I like being helpful always, but especially in situations from which I can benefit.
So when I offered to take my 11-year-old sister and eight year-old brother to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, it was absolutely 100% a way of getting my parents to pay my entry fee.
I didn’t think much about what would happen beyond that point… the entry gates were the extent of my foresight and once through them my day would be filled with soothing animal parades and many prizes.
Young children have this sort of… habit.
Sure they’re cute; they’re adorable and smart and easily impressed and watching them grow up is an absolute blessing.
But what they like to do most is ruin things.
Ruin things with tears; ruin things with whinging; ruin each and every vision you set in your mind of a perfect day with their incessant screeching and complaining about how sore their legs are and other tragic hardships.
“You don’t UNDERSTAND”, they’ll say. “NOBODY in this family even CARES about me.”
“I’m sorry, you’re right”, I’ll say. “How could I ever understand the hardships of a well-off white 11-year-old.”
Listen: Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo ask their kids to review their parenting performance, on This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.
So. The Easter Show.
For those of you who’ve never been, the Sydney Royal Easter Show is an annual fair attended by families who enjoy setting fire to large piles of money.
It’s the largest fair on the planet (I made that up but it’s real big), showcasing everything from ferris wheels and roller coasters to skill testers and animal competitions.
Feel like watching some equestrian showjumping? Easter Show.
Sitting on a shit-plonked bed of straw patting a litter of baby pigs? Easter Show.
Those weird rotating-head fellatio clowns? Easter Show.
I was responsible for myself and also my younger brother and sister for the day, which is more people than I wanted to be responsible for. In an ideal world? I would go alone, pat some animals, win a prize, and speak with no one.
But this is not an ideal world.
Here’s how the day went down.
10.04am – One hour till departure. Both kids are watching TV and also nude.
10.12am – Write mobile number on brother’s arm. Encourage children to dress selves. Met with cries of ‘Do we have toooooo…’
Yes. Yes, you have to. Being clothed is definitely a pre-requisite for leaving the house.
10.16am – Brother comes downstairs. Shorts, t-shirt, socks, camo backpack. “Hey dude. How about shoes?”
“Shoes. You know. The ones for your feet.”
“Oh yeah. I couldn’t find them.”
“I-… have you checked the tub of shoes? The one by the front door…where we keep all the shoes?”
10.31am – 30 min till departure. Shoes found. They are blue and also velcro. Hear yelling in kitchen. Investigate.
10.32am – Sister angry. Partly because I’m making her pack fruit and crackers (signifying my intent to be somewhat #healthy) but mostly because my brother isn’t wearing underwear and also is flashing her.
“Why no underwear my man?”
“Maybe chuck some on yeah?”
“Do… do I have to?”
"Yeah look you probably have to."
11.08am - En route. In car. Count spending money for the day given by Mum for entry, snacks, rides etc. Hatch plan: less money spent on the children means more money spent on me.
11.10am - Deflect question about fairy floss.
12.22pm - Arrive. Park car. Walk to entry gate. Sister complains of sore legs. Yet to enter show.
12.34pm - Consider smuggling brother inside in backpack. Save ticket money.
12.37pm - Plan foiled. Unamused security guard performing bag checks. Purchase tickets. Enter Show. Release hope of university education.
12.46pm - Crowds overwhelming. Shouty parents. Many prams. Run through emergency 'lost' procedure with eight-year-old brother.
"Okay. You're lost. You can't find me anywhere. What do you do?"
"I find a Mum with a pram and say 'scuse me can you please call my brother's number it's here'. He motions to the black sharpie digits scrawled up his arm.
"Beautiful. I'll be waiting by my phone if you get lost so I'll answer straight away."
"But... but Luca... what if you're on a ride and you don't hear your phone ring?"
"If you're lost, I doubt I'll meander over and jump on a rollercoaster."
"What if you can't find me and go on a high rollercoaster to get a better view?"
Amend 'lost' procedure to incorporate high rollercoaster.
1.03pm - Giant slide. Brother excited. Sister frightened. Tries convincing me she doesn't meet height requirement, even though there is definitely no height requirement.
I've got this. Many inspirational words. Encouragement. You can do it, you'll be great etc. Tactic? DISTRACT and talk and keep talking until we reach the top of the slide and it is too late to back out.
"You'll be stoked with yourself after", I say. "I reckon you'll kick yourself if you don't. Remy's three years younger than you. He's doing it, easy!"
Fear turns to determination and it's clear the whole sibling rivalry spiel worked.
1.08pm - Sit atop slide. On hessian sack. Sister worried. Ride volunteers push us down. 11 seconds of fun. Reach bottom. Sister looks at me.
"Thanks for making me do the slide you were so right it was so much fun can we do it again?"
1.30pm - Inside animal petting zoo. Large enclosed pen. Sheep, goats, and chickens running about.
They're all very good with people and I feel a little bit sad they're stuck here for our enjoyment but I pat them anyway.
1.34pm - Kneel on ground. Photograph brother with particularly docile sheep...
I have concerns because this sheep is shaking and looks frustrated, but also isn't moving. It's uncertain whether he's having a stroke or about to bite me or maybe both.
