I would like to introduce you to my daughter, India, who we have recently renamed Fang . She is missing one of her front top teeth, and the other is attached by only a few threads, as it has been for the past few weeks. The fang hangs lower than her other teeth, is twisted sideways, and juts out to the front, which gives her an air of scurvy victim / trailer trash child. It makes eating so difficult that she has to chew with her mouth open, to avoid biting down on the fang. But will she part with it? NO! I think she enjoys the reaction, when people peer into her mouth to see what all the fuss is about, and then shrink away, revolted, at the sight of it.
We have at least one episode daily, where she accidentally bites down on the fang, it jabs into her gum the wrong way, and her mouth fills with blood. Distraught wailing, blood dripping from her open, panicked mouth and fang jutting out in the middle. Really? REALLY? I find myself saying, through clenched teeth, whilst mustering up my fake Zen, nothing-phases-me voice. ‘Just let me pull it out’ I say. ‘It’s not helping you eat, and it’s making you upset’. ‘Nooooooooo!!!! I don’t want tooooooo!!!’ she wails, desperately guarding her precious fang, and scuttling off to the bathroom to examine her bloody mouth in the mirror.
God help me. What kind of torturous ride am I in for when Fang grows into a teenager?!
She already exhibits the wild mood swings and kick-ass attitude of an angsty teen. She has recently mastered the foot-stomping, squinty-eyed tantrum of utter contempt (these are actually quite funny when I am able to mentally extract myself from the situation and watch from a distance). And she will definitely be amongst the nominees for Best Dramatic Actress this year, with her ‘nobody understands me, I never get what I want and you all suck’ tantrums.
The first sign of these tantrums is when the tears start to well, then the face crumples and morphs grotesquely into that open-mouthed grimace which is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. Only children can pull this one off. There is a brief window where you can get away with such wailing and hysterics, and sometimes I don’t blame her for bunging it on and giving it her best shot. After all, every now and then it actually works, when we’re simply too exhausted to put up a fight.
But all this angst, in a six and a half year old body? I just don’t know if I have the ticker for it. Hence, the inception of Operation Out of House.
It’s a strategy which has been taking shape in my conscious over the past few weeks, back in frosty Melbourne. I’m not generally one for profound realisations or grand resolutions, but being catapulted over to New York City and back in the space of two weeks will do that to you – it’s somewhat destabilising. That amazing land of fun and frivolity, contrasted with reality in freezing suburban Melbourne. Work, housework, supermarketing, cooking, nagging, disciplining, humouring, cajoling…
Allow me to compare and contrast:
a) Wake up whenever, shower at own leisure and ponder over suitable outfit, followed by tasty omelette and potatoes in little Parisian inspired cafe.
b) Peel eyes open at sound of incessantly beeping alarm clock and drag self out of bed. Eat toast in polar fleece dressing gown at kitchen bench, whilst simultaneously making lunches, washing dishes and barking commands: ‘India get dressed – NO you CANNOT wear your summer dress it is 2 degrees outside’.. ‘Arlo stop poking the fruit and eat your toast’… ‘Look in the drawer… the bottom one’…. ‘Arlo for the last time would you PLEASE GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR PANTS?!!’
And so you see, why I require a plan of action to help preserve my sanity.
Operation Out Of House is about just that: getting out and doing more stuff (stuff being a pretty broad term). Planning things to look forward to, and orchestrating reasons to get a bit tarted up and hit the town. Calling the uncles in to babysit, even if it is just to venture down the road for the kinder fund-raiser trivia night. It doesn’t have to be glamorous, just out, and preferably with people.
Winter brings out the hibernation instinct in all of us, and there are not many among us who can resist the allure of Ugg boots and the forgiving waistband of trackies in this weather (in Camberwell, they are referred to as yoga pants). In fact, more than one of my friends have recently admitted to changing into their jamies and dressing gown the moment they arrive home from school pickup! For the uninitiated among you, this would generally be any time from 4pm onward, depending on the schedule of after school activities. Well I salute you ladies (you know who you are). I see your dressing gown and I raise you a blankie and a glass of wine.
My signature winter item is a pilled old cardigan which I refer to as my house jacket. It looks a bit like a doormat, but keeps out the drafts and doesn’t show up tea stains. It is strictly an inside, non-entertaining garment, not even allowable for supermarket outings.
So if my operation is a success, I’ll be spending a little less time ensconced in my daggy house jacket, and a litte more time taking in the company of friends in the worlds most liveable city.
I stepped out with my little Fanged one at the Australian Ballet last week, and it was fantastic! Despite the expected amount of fidgeting and a few grumpy looks some older patrons, it was a declared a success. An ice cream at the first interval, followed by a packet of crisps at the second. Alright! Dressing up, getting out of the house and introducing my daughter to The Arts – surely that’s worth triple points?
Lunch in Box Hill with a bestie and our two hungry, manic four year old boys was another experiment I undertook this week. It was somewhat less cosmopolitan than the ballet, but we did manage to keep them both seated and fit in a Tsingtao and a chat over our noodles. Cheers to us.
At the same restaurant a few days later, I enjoyed an adult date with Sally, where we fitted in a spot of reminiscing of that fabulous week together in NYC. After years of SMSing each other agenda items (one has to make the most of uninterupted conversations and cover all current issues), I finally went all out and printed a meeting agenda. It worked a treat, and were wrapping up the last few items as the staff stacked chairs on the tables around us.
My next evil plan, under the auspice of Operation Out Of House is to finalise a date for a girls weekend at my in-laws’ beach house. The email has gone out, the scene has been set for two glorious nights to ourselves. Now we just have to hope the calendar gods smile on us, and allow four frazzled women to do what they do best: Cook, eat, drink, sleep and talk until we’re blue in the face.