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Recent scenes around Sydney have had other states wondering whether or not Sydney is actually in lockdown: crowded beach boardwalks, picnics in the park, handstands at the outdoor gym. When the sun is shining, it’s business as usual in this city.

This is probably because, as a pandemic leader, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been a bit like Amy Poehler’s character in the movie Mean Girls.

Sydneysiders out and about at Bondi on the weekend.Credit:Brook Mitchell

“There are no rules in this house,” Mrs George assures her daughter’s friends when they come over after school. “I’m not a regular mum, I’m a cool mum.”

Similarly Berejiklian has prided herself on not closing borders or imposing strictly enforced rules every time disaster looms. The vibe being: I’m not a regular premier, I’m a cool premier.

But it’s not just Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard has also contributed to the permissive parenting vibe: “Hopefully common sense will prevail,” he said at a press conference when asked about the definition of essential items. Then he made a confusing dad joke about essential oils.

But there is a flaw in this approach because Sydneysiders are like a pack of clueless teenagers. We’ve seen the evidence this past weekend, with everyone inventing their own lockdown rules to live by.

Permissive parenting style: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard.Credit:Kate Geraghty

I had this confirmed when a friend said to me: “You can do anything you like, you just have to have a story.” Meaning, you just invent something that fits the criteria and you can go on living your life as per usual.

Which is probably why a lot of people cite takeaway coffee as essential. The queues on street corners are akin to communist-era Russians lining up for loaves of bread.

Another friend cited going out for a custard cronut as going out for an “essential item”.

Flat-pack furniture is also apparently essential. I took my teenager for a driving lesson in the IKEA carpark, assuming that it would be empty. But the car park was busier than Westfield at Christmas. There were people with box-laden trolleys everywhere.

Under Sydney’s lockdown rules, we are allowed to leave home for exercise and, in this city, the definition of exercise is broad. I took advantage and went for an aerobic walk with a friend. There was a lot of talking but, I have to admit, not enough walking to break a sweat.

The entire population of Sydney was also there – scooters, dogs and puffer-vests abounded – and for an added Sydney-style bonus, someone coughed in my face as we passed each other by.

Up until about a week ago, Sydney was the cool state, we were the ones with the “cool mom” who didn’t close the borders and trusted us to use our own judgment. Now the plot is reaching its denouement, and just like the teenage clique in Mean Girls, we are making bad decisions. We might be about to take the entire school down with us.

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