Planning a girls’ weekend used to be a simple process. Ten years ago, it was a matter of ringing one’s girlfriends of choice, picking a weekend a month or so in advance, booking accommodation and a nice dinner somewhere, and GOING. Now – well, let’s just say there’s a little more involved.
Six months before: I receive a phone call from my good friend who we will call Stella. Our sister from another mister, let’s call her Chloe, has a significant birthday this year and we want to do something special with her. Stella has come across group tickets to see Dirty Dancing on stage (cue pants-wetting and squeals of excitement as only women who came of age in the 1990s and don’t get out much anymore would understand), and we’ve decided to surprise Chloe with the show and have a FULL WEEKEND away with NO KIDS. Obviously there’ll be some planning involved, so we book the date months in advance. With this amount of preparation time, what could go wrong? I write it on the calendar.
Three months before: We book accommodation, plan a rough itinerary including blocks of time for shopping, naps, fine dining and drinking
margaritas in one another’s company since we live several hours apart and only get together once or twice a year. We are organised. It’s going to be GREAT.
Six weeks before: I begin twice-weekly reminders to my husband about being away the first weekend in May. He reacts with shock each time, which is why I start doing this early.
Four weeks before: I begin waking at 5.30am daily in order to express milk for Baby Girl to have while I’m away. My pumping power is so woeful that I can only store enough for half a feed at each session, so a decent stash of frozen milk is going to take some time to accumulate. I end up desperately appealing to my ‘village’ of mother-friends and acquire some donated milk when it becomes apparent that my lazy bosoms just aren’t up to the challenge. Phew!
One week before: An oversight. A big one! I need to find childcare for next Friday afternoon, since we’re planning to leave at lunchtime. Husband can’t come home early from work; his boss is away and he has no backup. Nan has a theatre restaurant booking with a friend (since when was she supposed to have a social life?!). Pop is moving house. These are all valid excuses. Dammit. I have a burst of inspiration: I can pay for childcare!! I call my beloved family daycare mum and although Friday is her day off, she graciously agrees to take Baby Girl while Boy-Child is at school. She has plans after school though, so I’ll need someone to cover the couple of hours between school finishing and husband arriving home. In desperation, I text my sister, who agrees straight away despite the fact that she has a toddler and a small baby of her own. Are you sure you’ll be OK with four?? I say. Well, I AM pretty amazing. I’ll be fine, she replies. Hurrah! I’m set! Bring on next weekend!
Three days before: Baby Girl is uncharacteristically cranky and stubborn. She refuses food, chucks tantrums, won’t let us brush her teeth, doesn’t want to be held, doesn’t want to be put down. She’s basically being a Right Little Miss. Daddy begins a constant refrain of Don’t think you’re going to be pulling this sort of nonsense while Mum’s away! I am so looking forward to this break, let me tell you…
Two days before: Oh. Right. She seems to have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Little blisters are forming on her hands, feet and…nose? Well, she always was an individual. She is so clearly unwell and in pain by evening that we call the home visit doctor, who checks her over and confirms it’s HFMD. She advises us to use good hand-washing to prevent it spreading, keep her isolated until the blisters dry out, and ‘don’t withhold pain relief’ for the next couple of days. Soon after she leaves, we understand why: our toddler is writhing in agony, rubbing her hands and feet up and down on whatever surface she can reach. It’s the beginning of one of the most distressing nights of our parenting careers to date. We’ve never dealt with HFMD before and I’ve clearly not been sympathetic enough to my friends who have. I’m no doctor, but I say it’s pretty much like leprosy without the promise of relief once the afflicted limb falls off. My technophobe husband is so worried that he not only switches the computer on and begins Googling everything he can find about the condition, but he also reports that it’s a strain of the ‘coxsackie virus’ without so much as a smirk. Baby Girl’s miserable. We’re miserable. I sleep on the floor of her room, and she sleeps on top of me, waking every 30 minutes to scream and scrape her feet on the carpet. Paracetamol is barely touching it and she has spat every dose of ibuprofen across the room. Boob seems to help a little, and she spends much of the night fastened to me like a barnacle. Did I mention I’m really looking forward to a break? But I’m also really concerned about my girl, now.
