It’s always a blessing to have a relative who lives at the coast – especially if, like us, you reside in one of the most land-locked areas of the UK. The jubilee/half-term break, with its two bonus bank holidays for DH, had ‘seaside’ written all over it, so on Monday we packed the car, packed the kids and headed off to the Wild West of Wales.
The last time we visited my father in Pembrokeshire, The Baby was only five months old, immobile, and not yet weaning. Now she’s walking (running), talking and eating us out of house and home – which made for a very different holiday experience. So what has this week taught me about holidaying with a toddler and a six-year-old?
1. If you’re 15 months old, sticking one’s entire finger up one’s nose is a great form of in-car entertainment. It is, however, likely to induce a spectacular nosebleed, and heart failure in your mother when she turns round to see her baby looking like an extra from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
2. It would have been more useful to pack my slippers than my sandals. Thermal underwear would have been a bonus, too.
3. Six-year-old boys cannot go to the beach without partaking in a full-body immersion in the sea. Even if it’s 12C outside and blowing a gale.
4. Fifteen-month-old toddlers, on seeing their big brother in the sea, will want a piece of the action, too – even if they’re fully clothed.
5. Contrary to popular belief, small boys do not die of boredom if they don’t have access to a TV or computer for a week. More on this later…
6. Contrary to popular belief, 30-something parents do not die of boredom if they don’t have internet access for a week. They might even talk to each other. And do the cryptic crossword in The i. And even get some of the answers right.
7. Cats belonging to middle-aged men who live alone tend to be rather less keen on toddlers than those who live in a family home.
8. Commenting to relatives on how strange it is that The Baby wakes at exactly 6.15am every day, regardless of what time she went to bed or how much sleep she had during the day, is not the smartest move – unless you want her to wake at 5am for the next four mornings, just to prove a point.
9. Babies who wake at 5am do not make the best bedroom companions.
10. Travel cots appear to be designed for any purpose other than sleeping. Seriously, why don’t they just make the mattress out of solid rock?
11. It would have been sensible to explain our family dynamics to The Boy *before* we went to visit my father, rather than fending off his ‘But *who* did Geoff marry?’ questions every half-hour.
12. Family holidays are full of learning experiences for toddlers. The Baby’s new words this week: ‘thank you’ (useful), ‘high five’ (not so useful) and ‘rain rain’ (essential when in Wales).
13. Crabbing off the edge of a jetty is a good, wholesome activity for six-year-olds. Not so much for babies who are intent on throwing themselves off the edge of the pier. I’m sure I didn’t have *quite* this many grey hairs last weekend…
14. A child who frequently complains that he has ‘nothing to do’ in his Lego, Playmobil and book-filled bedroom, can nevertheless occupy himself in someone else’s house for a whole 90 minutes playing a make-believe game with a desk tidy and a handful of pens.
15. ‘The best beach in the world *ever*’ is not the one with the expanse of fine sand and lapping waves, but the tiny rocky inlet with an endless supply of shells and a view of the shipping channel.
16. Holidays are all well and good, but the sheer delight on my children’s faces when they got back to their cat (The Baby) and their Lego (The Boy) – not to mention my husband’s glee at regaining WiFi access on his iPhone – confirms that truly, there is no place like home.