To be loved like this

‘Mama, Mama, Mama…’ says my youngest, wrapping herself around my head like a boa constrictor. She presses her soft cheek against mine. I can feel her cheekbones. Her limbs slither about me, and then she rests. She can’t possibly be comfortable. I know I’m not, but it’s nice to be loved like this. My eldest loves on her own terms, and affection is given out in much smaller doses.

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Oh, the fighting…

I remember when I was a kid, my Mum was always talking about how much my brothers and I would fight. She used to tell us that our Uncle, who happened to be staying with us at the time, would hide in the garage until we had left for school just to avoid the noise. My brothers and I would laugh. Now, I find myself saying something similar to my girls it makes me wince. My girls have discovered the art of fighting. Yelling, crying, whinging, hitting, pinching, taunting, you name it, it’s in their armoury.

Now, I say similar things to my girls, trying to find the ‘thing’ that will make the yelling and crying, the whinging and the hitting, the pinching and the taunting stop. You name it, it’s in their armoury.

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How do you feel about living in Amsterdam?

‘So… how do you feel about living in Amsterdam for 12 months,’ says my husband, somewhat sheepishly.

Sure we’d talked about living in Europe for a year, Italy specifically, you know given that he is Italian. But doesn’t everyone talk about living abroad somewhere fabulous? At some point though, we know it’s just a fantasy, a tasty and delightful dream to live inside your own head, you know when the weather is bad, or you’re kids are marathon tantrumming. It’s not real, because then you have to deal with the cold realities of living in a country where you do not understand the customs, or why they have a chemist that is not actually a chemist, or why no one seems to accept credit cards.

‘Umm, what?’ I ask, trying to stall.

‘I’ve been working on a deal for the last six months. We put in a bid to buy a company in Amsterdam, and they just accepted our offer,’ he looks just above my head, as if the way out of this conversation were up there.

He keeps talking and I recognise words like ‘not definite’ and ‘pending due diligence’ through my flaming white rage/panic. I mean seriously, who works on a project that could completely change their family’s life for 6 months(!) without discussing it with their wife?? Special ops maybe, but my husband is no Arnie Swarzenegger in True Lies.

I yell a lot inside my own head, mostly the word No, repeatedly, I yell it a lot at him too. I feel a little better, not great, but definitely more satisfied. I’d spent less than 24 hours in Amsterdam. I knew people went there to get stoned. I knew they had great museums that were impossible to get into without planning, I knew they loved Miffy, because when I was there, decorated statues of the little bunny were everywhere.

‘You can’t get good food there,’ my effortlessly chic French friend, who always looks impeccable at school pick up tells me. ‘But it’s a good lifestyle, you’ll love it.’

‘It’s like the best bits of Melbourne and Byron Bay,’ says my husband, you’re not going to want to come back.

I read a book by an Australian woman who lived on a houseboat for two years.

‘Can we live on a houseboat?’ I ask my husband, looking up from the book. He glances at our 2 and 4 year old and raises his eyebrows.

Fast forward several months through the yelling and the ranting, the indecision and the panic attacks, and there we were, my husband and I, our four-year-old, our 2-year-old, our 10 bags, our Australian nanny, her fiancé (sure, we did not really know him, but she loved him, so he had to be pretty great, right?) and my mother, (because our nanny had injured her back 2 weeks before we were scheduled to fly out and was deemed unfit for work for at least 4 weeks), all of us, blinking in the garish fluorescent lighting at the check in counter at Tullamarine at stupid o’clock in the morning. All of us, embarking on this wild european adventure, together. How bad could it be?

‘It’s just an experiment’, I say to my husband, ignoring the buzzing feeling in my head and trying to remember how to breathe.

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