My first holiday alone with small children
I’ve always had a lot of respect for my single parent friends.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for my single parent friends. But that respect has been taken to a whole new level of admiration after a week-long trip to the other end of the country with my little cherubs in the school holidays. On our own…
Mr T – “Are you you’re going to be OK driving all the way to Bournemouth on your own with these two?”. (Teddy – 6. Ferne – 3)
Me – “For crying out loud Iain, I am capable of looking after my own kids you know!
You are going to be as good as gold for your mummy aren’t you kids?”
Ted & Ferne – “Yes – promise mummy”.
Said in unison as they both flicked through their tablets, wedged into their car seats by snacks, cuddly toys, drinks, pillows and everything else that might help to pass the next few hours.
The SatNav took a few seconds to calculate the journey from Leeds to Bournemouth…
Four hours 40 minutes.
The journey drama
Only the journey ended up taking over seven bloody hours and by the time me and the kids pulled up outside our hotel at 8pm that evening, I was on the verge of dropping them both off at the hotel reception and doing a runner. Heading straight for Southampton. Jumping of a ferry. Disappearing childfree never to be seen or heard of again. After a glass of wine.
I was about to have a nervous breakdown. At my wits end. Hanging onto my sanity by a single thread after seven fucking hours of “Mummy are we there yet?” And that wasn’t the half of it.
Their tablets had been chucked on the floor before we’d even got to the motorway.
Their favourite snacks where no longer their favourite snacks. Oh no. Now they hated everything that I’d packed for them to eat.
In the space of 24 hours their taste buds had had a complete reboot and they no longer liked ham sandwiches. The mango slices were too warm and ‘floppy’. The crisps where too crispy and the cheese was too good damn fucking cheesy.
We stopped off at every bloody service station between junction 42 of the M1 and Bournemouth…
Ted – “Mummy I need a poo”.
Me – You’ll have to wait until the next service station”
Ted – “I can’t – I need one now – it’s gunna come out now”
Me – “Ok ok we’ll pull over at the next service station – hold onto it for two minutes”
Ted – “I need a poo NOW”
Me – “Do you want to poo in your undies in the car?
Ted – “Nooo”
Me – “Then hold it in for another minute”. Please.
I pull in, the three of us jump out and we leg it across the car park, through the service station and into the toilets.
Ted – “It’s not coming. I don’t think I need a poo – it’s just a wee”
Me – “WHAT? can’t you squeeze one out?”
Ted – “No – I don’t need one. Sorry mummy””
Me – “For fffffffff sake”
Once I’ve located Ferne, who has escaped out of the washrooms and was being escorted back into the toilets by a complete stranger, back to the car we go and back on the motorway we get.
Five minutes later… you guessed it… “I definitely need a poo now mummy”
Three attempts it took to get that poo out. Three stops at three fucking service stations. Three different toilets visited before Ted eventually managed to carry out what he had been threatening to do in his pants, in my car for the last 45 minutes.
We stopped for more food. We stopped to pee… several times. We had to pull off the bloody motorway and into the service station car park just to adjust Ferne’s seatbelt because all of a sudden it was too bloody tight.
And then again to purchase the sweets that I bribed Ferne with to get her to curb the incessant, relentless hysterical high-pitched screeching demands of a three year old who’s pillow had slipped all of a couple of inches to the left and she wanted it back where it was NOWWWW!
Only she was in her car seat in the back of the car and I’m driving at 70 miles per hour down a busy motorway and I’m ON MY FUCKING OWN!
So once again we have to stop.
The hotel breakfast room drama
Single parenting in a hotel breakfast room with two small children is nothing short of a nightmare.
All Ferne wanted to do was circle the perimeter of the centrally-positioned-in-full-view-of-all-120-guests cereal table, delving into each bowl of dried fruit with her bare hands. Trying out the contents of each little bowl of apricots, dried banana, prunes etc.
90% of which she didn’t like so she removed them from her mouth and placed them back in the bowls. Apart from the dried banana slices – she liked them. She also liked throwing them across the breakfast table at her brother.
I tried my best to coherse Ferne away from the table of cereals and dried fruits without too much of a scene. I tried direct her in my softest Mother-Earth voice…
“Ferne darhling, please don’t do that. That’s enough dried banana now sweedie”.
Of course what I wanted to say to her was much more along the lines of “STOP PUTTING THAT DRIED FUCKING FRUIT IN YOUR MOUTH AND SPITTING IT BACK INTO THE BOWL FOR GOD SHAKE CHILD!”
I was desperate for Mr T to be here with me to play out the good-cop, bad-cop routine. But he wasn’t, and Ted was at the other side of the room playing with the industrial size toaster. Placing his 6th slice of toast, and fingers into the red hot heating elements.
I yelled across the room for him to stop before he burnt himself – everyone turned their heads at the commotion.
Meanwhile Ferne’s hands were back in the bowl of dried bananas as I was momentarily distracted by Ted’s actions across the room.
I was going bananas.
