How do you explain to your Thai live-in domestic help why the kids are shouting “YUK!” at every mealtime? Tonight, what inedible dish is revolting the children? Boiled squid? Chilled monkey brain
No! Irish recipe sausages and mash. Patti attempting to remove the skin, and flicking flacid sausage everywhere, Abe oozing mash between his teeth crying ‘urgh!’. Where do I seek advice about etiquette for toddlers toward domestic help?
Post-meal I sneak Patti crackers and cheese (like smack into Strangeways) I worry about offending Wandi, don’t get caught with cheese Patti! Likewise James wants a beer out the fridge but won’t venture into the kitchen, it’s weird living with a stranger, for all of us. Sometimes I daren’t search the cupboards for a snack in case Wandi thinks I’ll spoil the dinner she’s making me, but then the snack cupboard is seriously lacking (only wasabee peas remain).
This week saw a list of House Rules magnetised to the fridge following a meltdown at a local breakfast buffet (mine, not the kids). I frantically googled Reward Charts and followed the advice of Supernanny! Desperate times! (People keep posting “Good Times” on social media everywhere, stop it please, unless you’re being ironic, and while you’re at it easy on the hash tags too – #itsasirritatingasahalfinsertedtampon #idontknowwhatitmeans #dontleavemebehind.)
At home I’d probably laugh it off, the ridicularse behaviour of my kids of late, compare horror stories with mates, or escape from parenting with mates without kids. “Grow up Patti!” Not my best response to a cheeky toddler this week, she is 2. I’m having a period. Sorry, it’s just a fact, and its humid and I don’t know whether I just bought a sanitary product or incontinence pads, but either way I feel like shit and I’d like chips and gravy, a can of Vimto, a shit magazine, and perhaps something on E4 to watch.
All Abe’s little school mates are gone, the summer holidays started a week ago and will last for 8-sodding-weeks (Abe: “I don’t like mashed potato, it’s ‘sodding'”). Most expats from school seem to have gone home, or on long jollies, and we only just got here so we’re not going anywhere. I imagine the border officer at Manchester airport is still recovering from Patti’s vicious attack (but come on, who body searches a tantrumming toddler FFS, a biting and kicking one, she’s hardly pedaling drugs, surely the crime looked more kidnappy).
This week the rules on the fridge have been broken by me more than the kids. The ‘no shouting’ one in particular. Yesterday morning, before 09:00 this happened:
05:30 – Patti and Abe woke up and ran themselves a nice bath
06:00 – Abe comes to show off about said bath…shivering
06:01 – James and I jump into action imagining Patti has drowned
06:02 – Comfort shivering children – I am hoarse from shouting
08:00 – Kids chase Wandi, “don’t bite me, noooo” overheard
08:01 – Comfort Wandi post early-morning-assault-attempts
08:13 – Patti felt tips the parquee floor, it won’t come off
08:14 – Patti on step for 2 minutes, Abe hysterically laughing at the high jinx
08:15 – Have another go at removing the red pencil crayon from the bathroom wall – a separate incident
08:16 – Vow to remove all smug parent friends from social media – a gloating-parent cull
So, early doors we left the flat in search of the park, misery loves company as do stressed parents. After 5 minutes Abe is whimpering about his tummy, like the constipated baker he “kneaded a poo”(Boom!). There are cubicles in the public loo, I’m not sure if some are meant for foot washing? What’s the hose next to every bog for? Arse or feet? Arse surely, but it has the force of a jetwash! Miraculously Abe’s chronic stomach pains are healed by the medicinal properties of ice-cream. We stay, we play, we make friends!
We invited a mum and 2 kids back to our apartment to hang out. This is not something we did in England, we didn’t need to, or were we more guarded and less trusting? We are quick to make a Levenshulme connection, it’s the law of 6 degrees of separation. We had a lovely morning, the kids running wild whilst we chewed the fat.
