Little and Big Kids

It was Australia Day two days ago.

We all had a sleep-in. I made croissants for breakfast while the kids played around in their room. We then met up with my mom and sister and went to the Merrywell for an early lunch where we had ribs, steak sandwich, garlic mashed potatoes, fish and chips and we adults shared a jug of sangria (yes at 11am) and the kids juice. At that hour we had most of the place to ourselves and did not have to wait long for our orders; it was pleasant.

It was still hot in the afternoon so after a bit of a rest at home, we packed up for the beach. We laid out the rug, had a dip in the cool waters and let the kids run around. Dinner was take-away fish tacos from the shop across the beach. We went home, finished up dinner before 7:30pm and then drove around to look for a spot to watch the fireworks (walking to the shore was not really an option with a sometimes temperamental two-year-old). We ended up in a hilly spot in a residential area close to our old place where we saw lots of families huddling by – we parked our car and got out to join them just as the fireworks started. The kids loved it, and they fell asleep in the car on the way back home.

It was the best Australia Day I had, ever.

This year is different than the last three because our two kids are now of ages where we can take them out and do stuff together without risking a melt-down. And this year is different from the last ten because we actually went out and spent the whole day doing fun things (some planned, but mostly impromptu decisions).

When it was just me and Will (or myself), all we wanted to do on a day like Australia Day was laze around (well it’s a public holiday!). We might have enjoyed a brunch somewhere, had a few drinks amongst ourselves and watched the fireworks on TV from home. We were not interested nor motivated to go out and be amongst lots of other people, doing things like going to the beach and watching fireworks. Those are for kids, right?

But the kids have changed us. They force (and guilt) us to get out of our comfort and lazy zone and to go out and do things. Be it the beach, the zoo, the Sunday markets, having a picnic in the park, driving out at night to get a frozen yoghurt, spending a day at an amusement park, walking around the city during Christmas to see the Christmas lights, driving up to the ski slope when we were in Seoul just to see the snow; they make us constantly think of all the things that we can do and enjoy together as a family, and to actually go out and do them.

And yes at first I thought it was a bit of a drag, but now I am now quite enjoying these little activities. To be able to get out there and enjoy good weather and the beautiful nature, to enjoy yummy (but unhealthy) food, to share the spirit of special celebrations with others, and sometimes, to just be reminded of the feeling of being able to experience life again without the burden of responsibilities and hindrance of everyday life stresses.  Our days do not have to be 100% planned, they do not always have to be practical nor productive, they can be just fun and we can do things just because we want to and worry about consequences later.

My kids have made me feel like a kid again, and I love it. Just when you think that age is catching up and that things are getting a little too serious, these moments are precious in reminding you to take a step back and appreciate the world for what it is again. And now I have the added pleasure of having them to enjoy these moments with.

Girls’ Night Out

Last Saturday I went out to dinner with an old friend. We went to Lalla Rookh, where we sat down for an amazing three-course Italian meal starting with raw kingfish, followed by creamy beetroot risotto and finishing off with an amazing chocolate mascarpone dessert. We also had good wine and even better conversations. After that we went for a nice stroll in the city – it was a warm night with a light breeze and there were lots of people about.

And for that few hours, it was as if we didn’t have kids. Imagine that. And that we were just two adults, having a night out.

It has been a while since I did this. This, to be able to go out and just enjoy the night. Almost four years to be exact.

These kids, they change your life. These little creatures who come out completely helpless and dependent on you for all their physical and emotional needs; for survival. And overnight, all things simple in your life, like going out to dinner, are no longer simple.

Why? Because you stop living only for yourself from the moment you realise you are pregnant. For your baby’s well-being you would give up half the things on the menu (the good half) when you go out, including the fun drinks which continues to stay off the diet for the period you breastfeed. If you breastfeed exclusively (like me as my children refused to take the bottle), this means that you have a baby who latches on to you every three hours and increasingly more closer to his/her bedtime, which makes it extremely inconvenient for you to be out in public. Then even as they get older and feed less, there is still the issue of night waking, to the point that you are uncomfortable of leaving them with a sitter in fear that they will not be able to comfort your baby back to sleep should they wake.

So after a while you just give up and stop going out at night altogether. You ask family if you can have dinners at their place instead, and you try to catch up with your friends either over mommy dates at the park or you sneak in an hour over your lunch break. Other nights when cooking gets tiring you become frequent customers of Menulog and Ubereats. At times you yearn for your old life back, and that spontaneity which allows you to decide, 5 minutes before 6pm, where you would like to dine that night.

Then one day, out of nowhere, you realise that hey, I can actually do this now. The kids are a little older and the husband is experienced enough to be left to his own devices. So you call your friend to arrange a date, very glad that you are finally getting some of your independence back.

Then for a brief moment, only very fleetingly, your mind went back to that time when your newborn woke you up at 3am and then fell asleep while you nursed her close to your chest; when you both stayed so still as if you might interrupt the stillness of the night if you moved; when it felt like you were her entire world and she was yours. And you felt a little sad that perhaps it would never be the same again.

Side note: Lalla Rookh is a trendy, bustling Italian restaurant in the heart of the city. It is a popular spot with the city dwellers, and was recently frequented by Rob Broadfield who wrote a neat article about it in the West Australian.