A fraught passage to India
"YOU'RE always going away and leaving me," moaned our 14-year-old daughter as we prepared to go to India this week.
"That's just not true and you know it," I replied.
"And you won't be here for my teacher interviews, or the school holidays," she continued, glaring at us from across the dinner table and scribbling furiously on a piece of paper.
We looked at each other. She had never objected before. In fact, she's an independent wee thing who takes most things in her stride, including the absence of parents on a regular basis.
And then we realised that the person who looks after her when we are away had changed.
Usually, her adult brother takes care of her and there's not much her adoring brother won't do for her, or let her do, which is more to the point.
This time it's her adult sister who has been given a list of dos and don'ts for what her little sister can get up to. Things like ringing parents to check they are expecting our daughter to stay the night, limiting the number of sleep-overs in a weekend, remaining in cellphone contact at all times.
"I can't believe you're treating me like a child!" the 14-year-old finished before stomping off to the lounge.
I took the piece of paper she had scribbled all over and looked at it. It looked like a lie detector test with jerky and furious lines up and down made with the pen.
"I'm putting this on the fridge," I said to my husband.
"Why would you do that?" he asked.
"It's art. We'll look back at this when we get back and remember the hell week we had before we left."
Going overseas has never been so difficult.
Apart from the objections from the 14-year-old, our house has been hit with an "everything that can go wrong, will go wrong" bug.
Our Sky TV box keeps breaking down. We've had the man out two times but, just before he arrives, it comes right.
"Just press these two buttons here," I told my daughter in the hope she would be able to work out how to reset it.
"I know how to do that," she replied looking up briefly from her computer. "I'm not a child!"
The washing machine broke down mid-cycle and flashed an error code 130 message at me. "I need a service" it said.
"Don't treat me like a child," I grumbled at it. "You are a machine. You don't actually know that you need a service."
Then the dishwasher got stuck and refused to turn off.
"What is happening to us?" I said, head in hands, worrying about my house and child.
"Do you think I should make plans in case the dog dies while we are away?" replied my husband, adding to my misery.
Our elderly dog continues to stumble through her old age and has recently taken to wandering off in the middle of the night on senile ramblings around the neighbourhood.
Then the front stairs collapsed after worthy service of 120 years.
At first I thought we could get away with leaving them, but when they leaned off to one side an accident was inevitable and would probably include me falling down them with my suitcase down them on the way to the airport.
In one week the house has been teeming with tradesmen stomping in and out repairing our home.
By the time we get on the plane our bank account will have been seriously depleted by maintenance costs but our daughter looks like she will be just fine.
"You're always going away," she said again during our morning chat in bed before she went to school.
"This is really worrying you isn't it?" I said.
"I was going to say I'm so used to it now that it really doesn't bother me."