10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED…
… from holidaying with the kids
As we’ve just returned from a nine-day break in the South of France with our two Small Ones, I thought I’d scare, er, share with you the valuable insights I’ve gleaned from our little jaunt. Sharing is caring, after all, and if it allows you to feel more prepared for your own holiday en famille – or at the very least provides you with the reassurance that it’s Not Just You – then my work here is done.
1. Giving them a dose of antihistamine before setting off does not, as actually recommended, no, promised, by my GP (and various Mumsnet threads) provide a mild sedative for your kids. Well, at least not mine. I gleefully gave them a shot before our plane took off – and even considered a sneaky hit myself – then awaited the calm that would follow. Nope. Just the usual mayhem and meltdowns.
2. French toilets don’t always have toilet paper. The time you discover this will be the time your two-year-old decides to empty the entire contents of her bowels into a sopping wet swim nappy. After already having poohed her pants twice previously that same day. The weather will be hotter than hell and you will both be a sweaty mess. You won’t have smelled what was to come beforehand, so will unwittingly stick your thumb straight into the rank mess while hoiking down the swim nappy. In your disgust, you will whip out the thumb at speed, flicking wet poo across the wall of the toilet stall. Next will follow utter chaos as you try to roll the wet, poo-covered nappy down your daughter’s wriggly legs with your one clean hand.
Poo will be on her legs, dropping on the floor. She will proceed to tread in it with both sandals while you try to scream at her to stand still while you squat sweatily on the filthy floor trying not to fall over onto it, as your overflowing beach bag is balancing precariously on one shoulder. Nappy successfully removed, you will then attempt to start the clean-up mission, praising every god there ever was that you brought the overflowing beach bag with you and that you at least have wipes. You will use a full packet of wipes in the clean-up, while setting your daughter off on a complete meltdown as she will have spotted her favourite soft toy in the bag and will be desperately trying to reach for it with a hand that, yes, is also covered in poo, due to her having stuck it down her nappy to investigate what was going on down there. You will need a bottle of wine once exiting the toilet.
3. My daughter’s fine, curly hair takes on a life of its own in a hot country with the addition of sea salt, sand, chlorine and sun lotion. By day two I stopped attempting to brush it (the murderous screams weren’t very holiday-friendly for the mobile homes either side of us) and left it to become one dreadlocky mass that seemed to befit the feral behaviour she would start to exhibit for much of the holiday.
4. It appears my children have an uncanny knack of finding me wherever I may be (not that I would ever hide from them, of course…). It’s like some juvenile Spidey senses. While Daddy is freely available and visible right in the middle of the room at their disposal, I am the only one who is capable of dealing with every problem/listening to the end of every joke/wiping a bum/providing a cuddle/hearing who started the fight/watching what happens when you throw a ball in the air. The second I head to the loo/shower/to get dressed/for a nap, it’s ‘WHERE’S MUMMY?? MUMMYYYYYYYY???’ and within seconds, they have magically teleported into my vicinity.
5. However, on a plus point, it turns out the world will not end if we move away from The Routine. In order to enjoy a bottle of wine or any form of evening entertainment, we would keep the kids up much later than their UK bedtime. Lunches and dinners were also much later, and – to my husband’s intense smugness, it has to be said – they didn’t start setting fire to things or stealing from shops. And guess what? It was actually really nice to be more relaxed about it all.
6. Saying that, putting tired, overheated children to bed past 9pm involves an iron will and ear plugs. The bloodcurdling screams and whining (and, from the two-year-old, kicking of walls and throwing of toys and repeated coming out of the bedroom and refusing to go to bed) may just break you. ALSO – and this is the true slap in the face – though they go to bed later and thus leave you with less free time in the evening, they DO NOT STAY ASLEEP FOR LONGER IN THE MORNING. Nope. Whoever’s kids do the whole go-to-bed-later-wake-up-later stuff, I
hate salute you.
7. Neglect is a Good Thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying pack them off to the beach with a bucket and spade then bugger off to the bar for a five-hour drunken al fresco lunch with your other half. But ignoring them once in a while actually makes them search for you/call for you less, allows them space to entertain themselves, find things to do, play together better and solve their own problems. And, you know, it never hurts to leave a pre-loaded, ready-charged iPad outside their rooms so you can enjoy an extra half hour’s lie-in in the morning…
8. Because of the lack of school runs, work, laundry distractions, general life admin you’re faced with on your jollies, you actually have the time and inclination to speak to your other half and even LOOK EACH OTHER IN THE EYE. This is nice. You bond while slicing and buttering crusty baguettes together for lunch, share the endless slathering on of the kids’ SPF and laugh lovingly together at them playing happily on the beach. This is all helped by the fact that on holiday you basically drink wine all day. Wine, I discovered, makes me much more relaxed at parenting.
9. My kids lose their ability to walk in a hot country. Seriously, the dragging of feet, the begging to be carried or sit on Daddy’s shoulders, the stopping every two seconds to take a stone our of their shoe… It meant getting anywhere took forever. The beach was 10 minutes away, yet we’d never EVER get there before lunchtime after all the whining and faff, and dragging and stopping and diversions and collapsible knees and… and… Gah…
10. We have too much stuff. On holiday we basically just live in about three outfits each (though clearly I’d packed contingency clothing in case of, oh, I don’t know, POOMAGEDDON). And the kids survived with just a handful of toys. We ate just a couple of variations on meals and stuck to a simple lunch and dinner and a few snacks, so the fridge wasn’t bursting with wasted food. Less tidying, less washing, less clearing away, less thought processes. It made me realise that too much choice is actually draining, so we’re better off keeping things minimal. And, you know, RyanAir charges if you go over your weight allowance.
And there we have it. I consider myself educated. Exhausted, and needing another holiday, but educated.
As discussed in 10 Things Kids Love That Parents Hate Part 1, we do a lot of things to keep our offspring happy (and give us a precious half an hour to trawl Instagram, er, clean the house and get the dinner on). Keeping the young'uns amused and busy with any engrossing activity that tears them away from their best friend The iPad for a few moments makes us feel good about parenting. Plus look at that happy little face! So why wouldn't we want to provide them with things that make them smile? Because some of those things make life for us Hell On Earth. That's why...
Sadly, the things that bring our kids joy just... don't do it for us
My first child was a boy. At my 20-week scan with baby number two, we discovered we were having a girl, and after a couple of years of boy clothes and toys - despite having some seriously lovely clothes and toys for my son - the temptation to go out and buy something unashamedly girlie was intense. But once I'd got a few pink items out of my system, I was quite determined that she wasn't going to be a floaty pastel cliche of girldom. And whenever a family member would buy her a pink outfit or shoes, despite whether I liked it or not, I almost felt embarrassed putting her in it. It seemed so obvious and blatant and, well, standard
... from holidaying with the kids. As we've just returned from a nine-day break in the South of France with our two Small Ones, I thought I'd scare, er, share with you the valuable insights I've gleaned from our little jaunt. Sharing is caring, after all, and if it allows you to feel more prepared for your own holiday en famille - or at the very least provides you with the reassurance that it's Not Just You - then my work here is done.