Last week I went on a ‘mini-break’ with my children, only calling it a ‘break’ is a little misleading. Mothers don't really get breaks. Instead, I like to think of it as a ‘change of scene’. We all know that as lovely as it is going on holidays, it doesn’t mean your children will go to sleep without protesting. Or that they leave the epic tantrums at home. No, no, no. They’re far too excited to go to sleep – they’re on holidays! Thank god for wine...
I’m not complaining – I’m very grateful for our recent holiday and it was refreshing to switch off my laptop and also take a break from the daily grind of domestic chores. Weirdly, while I verge on OCD when it comes to keeping our house clean and tidy, I couldn’t care less about mess when we’re on holidays. Not giving such a shit about housework is so liberating. It also helps that my mother is OCD at home and on holidays so she kindly kept the apartment we were staying at spotless (thanks Mum – love you).
There were moments during our holiday when I looked around and felt so lucky and love-filled, but there were also a lot of tantrums to contend with. As adorable as they are, my girls don’t sit quietly and colour at cafes (ok, maybe for about two minutes). They’re loud, full of personality and spend far too much time fighting with one other. I’m told the ‘personality plus’ thing is good – and I do love what confident and secure little girls they are. It does prove very entertaining at times. And madly challenging at others. My two-year-old spent the whole holiday putting her hand in my face saying ‘stop!’ or ‘no!’ followed by blowing a raspberry in my face. She did this on repeat for four days. Love you too darling. I slept in the same bed as her and discovered she even says ‘stop’ and ‘no’ in her sleep. Lottie also took it upon herself to call everyone she met from waiters to people on the street a “poo poo”. She even bravely raced up to a large lizard and proudly said “hello Mr Poo Poo” then ran off thoroughly pleased with herself. I felt so proud. Sigh.
We left my laptop charger on the plane, spilt milkshakes all over café tables and floors and lost a pram because we were so distracted by Lottie’s epic meltdown we ran out of the restaurant and forgot it. By the time we realised we’d lost it and came back to collect it, someone had stolen it. Who steals a pram? Come on people!
The finale came at the airport. It was the kind of experience where you know what everyone around you is thinking: what little shits. It started when my girls spotted the Kinder Surprise eggs at the shop. No, I said. Lottie started screaming. The entire airport (it was a small airport) was starring at us. Aware of the disapproving looks, I calmly picked her up while she continued to scream and hit me and walked towards our gate and sat down. The screaming continued. The stares continued.
Finally, they spotted a mechanical car. You know the ones which prey on exhausted parents desperate for anything to distract their children? You put a gold coin in and 20 seconds later, the ride is over and you need to put more gold in. If you don’t keep putting money into the machine, you risk more meltdowns. You simply can’t afford to stop putting money in the machine. Those things must make a fortune.
Ok, they’re happy again, I thought. And then Lottie pushed Arabella out of the car and onto the floor. The screaming started again. The egg on Arabella’s forehead swelled. Just breathe. And please people, stop staring at me. If my mother hadn’t have been with me I would have burst into tears or told the entire airport to “stop fucking starring” (watch out: crazy, irrational, overwhelmed mummy taking over). I could go on, because the trip got worse, but I won’t. I was that mother with the children she couldn’t control.
When we landed in Sydney, I turned to my mother and asked her if she thought I was doing something wrong. Is it my parenting? “Darling, it’s the age. They’ll grow out of it.” She’s right. And to be fair, sometimes I think I expect them to be more grown up than they are. Lottie missed her daytime sleep because we were travelling so no wonder she was irritable. It’s also hard taking kids to restaurants that aren’t overly kid-friendly – they get bored and frankly, who can blame them?
The happiest part of the holiday – and during these calm and carefree moments it really felt like we were on holidays – was at the beach. We built sandcastles and swam in the salty sea and chased the waves and they loved every moment. There were a few fights over buckets and spades, but on a whole, it was wonderfully stress free. They were free to be kids and I was free to focus on being a mother. No modern day distractions in sight. We also went to the local markets and they went on a pony ride, ate mango ice-cream and had a go on the merry-go-round – they loved it and their joy made my heart burst with love. And actually, hearing my daughter call a lizard a “poo poo” was pretty hilarious.
We can’t expect our kids to be perfectly behaved all the time – my girls have moments where they’re sweeter than sugar (you’ll find those ones on Instagram) and then they have moments, which push me to breaking point. I don’t think I’m alone – in fact I know I’m not alone. So next time your child is pushing your buttons, take a deep breath and remember you’re not alone. Oh, and if you want a real holiday, make sure there’s a kids’ club.