Something amazing happened today. I sunbathed! I was starting to wonder whether it warranted being called a holiday…It started with a 3.30am wake-up call to catch our early 4 hour flight, which took 5 due to unfavourable headwinds. The Small One (S1) was harnassed to me throughout, twisting in the orange lasso, whilst I feigned interest in the Big One’s (B1) Paw Patrol annual. Meanwhile my husband caught up on his book, then sleep, without a care in the world.
Once we’d arrived at our final destination, lack of sleep, alongside unfamiliar surroundings, teething* and the cold she picked up inevitably just before departure (see veni vidi vici) had ensured S1’s cries reached fever pitch if I so much as considered putting her down. It was like having a newborn again. I knew things were serious when she even wailed in the pool – we’re both serious aquaphiles**. S1 when it comes to splashing in water, me when it comes to drinking it***.
In the rare moments when both children were sleeping soundly, rest would not find me, skin crawling with the memory of the sparrow-sized cockroach which had scuttled out towards me when I went to check on B1 in the night, illuminated suddenly in the eerie light of my phone. Both cockroach and I terrified in equal measure when my husband leapt out of the shadows; a flip-flop-wielding ninja.
Mealtimes, for me at least, are fraught. My husband spends hours poring over the best restaurants on TripAdvisor. He still hasn’t realised that the rules have changed. On our first meal out, a too-big piece of cheese left S1 in tears and the rest of us shaken and embarrassed, haunted by images of S1 dangling over my husband’s arm whilst I shrieked out (uncharacteristically loudly), “She’s choking”. The next day, we missed out on 90% of the breakfast buffet, even the cava, all so that S1 could cement her new moniker, ‘Pavarotti’, which had been bestowed on her within hours of arrival. I make the effort to change my clothes and arrange my hair in new styles on the off chance it prevents people from recognising us from previous encouters.
We sit down at my husband’s latest choice. He has the audacity to order a whole lemon sole, unfilleted! As I watch him carefully extract the moist, white flesh from the bones, he asks, ‘How’s yours?’. I balk at the question. 1. I haven’t tried it yet. 2. When at last I do, its taste and quality are irrelevant. This may come as a surprise to those who know how much I love food, but as I shovel fuel into my famished gob, whilst jigging a flailing S1 on my knee, and mopping up B1’s spilt orange juice with my spare hand, getting out of there asap is all that matters. Then, get this – I finish my meal first! When at last he has stripped the bones of the sole completely bare, my husband actually exhales in a long, slow sigh of contentment. He has genuinely enjoyed this mealtime, oblivious to my ordeal. And my disappointment when the waiter brings over complimentary post meal coffees, at the very moment I’ve restrained an outraged S1 in her buggy, with the satisfying ‘click’ of the buckle!
However my trauma is worthwhile just to see the excitement of B1. She runs everywhere delirious with happiness at the constant cycle of swimming pool, beach, sea, playground and ice cream. She makes best friends at the kick of a ball. I only wish she would talk less constantly and at a notch slightly quieter than a bellow.
And at last S1 has fallen into what’s looking like it might be a long nap (if I be so hubristic as to suggest it) and my husband has taken B1 slashing**** in the waves. I’m left in peace on the sunlounger! I start to relax, enjoying the feeling of the subtropical sun ravishing my skin at the peak of the day. It’s lovely. Only I didn’t bring my book (‘‘Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers’) with me, not expecting the opportunity to arise, and we’re too far from the hotel to get WiFi. Dare I say it, I start to get a little bored. I rearrange the baby’s snooze shade again, snap a few selfies, then start rummaging for suncream…
In becoming a mum you seem to lose the ability to relax even when the opportunity arises. A part of yourself can never switch off, obsessed with the welfare of your little people, who in gaining more independence, bring more risk. At some point during one of S1’s frequent wakings later that night, I check my phone and hear about Manchester. I squeeze the very bones of her and don’t think I’ll ever be able to let her or her sister go. But I know I must. I worry that my writing could be interpreted as complaining – I consider deleting this whole post. But I believe I shouldn’t.
Reflecting honestly on the day-to-day is my way of remembering it and cherishing it. I truly wouldn’t change a thing.
*An umbrella term used to capture a range of offensive behaviours in your child when you have exhausted all other explanations and don’t wish to trash their personality so early on in their life. Also musters some sympathy for a particularly unbearable child. Teething probably isn’t even painful, but the mere possibility of suffering preserves the parent-child relationship through particularly low points.
**Unrelated to the phenomenon ‘aquaphilia’
***Not to such an extent that I was happy when my husband did the Spar water-run and returned with a few bottles of Evian totalling 10 Euros.