1.35pm - Attempt to take advantage of immobile sheep to get good photo. Cannot escape. Adjust focus. Try taking another photo of Remy with sheep.
1.46pm - Leave animal pen. Scrub hands clean at washing station. Dry with paper towel. Throw paper towel in large bin, only to be met with the most extravagant eye-roll of all time from a show volunteer who is most definitely done with being a show volunteer. She hates me.
"For God's sake. I'm changing the bin bags over."
"Sorry about that. Do you want me to reach in and fish it out?"
She mutters things under her breath and sighs LOUDLY so I know her job is HARD and also that she's a HERO.
But hang on.
Ma'am. You are a volunteer. You're not allowed to be fed-up with your job because there is literally not one single person forcing you to do it.
She fishes the paper towel out of the bin with a gigantic set of barbecue tongs and goes back to waiting for more people to throw things in the bin so she can keep being angry.
2.22pm - Walk on. My sister is thirsty which I know because she keeps telling me. Complains of sore legs.
"Okay what do you feel like?"
"You... you said you were thirsty..."
"I also want a corndog."
Unsure what is 'corndog'. Purchase water, fairy floss and small lollipop for $121.50.
3.01pm - Stand outside ghost train. Debate with little brother whether or not he's brave enough to ride. Successfully convince him.
3.16pm - Sitting in spooky ghost cart. About to enter ride. Waiting for ride operator to finish cigarette and pull lever. Brother beside me. Trying to smile but too scared. Cannot exercise control over facial muscles.
"Luca um... can... can you warn me when, like, scary things are gonna jump out?"
Reassure brother. Answer 'yes', despite being terrified myself. Operator pulls lever. Cart crawls forward as if being pulled by an elderly, arthritic donkey.
My tactic to keep my little brother from a fearful breakdown is to keep talking.
"Okay Rem we're inside now don't freak that's just some fake smoke we're going downhill you gotta be ready around this corner someone might jump out there's a fat hairy spider on that wall but it's not real okay no we're about to go through a door there might be a bang but it's fine it's all pretend don't freak someone might jump out here I think OKAY."
Anyone who has ever been on a ghost train will know the scariest part is when a sweaty man with a foam sword jumps out from behind a curtain and growls at you. Every ghost train has one.
Except on this ghost train, it was the twelfth consecutive day of operation; the twelfth consecutive day in which these poor workers had been cooped up in the dark for 10 hours having to scare carts full of sticky, dehydrated children.
"Rem I think we're coming up to the part when someone jumps out it's fine don't freak it's all good he won't hurt you just be READY."
That was the scary guy.
If his briefing was 'okay as the kids come past I want you to be a playful lion cub taking his very first breath' he was doing a cracking job.
The ghost train lasted 12 seconds and cost $86 per head.
3.47pm - Buy ice cream.
Ghost train debrief. Run into Mamamia's Head of HR which is COOL because I should definitely be at work. Approach fairground saturation point. Eye exits.
4.01pm - Purchase bowl of hot gnocchi. Brother shoots Nerf gun at some targets. Wins 'pack of slime'. Sister puts ball in mouth of fellatio clown. Wins small monkey toy stitched by Chinese children.
4.04pm - Purchase second bowl of hot gnocchi. Consume. Plant verbal seeds for exit strategy. "Not much happens here in the evening". "It's getting pretty cold hey?" etc.
4.20pm - Last task. Show bags. For those may not know, show bags are themed bags filled with lollies or toys or both. You might have a Cadbury Crunchie bag. Or a Dolly magazine one. Maybe Hot Wheels or Darrell Lea or Red Rock Deli or Frozen.
They all exist and can be found in a big converted warehouse called 'The Show Bag Pavilion', which I had no idea was a synonym for 'packed sweaty sh*thole'.
4.24pm - First lap of pavilion. Sister knows which bag she wants. Brother browsing.
4.35pm - Third lap. No purchases. Patience waning.
4.41pm - Sister finds bag. One she's researched for weeks online. Sold out. Takes it well. Very mature.
4.42pm - Was kidding. Anarchy. Maybe tears. "It's not fair" etc.
4.46pm - Convinced world is against her. Selects different show bag out of spite for first show bag.
4.49pm - Brother on show bag prowl. Check phone. Aware have now been inside pavilion for half hour.
4.50pm - Brother selects show bag. Caramello Koala. Hand bag to brother. Impose brotherly tax of one koala. Eat koala. Pay angry woman behind counter. Turn back to brother. No longer holding show bag.
"Hey Rem - did you... did you already chuck your show bag in your backpack?"
"Oh. Um. Where's it at then?"
Brother looks at hand. Hand not holding show bag.
"I thought it was in my hand."
"Yeah look me too. Because I handed it to you six seconds ago. Remember?"
"Yeah. I remember."
"Cool. Any thoughts?"
"I got distracted."
Turn to show bag lady.
"Um. Yeah sorry look, my little brother seems to have lost the bag. Sorry to be such a pain. Any chance I could grab another one?"
Fingers crossed she won't make us pay; will take mercy.
"Yeah that'll be four thousand dollars."
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What have you done with the kids these school holidays? Any activity suggestions? Or are you blissfully child-free? Let us know in the comments below.