One of the hardest things about being a parent is trying to work out when you're over reacting and when you're not.
For instance, when one's baby runs a 37.5° temperature, does that mean that they might have meningitis and should be rushed immediately to the hospital, or does it simply mean that they have a bit of a cold? When one's toddler swipes a toy off another child, does this mean that they are going to grow up to be a Facist, or does it mean that they need to learn to share? When one's teenager wants to spend his life in bed in a dark and stinky room, is this a sign of depression or a sign of normal teenagerdom?
Last week we had a huge heat wave, which came on the heels of a very dry winter. I didn't think too much about it when I dropped Lydia, my ten year old, off at school, but as I drove back home, I switched on the news, only to hear talk of fire crews standing by all over Queensland - where they weren't already battling bush fires. Now, Lydia's school is a small country school, surrounded by acres of gum trees and accessed by a narrow and winding road, several kilometres from the local fire station. I spent the day in an agony of indecision, watching the hot, dry winds sweep through the garden and realising that, in spite of previous witterings regarding my newly found Australianism, I was as pommish as they come. When I asked Aussie friends about it – even other Aussie mum's whom I consider as neurotic as I, they all seemed to think that I was over reacting wildly. “She'll be right,” seemed to be the common thought.
It brought back the days when we first arrived in Brisbane and would check under all the benches in the parks before trusting our English backsides to them. Nowadays, of course, we don't bother – I should imagine that most of our furniture outside harbours Red Back spiders, but I know now that we'd be pretty unlucky to get bitten by one. And though Brown snakes still give me the creeps, it's a long time since I've been bothered by snakes in the house – every so often we'll get a little whip snake inside, but they're quite easy to remove by throwing a towel over their heads and holding them firmly with fingers behind the jaws. They're beautiful creatures, actually, and very sweet when they curl their greeny pink tails around your arm.
Still, when I went to pick Lydia up from school, feeling a bit of a wuss, it was not particularly reassuring when she greeted me with the news that some of the other kids had been trying to light fires in the school grounds....
In other news, Lydia made her debut as puppeteer at my annual carol singing/puppet show party yesterday, after Rupert failed the audition. It turned out that Lydia, at ten, can play a more convincing Vampire Giant than her father can. But was Rupert embarrassed by this fact? Not a bit of it. In fact, I have never seen him so proud of his daughter as he was yesterday, when she pulled off her biggest I've-just-eaten-the-witch-burp, which brought the house down and was the highlightof the show.