Tag Archives: family

Fish and Family

3 days, so the saying goes, is the expiry date of both fish in the fridge and family staying (and I would suggest visitors in general, as a rule). This is one of my dictums and after venting about this weekend’s houseguests when it was only Friday, I was told the Roman orator & philosopher Cicero was responsible for this quote. A quick Google search, however, seems to suggest it was actually Benjamin Franklin. Not sure how much he had in common with Cicero but hey, I don’t know much about either.

Regardless of who said it, they clearly hadn’t met our latest houseguests, who barely lasted 3 hours before the shine wore off. In fact, Mr L looked as though he was over them by the time he walked through the door after picking them up from the airport. And so, considerate hostess (or host, depending on how you feel about non gender-specific nouns) that I am, I have compiled a “how to” guide to a harmonious visit that will have us want to see you again.

  1. Mode of transportation– ideally you should have your own. We have a lot of overseas and interstate friends. There are many car-hire companies in Sydney for those who choose to arrive by plane. This provides the added bonus of being able to travel independently of us once you are here (at either our suggestion or yours). Failing this, there are taxi and private transfer companies who will transport you in their car for a moderate fee (excuse us for not living within a 10km/$20 radius of the airport, but we are not airline employees).
  2. Time of arrival– particularly relevant if you do decide to arrive by plane and expect to be met at the airport. It would be appreciated if you could a) not subject your nominated chauffeur to peak-hour traffic b) not leave the non-chauffeur home alone with the kids for witching hour and the bath-story-bed rigmarole c) consider arriving within the time-frame actually suggested by your hosts as convenient to pick you up.
  3. Associated guests– if possible, do not bring your children. If this means you cannot come either, that’s ok. If you want to know why, read this. Dogs and other pets are also unwelcome.
  4. Gifts– consumable gifts are much appreciated (particularly alcohol & chocolate). These can be purchased at the airport duty free by overseas visitors. Interstate visitors will have to pay GST and other relevant taxes. Non-consumables should be small, tasteful and unlikely to contribute to household clutter, to which I am seriously averse.
  5. Cleanliness and tidiness– please note the state of the house when you arrive. I know you like to think I have gone to great lengths to clean and tidy in honour of your arrival but I have not. My house usually looks like this. Please do not transform it into a pig-sty. You will be provided with a generously-sized bedroom for your stay. Your bags, shoes, i-pads and other belongings should fit comfortably into this room. Similarly, note the absence of crumbs on the dining room table, dirty nappies on the kitchen bench, toothpaste in the sink and skid-marks in the toilet. I know I begrudgingly clean up my children’s food and excrement but I don’t want to clean up yours.
  6. Electronic appliances– we like to think of ourselves as technologically savvy in this house. We have a dishwasher. A sophisticated machine, it will clean your cutlery and crockery at the push of a button. It does, however, require these items to be placed into it before it can wash them. We have yet to find a model that collects your dirty dishes from the sink/bench/table and loads them automatically. Our washing machine is slightly more basic but it does require you to press “On/Off” and then “Start” before it will work. Most straight-forward of all is our clothes dryer. This will rapidly shrink woollens so please, do not put my favourite cardigan (which you have graciously admired and I have admitted to you wasn’t cheap) into it. I will suspect you of sartorial sabotage.
  7. Data allowance– international visitors will be surprised to know in Australia, data is dollars. (Are dollars, probably more correctly). We will give you our wi-fi password but only if you promise NOT to download entire TV series as you fight your jet-lag.
  8. Meals– in contrast to point (5), I do actually make some effort as far as meals go. Factors I consider are a) individual likes and dislikes b) time of year c) number of people d) flexibility re mealtimes e) maximum “wow” factor: effort ratio. I generally aim to serve a dessert on approximately 50% of your nights here. I also attempt to have a constant supply of milk and bread as well as some lunch-staples. Often I have either bought chocolate biscuits or made something yummy to offer you with your cup of tea. It would be good if you could say “thank you”, great if you could wash-up and absolutely fantastic if you could do some minor ooh-ing and aah-ing about what an amazing cook I am. You can even ask for the recipe, but I’d appreciate it if you could write it out yourself.
  9. Tea & coffee– we drink a lot of both here, upward of 8 cups a day. Please do not assume that just because I had a cup an hour ago I will not want another one now. Do not ask me if you can have one. Ask me instead if I would like another.
  10. Check-out– the same considerations re airport transfers apply as on arrival.  Please do not “make” your bed before you go. I always change the sheets between guests, even if they have only stayed one night, so arranging the duvet and pillows neatly is a total waste of time as I will mess it all up 5 minutes after you leave. Strip the beds. For extra brownie points, press “On/Off’ and then “Start” on the washing machine, as described above. The same goes for your towels.

Above all, enjoy your stay, we were excited about your visit and we look forward to seeing you again. Or at least, that’s what we’ll tell you….


A History Lesson

.. and I’ve seen it before

.. and I’ll see it again

.. yes I’ve seen it before

.. just little bits of history repeating

I’m turning into my parents.  Actually, make that past tense. I used to think this was something to be proud of but now, more and more, I feel as though I’m channeling the worst of each of them.

