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  • jdettmann

The Lucky Country


It’s the Monday night of the Australia Day long weekend, and I’m watching my daughter jump on our rusty mini-tramp while my son steams around the backyard being deeply fascinated by everything from a plastic Ikea plate to the discarded paper lanterns they just peeled off the gooseberries I picked from my mother’s vegetable garden. May Blossom is telling me about a ladybird couple called Florence and Boris and Garnet is asking for ‘Dat’, which is his word of preference at the moment. When he needs to be more specific he says ‘Dat dat’.

This weekend we’ve been, once again, with my parents in the country. It was, on balance, wonderful, despite my several early evening meltdowns, during which I hysterically cried that I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE and I NEED SOME SLEEP and PUT ON YOUR OWN PYJAMAS YOU ARE THREE YEARS OLD FOR GOD’S SAKE and generally behaved in a mean and distressing way to everyone around me, and then tried to breastfeed Garnet to sleep like always, only to find that his late catnap meant he only wanted to blow raspberries on my tummy and laugh like a drain. Then I stomped downstairs and cried while he shouted in his cot, and it made everything feel a hundred times worse.

When the miseries get me like that I blow everything out of proportion, like a three year old drawing a cat so big it could squash a house. I feel like the world is out of control and I am failing at everything I am trying to do. I mean, God, my daughter is three and she still often needs us to sit with her while she falls asleep. I am such a failure. And my son can only sleep for 45 minutes without me. Ever. Failure again. That’s what I tell myself.

But then my parents gave H and me the gift of sleep, and on Sunday afternoon packed May Blossom and Garnet in the car and disappeared for three and a half hours. H and I – and things get a bit saucy here, and possibly Not Suitable For Work – went to bed and slept our brains out for the whole three and a half hours. That’s more than twice as long a stint of sleep as I have had for over a month. And what do you know, I feel human again, and capable of seeing the big picture a lot more clearly. My kids are extraordinarily lucky.

They are well-fed, housed, and loved by so many people whose lives are safe and stable. They have a great GP who tells us when to put them on antibiotics for their ear infections. We can access antibiotics for their ear infections.  They have a pet, lots of toys, clothes that fit, sunscreen, hats and parents who occasionally muster the energy to make good and fun decisions, like taking May Blossom blackberry picking this morning, and buying a takeaway chicken and chips for dinner on the way back home tonight, and letting them eat it out of the bag in the garden when we got home. (Possibly the part where I encouraged eating the red swiss chard from my mother’s garden in order to make our tongues go red was a little misguided, leading as it did to May Blossom getting all competitive and colouring her tongue blue with a felt tip pen). These are children whose parents are unlikely to have to make the decision to risk their lives by putting them on a barely seaworthy boat to escape misery and persecution. If they don’t get quite the recommended number of hours of sleep every day, and if they eat too many ice-creams and too much bread and I sometimes lose my temper at them in frustration, they’re still lucky, lucky kids. And they have parents who let them listen to Cats for an hour and a half in the car today, and there aren’t too many who can say that.

Their sainted father has taken them inside now, to escape the mosquitos, and left me to finish this in peace, listening to our version of the Hottest 100. Since we scored an impressive grand total of three in our game of ‘Don’t Know That Song, Don’t Know That Band’ when perusing the list of Triple J’s Hottest 100 for last year, we have put together our own mix this evening. Representative of nothing but what we listened to today, it goes:

1-4: The four songs on the album Letters from Lewis by Stornaway

5-9: The five songs on the album On The Rocks by Stornaway

10-22: The 13 songs on The Very Best of the Stone Roses

23-44: The 22 songs on Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

45-89: Repeat.

90. Go to bed. As if we have time to listen to 100 songs.

91-100: Rally and get up and listen to the only new music we have heard this year, the first 9 songs from Fever in the Road by the Bamboos.

Happy Australia Day.

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