I’d been feeling like the Gina Rowland’s character in ‘A Woman Under the Influence’. I’ve decided to be very me, like no airs or graces me, sweary self-deprecation (I did write ‘defecation’ then and thankfully proof read, I don’t need scat-friends…yet). I’ve considered saying dark things to people when we chat for the first time, like ‘scat’ or ‘merkin’ related, separate the wheat from the chaff. Please just ‘get me’ without me having to explain ‘me’. I’m 37, I can’t be arsed.
Abe came into our bedroom in a mood this morning. We’re not sure whether he’s had the dream about the man coming and shrinking his toys again, but he’s a bit vulnerable. I snuggle him in, we have a chat, he says he hates Patti and he hates Wandi and he prefers England. We talk about this for a bit and he says he wants to hang out with Wandi a bit more and go to the play area with her. Abe’s buzzing at the possibilities of his new idea and I hear him ask Wandi in the kitchen, “Wandi, can you take us to the play area today?” Wandi’s in agreement which feels like progress and the next step for their relationship.
We’re staying in today so I get the paints out, we do some pictures and it’s fun. I plug the iPad into the boom box, find the ABCphonics song Abe liked at Alma Park Primary School http://youtu.be/BELlZKpi1Zsand watch him as he hears it, processes it and smiles so hard it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. He asks me: “Are they happy tears or sad tears, mum?” These are happy tears Abe, because you look so happy right now, and I’m not sure when you last smiled like this. We exchange goofy toothy grins. Patti carries on painting the only bit of exposed table she can find, she is punk. Abe takes her paintbrush from her. Abe, we’re teaching Patti about sharing aren’t we. Abe: “No we’re not”. It’s normal again.
You don’t realise the support network you have until it’s gone. Not just the obvious family and friends, but the whole network. The familiar: the Richard Gere lookalike butcher, Bolsh the dog from across the street, the regular weekly trip to the pound shop. We miss how easy it is at home. It’s not like we want to go back yet, it’s just it’s all alien and everything’s an effort. I could do with a duvet day, comfort food, a roast chicken and the right flavour crisps.
I’m starting to miss events – my brilliant mate’s wedding, an old friend’s funeral, baby Polly being born, baby Mylo hitting his milestones, summer festivals where I could’ve gegged in, my niece’s adoption, my niece’s birthday, the John Lewis clearance sale. I had new people to invest in and I have to hope the bonds we’d made before we left can be picked up where they left off. I am a romantic, a worried romantic.
I’m worried. I’m worried about us. I’m worried about the people missing us. I’m worried about the woman crying in the bar, I’m glad her friends are making her laugh, consoling her, who’s making my mates laugh, consoling them? I’m worried that the support we have here’s isn’t enough. I’m worried that the centres at home that offer support to those without family/ friends are closing, like the libraries and the Sure Start centres. I’m worried about the little naked kids playing in the building site in the mud next door, the proximity of the walls being smashed down next to their little bodies, the vehicles driving past them, their vulnerability. I’m worried my mum will never understand how I can love my kids and want a life for me too. I’m worried about Wandi leaving, or Wandi staying and it never feeling ‘normal’. I’m worried I’m helping to make a documentary about Brits in Bangkok and it will be images of me crying all the time, even though I’m actually happy most of the time. I’m worried soon I’ll be tired of all this frigging effort, all this worry.
Before we left Manchester, Abe bought some little worry dolls from Levenshulme market and I was explaining how they work to him. I asked what he worries about, “Foxes” he said. Relieved this was his main concern, we chatted about it. I haven’t seen any foxes in Bangkok, Abe. “OK then, snakes” he says. I teach him the Thai word for snakes is “gnoo”. I know because “gnoo gnoo blah blah” or “snake snake fish fish” explains how I get around the language here, as a snake slithers and a fish swims. Gnoos are less scary than snakes.
Meanwhile, Patti’s listening to a Spanish version of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ on YouTube. It’s been a batten down the hatches kind of a day, she looks up “Turn it off mama, that’s not Ing-il-ish”.