My father- short tempered, socially awkward, he’s a strange combination of obsessive compulsive and procrastinator/non-finisher extraordinaire. He seems unable to see projects through till the end (what he does, he does perfectly but doesn’t finish anything which makes all that perfection kind of pointless).

My mother- much more submissive although hardly short of an opinion herself, can be incredibly judgmental but just when you think it’s really time to stand up and say something- she doesn’t.

Both of them are fairly low energy but compensate for that with high-ish ambition, which means they’ve been reasonably successful I suppose, by conventional standards.  Neither one expresses emotion particularly well, in fact sometimes I wonder if they feel much emotion, but that’s probably a bit harsh. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect everyone to wear their heart on their sleeve the whole time, but sometimes the no-nonsense, unsentimental approach wears a little thin.

I was always conscious of the fact that I might be “turning into my mother” and it never really bothered me that much, whether that was because of denial or just resignation, I’m not quite sure. But since having children (more precisely, since Master L has become a toddler) I hear the worst lines from each of my parents coming out of my mouth. Like my father, I find myself letting relatively minor irritations take over my mood, instead of just putting them aside and getting on with the relatively straight-forward business of being cheerful. Worst of all, I look at my beautiful two year old boy with (I think) the same feelings of awe and wonder that my parents regarded me with but, like them, I struggle to say the words “I love you”.

Today was a particularly trying day for various reasons. It’s preschool holidays and Master L seems to be in the throes of the terrible twos and I found myself shouting at him before 7am and wishing the day over by mid-morning. At one point I thought “I only have to get through today and then I’m at work for the rest of the week” and then immediately thought “these are your children, what sort of attitude is that?!”. At several stages throughout the day I said to myself “right, deep breath, let’s change this and make today a happy day” and we did manage to end up better than we started (amazingly). But several things really struck me that, after a whole two and a half years of parenting, I do the same way my parents did and I’m really not happy about them:

  1. Losing my temper– when I think about my childhood and the relationship I had with my parents, I’d sum up the day-to-day interaction with my father as “treading on eggshells”. He was volatile, unpredictable and short-tempered. He would fly into a rage at the drop of a hat, he’d shout at us, he’d smack us (hard) and we seemed to live in the perpetual and fearful shadow of trying not to upset him. Don’t get me wrong, he was also loving, involved, affectionate and fun, but it was always a bit of an unknown. And when Dad was in a “bad mood”, you braced yourself for an unhappy day of lying low and jumping every time a door slammed. I now find my buttons being pushed too easily by Master L’s toddler whims, tantrums and inconsistencies. I shout at him all too easily, the frustration when he doesn’t do what I tell him (AGAIN) bubbles up inside me and the only way to vent it seems to be to shout at him or worse, smack him (which I have so far managed not to do apart from on a couple of occasions). I need to find a way to deal with this. Shouting at a two-year old achieves nothing. It doesn’t make him do what I want him to do and it just makes me more angry. One of two things will happen to him- either he’ll become wary and afraid of his volatile mother, as I was of my father, or he’ll become indifferent and ignore me completely.
  2. Distance– I mentioned my parents were low-energy. I am well aware of this and try not to be the same. To a point I’m successful. I will say, “Right, let’s go and do something” and get us out of the house to find some entertainment without too much effort. But when we’re at home, I lack the energy to keep going. I can’t play all day, constantly traipsing out to the cubby house, following Master L around, playing trains or dancing or getting down on my hands and knees to entertain him. I try not to, but I find myself thinking about my own agenda, tidying up, getting dinner, sending that email, checking my phone. Every now and then I do sit down with them, on the floor, and just do nothing, let them climb over me, read books, drink imaginary cups of tea, listen to Master L’s trucks go beeeeep beeeeep beeeeep….. But sometimes I just feel like I’m faking it. I remember trying to constantly cajole my Mum to “come and play, Mum!” but now I notice it when my parents interact with my kids. It’s not that they don’t try, they just don’t have the enthusiasm to pull it off convincingly. This is in stark contrast to Mr L and his parents, all high-energy people whose energy seems to know no bounds when it comes to pretty much anything- toddler-related or not.
  3. And then there’s emotional distance– if I remember my Dad as the volatile, unpredictable one, it was my Mum who we went to for comfort, for warmth, for love, it was Mum who was “the favourite”…. Yet I could tell you the two specific times she said “I love you” to me. And one was written down. And in fact, I think she said “We love you”, not “I love you”. It was about 8 months before I said “I love you” to Master L. And even then I felt stupid doing it. At 10 months, I don’t think I’ve said it to Miss L yet. And I have never said it to the kids in front of anyone else. I always envied friends who would end their phone conversations with their parents with “Love you, Mum!”. Not that saying it every single time you speak to someone is necessarily what I’d consider appropriate, but it’s better than never saying it at all! I’ve started to notice friends’ children (older than mine) saying “I love you” to their parents and I wonder when Master L will say it to me. Although, if I don’t say it to him, I figure I’ll be waiting a long time! For the last week or so I’ve tried to get into the habit of saying it when I put him to bed, and gradually it’s feeling less awkward…  I mean, seriously, how screwed up is that???


So on the positive side, I guess being aware of these things is surely part of the battle? I mean, I have insight, right?? Now all I need to do is figure out how to do something about it….