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.
Kids’ birthday parties, a good idea for a blog post, I thought. I can rattle off a rant about junior school shindigs in the time it takes Lola to eat her way through a packet of party bag Haribos. To wit, remarkably quickly.
But hold that thought, I thought. How about waiting, returning to the idea in the first or second week of September shortly after Lola’s fifth birthday party, unleashing the diatribe when the wounds are raw, the credit card bill unpaid, the post-traumatic stress still being worked through.
Yet here I am writing about birthday parties in mid-June. Which begs the question why? Neither of my kids was born in June. There should be few topics further from my mind.
Having children changes you in ways you can’t anticipate. For instance, when you spend all your time with kids, you find yourself possessed of an entirely new catalogue of cultural references. Familiarity with cartoon characters (or worse, glove puppets) who exist entirely on CBeebies. An intimate knowledge of all of the films nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. The ability to recite from heart every single Justin Bieber song.
What’s more, the cultural references that you once held dear – being able to name an indie band that’s put out a single this decade or recognise an actor under the age of thirty-five – suddenly fade away.
As you desperately search for ways to entertain and enlighten your offspring, you inevitably return to the formative years of your own upbringing, freezing your frame of reference at a point in time which passed roughly three decades ago. Which explains why I’m writing this while listening to Phil Collins hollering his way through Against All Odds.