HOLY SHIT – GET ME OUT OF HERE!
The supermarket drama
11am on day 3 – we pulled up at a Tesco Express in Sand Banks for essential supplies. It was crazy busy – filled will holiday-makers and posh-twat locals.
I clung to a bare-foot, sand-covered, hyper, ice-cream and Haribo-fuelled three year old sucking on a Chuppa Chup lolly with one arm and the wire shopping basket hung from the other.
I ordered my six year old to place various items into the basket – wine and trashy magazine for bedtimes alone when kids fall asleep. Sweets to use as bribes. Bucket and spade. The usual holiday essentials.
I could feel the eyes of fellow shoppers on me. I expect, to them, I was a struggling single mum on holiday buying wine at 11am and quite obviously losing my shit.
Of course it doesn’t help when the situation is fuelled further by regular dramatic outbursts of obnoxiousness from the little ones screeching the usual shit in public…
“I Can’t walk, my legs hurt”
“Carry me, carry me”
“IT’S NOT FAIR”
“I WANT ONE OF THEM”
“I DON’T WANT AN APPLE I WANT SWEETS”
“YOU ARE SOOOO MEAN”
“LEAVE ME ALONE I WANT MY DADDY”
At the checkout I sat a barefoot, sticky fingered, slightly feral looking Ferne on the cashier’s counter whilst I unloaded the contents of my basket. It wasn’t long before she started hurtling packets of chewing gum at her brother who was flicking through the five-pound-a-pop kid’s magazines begging me to let him have one.
Where was Iain? Why did he have to work? Why wasn’t he here helping me. Controlling our feral kids whilst I dealt with the shopping.
I could feel the eyes of those in the long queue on me. Stares of pity and disapproving.
GET ME OUT OF HERE!
The theme park drama
Peppa Pig World. What better way to end our little holiday together. Just the three of us.
Ferne was all of 2mm over the 1m height restriction, which meant I was paying full whack for her.
£39 per person. And there is no getting away with it. Oh no.
There are plenty of measures in place to ensure that not one little person gets away with getting in free unless they are a meter or less. Not a millimetre more. And there’s a ‘shoes on’ rule.
This is all very well and good if your three year old is a thrill-seeking little dare devil like your six year old who wants to go on every bloody rollercoaster, log flume, swinging pirate ship and flying chair.
And why the hell shouldn’t he? He’s over the meter height restriction which means I’ve had to pay full whack for him to get in. He needs to get his money’s worth. We all do.
Only he’s under the required height to go a lot of the rides without an accompanying adult, and there’s no way little miss ‘I don’t want to’ is going on anything, so I had no alternative than to ‘borrow’ a number of husbands throughout the day to escort my child on various rides.
It was ever so slightly uncomfortable asking the permission of a number of woman if my child could join their family for the duration of the ride. Ted sat between some random family on the log flume made for a lovely family photo for them all in the souvenir photo shop.
I was tested to the limit. My shouting reached a whole new level of loud. The arguing, the bickering, the tiredness that consumed my children after a day spent breathing in the sea air was something else.
And the tiredness that consumed me with no one by my side to help out. To take over. To calm a situation down – it was nothing short of exhausting.
No one to cart the huge suitcase in and out of as car, to hold the shopping basket, to take Ted on rides, to carry their surf boards, scooters, swim wear, towels, buckets and spades AND THE KIDS themselves down the steep cliff path to the beach… just me.
Struggles and humiliating moments aside, like when Ted booted his football down the hotel stairs and whacked someone’s granny in the face with it, my first holiday alone with my children was probably the most incredible few days I have ever spent with them.
Ted, at the tender age of 6, took on the role of the man of the family. He sat up front with me on every journey and we chatted and laughed and discussed all sorts of things.
He helped me calm Ferne when she was having one of her catatonic breakdowns and pushed her round Peppa Pig World in a stroller.
They both cuddled up to me in our kingsize bed on an evening and we read together every night for a good hour. Sometimes more. Something that doesn’t happen anywhere near as much as it should. Because it’s daddy who reads to them normally.
It’s daddy who baths them at night whilst I cook tea. For a week I had to do the lot – bath them, put them to bed, and read them a story. Get them dress in a morning and entertain them all day long. Watch over them and protect them every minute of every day for five days all on my own.
I was also the one who ran in and out of the sea and jumped through the waves with them, built sandcastles with them, collected shells and searched for dinosaur bones. Activities that daddy does. Not really mummy.
The highs outweighed the lows. The laughing and the smiles outweighed the screams and tantrums. Our relationship grew and developed that week in Bournemouth and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
One thing’s for sure – I’ll self-catering next time.
Amen to all you single mummies.
I would like to dedicate this post to my single mummy friends – you are all incredible, strong, inspirational woman and mothers. You devote your life to your little ones with a lot less help than the likes of me. You put up shelves, paint rooms, go to work, pay bills, cook meals, do the school run and bath time and the food shop and everything else in-between. I love you all.