I recently returned from a disastrous holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. I really needed this holiday. Juggling work, motherhood, hobbies and a social life is a tiring business on less than seven hours sleep a night. The last holiday I went on was in February when I took my then 8 month old son to visit his grandad in South Africa, on my own I may add. Single parenting is bloody hard (hats off to all those single parents!) but especially hard on an 11 hour flight. On the return journey, I was vomited over twice. The less said about it the better, I’m still traumatised.
So, I had high expectations for this week long holiday. It sounded perfect: a cottage in a remote Swaledale hamlet surrounded by gorgeous heather clad hills and picturesque valleys criss-crossed with dry stone walls. My husband’s family (i.e. babysitters) were coming along – grandparents, aunt, uncle and two pre-teen cousins. I had my heart set on walks, runs and reading. I packed two books from my towering ‘to read’ pile to soak into while sipping tea luxuriating in the knowledge that my 15-month-old toddler was happily occupied elsewhere. I would leave feeling refreshed and recuperated.
In reality, nothing of the sort happened. My son’s sleeping went to pot. He awoke every morning at 5:30am with an insistence that meant we had to pluck him from his cot and take him immediately downstairs before he woke the rest of the household. But that wasn’t the worst – on the last three nights he cried out at 3am and I had to rub his back until he fell asleep again. My neck still hasn’t recovered from that awkward hanging-over-the-travel-cot position I had to get myself into.
It turned out that the rest of the family were too busy relaxing themselves to babysit for any length of time. So, my husband and I would often take it in turns following our son around the cottage. To his glee and to our horror, the downstairs had a central kitchen with two doors opening into a passage which then had more doors leading to all the other rooms. Now, doors are an obsession of his (he can’t say mummy but he can say door) and these ones had handles low enough that he could reach with no locks, which meant we couldn’t contain him anywhere (argh!).
Wine helped. It certainly took the edge off whilst tailgating him in a bid to prevent more bumps to his head. Still being unsteady on his feet, he can face plant the floor or head butt any obstacle in his path all too easily. He has no sense of fear either – why go down the stairs backwards when I can just step off them like the rest of you do?
But that drunken toddling and cheeky face and that exclamation of ‘hiya’ when he opens the door to a room and those giggles of glee at peek-a-boo (when really he can see your whole body except for your eyes) and the way he hands you a book with the word ‘ta’ and then reverses into your lap for a story.
I need to be honest with myself, holidays with a small child aren’t holidays as I once knew them to be. But I have many years to laze about on holiday and read books (one day my ‘to read’ pile will no longer tower). So for now I’ll follow my toddling one year old around marvelling at how he is developing and changing before my eyes. As for relaxing and keeping a check on my stress levels, I’m going to have a go at yoga and meditation. Can’t hurt, can it?
And, anyway, I can’t be that scarred by the whole holiday experience as we’ve booked a two week Christmas holiday in South Africa but, happily, this time my husband will be joining us. Any top tips on flying with an 18 month old will be very greatly received. Try not to frighten me too much please.