One day before: Stella and Chloe are due to collect me at midday today. I have had three hours of broken sleep, and I have a toddler who is clingy and quarantined. I dither about looking for a solution, and finally realise there isn’t one: I’m going to need to miss today’s activities, but hopefully once my husband gets home I can join them for dinner and the fun can begin. I place a disappointed phone call to them, drop Boy Child at school and settle in for a day at home with my poor sick chick. It’s raining, which is a good match for my mood.
…later that day: Wow, OK. It’s more than just raining. I had to find my knee-high gumboots to do the afternoon school run. It has been pelting down all day and there’s a river where the path from the carpark to the classroom should be. At home, I finally turn on the news and discover that major roads have been flooded, trains have been cancelled, children are stranded at schools and on buses halfway home. It’s the most severe weather event here in decades, and the brunt of it is firmly placed right over my suburb. A local shopping centre goes underwater in the space of an hour. The highway is closed to traffic.
Clearly, I’m not going to dinner. I will be too busy constructing my Ark, with a sick toddler clamped onto my boob. Not gonna lie, I’m having trouble keeping up with demand here. Thank heavens for my stash of frozen milk, which allows me to switch her to a bottle (and seize myself a moment of ‘hands free’ time) every few hours. The stash is never going to last the whole weekend though, the way she’s guzzling it down. Again we spend the night on her floor, listening to the rain crashing down, and between her bouts of screaming I feverishly lay plans for somehow joining my friends tomorrow.
Six hours before: It’s 8am. The sun is shining! There’s a lake in our front yard! The internet tells me that roads are closed all around us, but that one by one they’re re-opening. The mirror tells me I can’t have had more than a few hours of sleep again (although there is a carpet-imprint on my cheek, so I must have slept for at least a little while). I am stiff, sore, exhausted and emotionally drained. I’ve had texts from both Chloe and Stella already, asking me how Baby Girl is feeling, how soon I can join them and what the plan is. My husband, a competent and loving parent, is not convinced he’ll manage our sick daughter without me for the weekend. Not unreasonable, given her current milk-obsession and his own stubborn inability to lactate. He’s also not keen on me driving to the city with the roads in the state they’re in. I’m going to need to let my girls’ weekend go, I know this, but still I’m pushing for a compromise (with whom? The weather gods? The universe? The spirit of Patrick Swayze?) and try to convince him I’ll be happy if I can just get to the matinee – no cocktails, no shopping, no fancy dinner, no gossipy afternoon, no naps, none of the other stuff I’ve been looking forward to for so long. But that would still be at least a five-hour absence from Baby Girl, assuming I don’t get stuck in a flooded area. His best suggestion is that we all drive in to town, he drops me at the theatre and drives around for a couple of hours with the kids since he can’t take Baby Girl anywhere near people. Even I can see this is insanity, and would be the equivalent of driving to Rockhampton for no good reason in shaky weather conditions with a sick toddler and a bored preschooler. Tears are shed, most of them mine, as I realise the countdown has been pointless: the forces of both nature and nurture are against me, and the weekend was just never meant to be. I pull myself together long enough to miserably call my girlfriends, cancel everything, let them know I’ll still cover the cost of my ticket if they can’t re-sell it at the box office, and commiserate with them about how much this completely sucks. Then my husband takes the kids out for a couple of hours so I can get some rest. I huddle under the doona, feeling unequivocally sorry for myself.
Three hours before: My phone rings. It’s Stella. I can’t face another conversation about the weekend that wasn’t, so I let it go through to voicemail. She rings me straight back. Jeez, okay!
Stella: Okay, who is the dumbest person you know?
Stella: No seriously. WHO is the STUPIDEST B*TCH you have ever met in your LIFE?
Me: Well, I know you’re not cruel enough to be abusing me in the current situation, so I can only guess that you’re talking about yourself. What have you done?!
Her answer turned my tears into laughter, and then more tears because I laughed so hard (also, I may have been delirious from sleep-deprivation).
The stupid b*tch, how I love her, had taken the tickets out of the safe and looked at them for the first time, only to realise that they were for a matinee NEXT MONTH. She had six other friends lined up to meet us at the theatre for a performance that didn’t exist. Dirty Dancing hasn’t even opened its season in Brisbane yet. Our entire girls’ weekend was planned (months in advance) on the wrong date. Which means…
Girls’ weekend: Do-over. Let the countdown begin!