussie bods are an easy target.

We are all sick within a week of arriving in Amsterdam. Mum gets it first, a gastro bug that leaves her pale and shaking. She spends the night on the toilet but feels okay the next day, well okay enough to potter around the house in her pastel rainbow-coloured t-shirt nightie, the white hoodie we’d managed to find at H&M, because she doesn’t own a jumper and Amsterdam is celebrating a scorching top of 8 degrees C, and the pair of ankle socks we’d bought at the market. Okay, we think, a little cocky, this is not so bad.

My youngest is next to fall victim. I brush the clammy curls from my youngest’s forehead, and read to her, while she begs me to put something on her dry toast. Dr Google suggests apple but then diarrhoea foams in her nappy. I strip her off, change her clothes, strip the bed she is lying on, and much to her horror, we revert back to dried toast. When her weak cries for prosciutto or peanut butter or whatever it is that her sister happens to be eating get too much, I press play on the iPad and distract her with Doc McStuffins. Within 48 hours though, she is better. My husband is struck down next, however, he lays prone in bed for almost a week. He looks ashen, the lines on his face a little deeper, a grey-flecked beard sprouting messily across his chin. Everything about him looked tired and grey, like his charcoal pyjamas, which Mum had accidentally shrunk in the dryer and then tried to stretch back out. He looked exactly like Robin Williams when he was trying to remember that he was Peter Pan.

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The Venice of the North

‘Lets hire a boat,’ suggests my husband one Saturday morning. Our nanny and her fiancé had done so the weekend before and then her fiance had spent the better part of the last week researching boats to buy.

I looked out the window at the grey sky, not sure if it will be too cold for a boat ride, but the girls are dancing around yelling about boats and pirates and my husband is already pressing buttons on his phone.

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