On Motherhood & Sanity

Saturday, September 4, 2010

on why family outings should only take place in my head

We went to see James and the Giant peach today. A beautiful performance organized by The English theatre with the Illirya group. It took place at the gardens of the Oranjerie, by the Castle of Duivenvoord. The castle opens it doors for this open air theatre once a year. G and I had done it the year before, and I had kicked myself for not bringing the kids when I realized how laid back the whole things was. This year not only did they have a children’s play on, they had a one-day-only matinee session.

I bought the tickets three months in advance.

The setting is stunning. You park by the actual castle, and make your way over the bridge and through the gardens to the “small house” area, where you can have a family pic-nic, while enjoying the garden, the pond, the fish, the sculptures and other amenities before the play even starts.

- “momma, why are all the ladies naked?”

- “because it’s art honey” could be heard in the background

In the Hague it is not so easy to see theatre in English. Which is fair enough since they have a local language of their own, it’s called Dutch, but no one speaks it outside of Holland, and everyone inside Holland speaks perfect English, so given the fact that we are just passing through, we have absolutely no intention of learning it.

After a whole week of biblical rains, (as in trees fell over and so did the division wall between our terrace and the neighbours’), today the sun was shining and it was beautiful. Which was really important because, although I was ready to “dutch it”, meaning, stick it out come rain or cold, I had been sick all week, and I’d finished working Friday past midnight. I was tired and sick and really didn’t feel up for too much “dutching it”. Saturday we woke up to sun filled morning, and feeling a bit better myself, was extremely enthusiastic.

While preparing the sandwiches my 4 yo kept asking when we were going, I kept saying a bit later. Eventually she got tired of asking and put her foot down

“I want to go right now!”

we’ve had this discussion before, like when she wants to go to a birthday party three days before it takes place

“there is no play now, we have to wait”

She does not have a lot of patience, as in the moment she works out the fast forward function our DVD viewing days are over.

Finally we get everything ready and everyone into the car. Hub’s 1950s motorcycle breaks down, (again) so we have to leave him behind with the promise to come back for him if it doesn't start up. I take a wrong turn but (bless the iphone map function) manage to make it there through an extended and –of course- blocked for construction detour.

In Holland, the second you leave the city, you are immediately surrounded by green fields, canals, cows, sheep, windmills and boats. But we had promised M the princess a castle, and she was impatient.

- “what are we doing now momma”

- “we are looking for the castle princess”

two minutes later

- “what are we doing now momma?”

- “we are still looking for the castle. We will keep looking for the castle until we find it, so there is no need to ask again until you see a castle”

- “but I can’t see a castle momma!” she sounds exasperated. Clearly I am making no sense to her. I take a deep breath.

Eventually we make it there, and it turns out we can't go into the actual castle, which turned into a little drama I'll spare you. Then we are hungry, and we go from hungry to starving in 30 seconds flat, so instead of enjoying our walk through the gardens we run over to the “small house” to set up the pic-nic. As soon as we are settled and finally start munching on our carefully prepared healthy stuff, cookies come into our radar vision

- “I want cookies momma"

- “you will have cookies when you are done with your sandwich”

- “when is the theatre coming?”

- “in a bit”

- “but I want it now”

- “I want it now too honey, trust me, I want the play to start right now more than life itself”

“but can I have cookies?”

Then finally, the play starts, but five minutes in, front row, with a myriad of men and women dressed up as spiders, crickets, and all sorts of fun things, she's at it again

- “when is the theatre coming momma?”

- “this IS the theatre sweetie, it has started”


- “but when is it starting momma?”

Long story short, both monkeys sat ON me for the entire length of the play. They were scared of the evil aunts, and hungry, and thirsty, and the sun bothered them. Continuos "what's happening now momma?" distracted and confused me. I didn't get to see the end because we were in the (black and sparkly) mobile loos for the third time.

Once the play finished everyone was eager to move on to the next phase of their lives. I watched other families as they lounged lazily on their mats under what is probably the last bit of sun we’ll see until next spring, as we hurried off.

And back in the car:

- “I want water momma”

- “sweetie, I don't have any water, we’ll be home in ten and you can have what you want there”

- “but I want water now” the pitch begins to go up

- “there’s juice”

- “I don’t want juice”

- “there’s milk”

- “ I don't want milk, I want water”

- “there are strawberries or I can pee in a cup, choose!”

I’ve lost it. The perfect outing I had been planning for months has turned out –again- to be in reality nothing like the one I had in my head.

We get home and while Ms I’ll-die-if-I-don't-have-water runs inside, (and forgets to drink water), I stay behind in the car with No. 2 who has fallen asleep.

I’m beat, I’m dead, and I’m wondering if it’s worth it. If it’s worth trying at all. Maybe we should have just gone to the park around the corner. Done some arts and crafts in the house.

Night creeps in on us as usual. The monkeys are still recovering from the sugar rush of the “please shut up and leave me alone” goodies bag. I manage to corral them and bring them to their room. Lights are off, and out of nowhere M the princess states:

- “I liked the spider, and the octopus, but not the witches”

then No. 2 chimes in

-“ I liked the jelly fish, and the giant peach”… “and the birds”

-“ I liked the bubbles under the sea”

- “and I liked fishing”

and they go on and on. Then m the princess declares

-“ I love the theatre momma”

I leave them to continue sharing the parts they liked, and the adventures we'll live. The things we've done and the things we will or might do in their head are all one. One with James, the spider, the cricket, the ladybug and the giant peach, after today.

Apparently, it was worth it.

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