I appreciate that it’s a colossal cliché to say that holidaying with small children is as relaxing as a military coup (Turkey, anyone?) Every parent knows this. In fact, everybody who’s sat near a young child on a plane knows this. It’s no state secret.
But I’ve just spent a week in the Algarve with two kids under the age of five so allow me a post about holidaying with infants. I’ve got to get something positive out of the experience*.
Someone recently said to me that as a parent your holiday lasts as long as it takes you to walk from the back passenger door after strapped your kids into their car-seats to the drivers’ door. We didn’t take the car this time, so based on this theory I didn’t even get a holiday.
In more innocent days my understanding of holidays was that they allow you relax and forget about your concerns. When the safety of your children is high on the list of things that worry you, taking them to a strange country is unlikely to ease your mind. Particularly when that country is Portugal and, like my wife, you are haunted by memories of Madeline McCann
Thus arriving to our apartment late on the first night Mrs Burge took it upon herself to construct a rudimentary intruder alert system which involved her barricading the patio doors with the ironing board and clothes horse. One can only imagine her relief next morning upon discovering the electronic shutters that lowered at the press of a button.
Those shutters should have been game-changers. Once they were down, the apartment was pitch black. This should have ensured that both children slept in each morning until we woke them. But why would they do that when they could wake at 6am as if everybody had somewhere pressing to be?
The staff at the breakfast buffet got used to us showing up the moment they opened the doors. How I envied the childless couples who leisurely ambled in after nine o’clock, clearly having only just got out of bed.
Talking of the breakfast buffet, this should be the one sure bet of any holiday. No matter how fussy your kids are any halfway decent buffet should contain something they want to eat. So it was for my two. Can there be anything more nourishing than a meal consisting entirely of pains au chocolat, particularly when this is repeated for seven consecutive mornings?
If I cast my mind back to previous holidays, I recall that it’s quite possible to achieve some respite when you go away with one child. Both parents can share the load. When we only had Lola, I was able to carve out some down-time, even finding time to read – and not just the BBC News app on my phone but actual books.
Now we have two children, no chance. I was unprepared for this epiphany, so much so that I rashly packed a 900-page novel for Portugal. In hindsight I need to ask myself what I was thinking. We were only going for seven days. With a one-year-old in tow. I barely managed to open the thing. I read more on the flight home than I had the rest of the week.
And we only have two children. If you had more I genuinely cannot conceive why you’d consider leaving your own postcode, let alone bother to get the passports out for an airing.
It got to the point where I began to find respite through individual activities that I could do while keeping an eye on the kids. This is how I came to be filing my nails. I once asked whether looking after a baby is emasculating – you can draw your own conclusions.
As I let down the inflatables on the last day of the holiday, it occurred to me that it could’ve been worse. Turkey, anyone? And there was sparkling wine at the breakfast buffet and the local beer was cheap so despite the kids we broadly hit one of our holiday objectives, namely spending the week in an alcoholic haze.
My wife summed it up as we were travelling back from Gatwick late at night with both children in the throes of delirium brought on by acute sleep deprivation. I, buoyed by being close to home again, attempted to instigate a conversation about where we should go for our next holiday.
Mrs Burge was having none of it though, instead reminding me in typically blunt fashion that she needed to recover from this one first.
* A footnote is needed. That is a harsh statement; it was a good holiday, and more so for Lola and Mina’s presence. It’s just that I’ve had other holidays (pre-children) that come closer to the definition of a holiday. What’s more, I didn’t come back from those holidays with two and a half inches of fresh stitches in my scalp having almost brained myself on a rusty pedestrian crossing sign. Yet no matter how I try to spin that particular anecdote it was neither Lola nor Mina’s fault so it would be unfair to pin it on them.
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