What memories are made of?

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In September 2010 JJ turned one and the hubster and I got married. The year before we had visited the Isle of Wight with my family (I was about 6 months pregnant at the time) but we hadn’t been anywhere abroad since October 2008 so we took him to Menorca with us for our “honeymoon”. When JJ was about 20 months old I went to a holiday village in the New Forest with him & my mum for a week in June (it rained. Heavily). The hubster wasn’t involved in that one as he claimed it wasn’t worth trying to go on holiday with a toddler as it would be too much hard work. It was a lot of hard work but it was still a holiday. Last year I went away with my family to Devon (see this post) when JJ was nearly three and EJ was five weeks old). Hubster didn’t make that one either as he was involved in stuff to do with the Olympics (professionally – not as an Olympian!).

This year I took the boys to the Isle of Wight with my mum and dad (hubster didn’t get time off work but came down for the tail end of the week). Now we are finally booked in for our first proper “family” holiday – a week in a lovely toddler-friendly cottage in Bude, North Cornwall in October. In considering this it has occurred to me that maybe this is a bit of a frivolous way to spend our money (which is being squeezed every day by austerity measures within the – public serving – organisation for which we both work [me part-time]). Then I realised that, for me, some of my most vivid, happy memories are of holidays. I guess that stands to reason. I tried to think of other great memories from my life. The things that immediately spring to mind are either parties or holidays. Some of my time at College and University.

Holiday highlights of my life (other than those fab childhood memories I have covered in this post and this one) have been an amazing trip to South Africa when I was 20 to stay initially in Cape Town with my Aunt & Uncle & cousins (who were living out there) and then travelling with them across the country, driving the ‘Garden Route’ and going on Safari for three days.

I re-visited Cape Town twice since that time – once on the honeymoon after my first marriage (more on that another day!), and once when one of my best friends won a trip for herself and 5 friends to be flown out by BA and stay there in a four star hotel for a week – incredible luxury!!
The other holiday I consider to be one of a “lifetime” was my trip to Australia for five weeks in 2005. I was between partners and before kids, between jobs but had some spare cash so I opted for a backpacker style trip up the East Coast with Trek Australia from Sydney to Cairns. This included a sailing boat tour round the stunning Whitsunday Islands, a boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling, white water rafting on the Tully river, a bumpy landrover drive round sandy Fraser Island and a tandem parachute jump from 14000 feet over Mission Beach (if you’re going to do it anywhere, do it there!). I made some lovely friends on the trip and Jack Johnson formed the soundtrack to the adventure (how very ‘mid-noughties’!).

skydiving mission beach

I know holidays won’t be like that any more now I have kids. But a whole new chapter of holidays has opened up and I am extremely keen to have holidays which we can all enjoy.

So is it worth the money? As part of the rich fabric of our lives it can only be a resounding yes!

Things *will* get easier…

Well, we’ve just returned from our family summer holiday with the boys, my parents, husband & step daughter and its been a lovely week in the Isle of Wight. The experience of being away all together has got me thinking about all the phases of parenthood and children’s ages. EJ is one, JJ is on the cusp of four and their elder sister is nine. Whilst we were away there were two occasions when we were able to leave EJ with my mum and dad and go out with the other two for fun days out. It was a bit of a revelation because, of course, as soon as EJ was born JJ’s destiny was altered just as he was starting to get to an age where we would have been able to begin enjoying him and taking him to do more interesting things (for all of us!).

Isle of Wight Steam Railway

It reminded me of the early days with JJ when he was colicky and I was depressed and I desperately wanted someone to tell me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that things would get easier. Some people did say that but I was never sure quite how that would work or how I would ever be able to enjoy my life again or find peace and normality and routine that I would feel in control of. At the same time other people with older children were very quick to play the whole “it never gets easier, it just changes” card which just seems like such a miserable thing to tell someone in that situation. Because the truth is it does get easier, and I can see that now, firstly because I remember thinking I was so much happier when JJ was about two – despite the tantrums and all the little fussiness of a child that age, it was just tribulations – I was back in control. Secondly because this week we were able to enjoy JJ at aged four and take him on steam trains, fairground rides, beaches and theme parks without everything being dragged backwards by the presence of a frustrated one year old, restrained all day in a buggy and unable to express his wishes and needs clearly.

With a baby at age one you are still very much in a phase of life which involves thorough planning of every day – meals, when the cooking and cleaning can be fitted in (if at all!), what you will do to entertain them, when they will take their nap, etc, etc. As time goes by I think that obsessive planning is a bit less important as your child develops and needs less constant input from you.

Obviously I have yet to experience the teenage years and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would jump to tell me that everything will go to hell in a handcart at that point but I’m of the opinion that, by that stage, other than the obvious similarities (they will all have the pressures of schoolwork and finding their place in the world) things are going to vary from one family to another depending on circumstances: perhaps your child is bullied, or perhaps your child is a bully?; perhaps you have a very sociable child or a child on the autistic spectrum?; perhaps your child has been affected by the breakup of their parents?; perhaps you have a particularly intelligent child or a child who struggles with dyslexia? Any number of external pressures or influences could affect your lives together during those years. But to say that things haven’t got easier to the parent of a baby or toddler is unfair. So many possiblities open up with older children and I can only be optimistic about the future when I have a glimpse of the good times and at the same time a very real reminder of the realities of all the restrictions you must face with a baby over the course of at least the first 18 months.

Do you agree or have you had a different experience and think I’m over-simplifying?

Holidaying with a five week old!

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Sharing this one with What’s The Story? Linky at Podcast Dove and newly discovered Magic Moments at The Oliver’s Madhouse.

I love this picture because it is probably the first picture of me with both my boys together in a little (minus daddy) family portrait. It was taken near the beach at Salcombe in Devon where we went on holiday for a week at the end of August 2012 when EJ was just five weeks old. We went with my mum and dad, sister and brother-in-law and 12- and 13-year old nieces and it was so lovely to be surrounded by family who were all happy to entertain JJ and muck in with the baby. It was also nice just to be out and about after five weeks of watching everyone else abuzz with Olympics fever – I never even managed to watch one of Mo Farrah’s races but EJ will always be remembered as being an “Olympics Baby”.

In a week’s time we will be going away again, minus my sister’s family as, sadly for us (but great for them!), they are off on the other side of the world in Australia visiting their antipodean relatives. This year we’re off to Ventnor in the Isle of Wight with Mum & Dad and looking forward to some fun days with the boys.