“Welcome to club”. Someone said that to me shortly after I had had Sydney – I can’t remember who it was, but I have never forgotten it. There’s a look other parents give you. It’s a knowing and sometimes sympathetic look but ultimately it is an acknowledgement of a shared connection. It is like a being in a secret society. It is look that you share with other mums; a glance that says a thousand things without you uttering a word.
Being a Mum; a parent, is definitely like being in the biggest, and yet the best, club in the world.
No matter what language you speak or what country you are from, as a parent you all go through the same things; face the same challenges and say the same things to your children.
This has never been more apparent to me as it was when we were in Rhodes. We have been away for the last few weeks hence a bit of a gap between my last post about Morgan’s 1st Birthday, and this one.
The hotel we picked and stayed at was geared up for children. It was called Atlantica Aegean Blue. There was a kids club (from ages 3 – 11) and crèche (from 6 months – 3) that ran every day (including evening sessions three times a week), a mini-disco every night for different age groups, including sensory and musical instrument time for the littlies. There was a children’s healthy eating initiative, which involved stickers (!) and child friendly excursions (we went on a pirate cruise) that was all organised through Thomson (the tour operator). There was a kid’s corner in the restaurant with plastic cups, plates and cutlery available to use, a seriously ridiculous amount of highchairs as well as sterilisers, bottle warmers and a microwave. Every single bathroom throughout the hotel had changing facilities in both the men’s and the women’s, and there was a parent room beside the pool which had cots, highchairs and a small kitchen that you could use whenever you wanted. It could not have been any more family friendly.
But…going away with the girls was not like holidays I am used to. Despite all of the family provisions, it was still quite intense and a bit stressful at times. It took the girls’ a few days to get used to the heat, sharing a room, less nap time etc. and meal times were honestly, at times, complete carnage.
With that amount of families – most with little ones in highchairs at their tables – as well as huge amounts of children of all ages who were tired and over excited, the atmosphere in the main restaurant was that of parents on the edge who were just trying to survive the experience. Get in, get everyone fed, and get out was everyone’s objective and you could feel that the moment you walked through the door.
There was some comfort in the fact that when you looked up from your plate or, more realistically from the floor where you had had to pick up the cup your child had thrown off the table for the umpteenth time, that you found others with whom you could share that same blank and broken look.
I had respect for the families that looked calm; where the mother had had a chance to do her makeup before leaving the room, and I got comfort when I looked at the families who had completely given up where the child was refusing to eat anything and was sitting with an iPad at the table, watching Peppa Pig. There were the smug families – the ones with only one child who was asleep like an angel by the side of the table – and then the worn down ones with the badge and the t-shirt with older children – who would give that knowing look of “you think it is tough now, you just wait…”
All meal times were tough.
The days eventually took the following shape: Get up, go to breakfast, go to the pool and then everyone back to the room for a nap before lunch. Followed by lunch, kids club for two hours, back to the pool, more naptime, dinner, disco and bed.
Then on a couple of nights that we were there the girls went to evening kids club so me and Jack could go for dinner and have a drink on our own. We sat on the terrace at the restaurant and it was lovely.
Sydney suffered from terrible prickly heat for the first week or so that really dented her confidence. She had spots all over her face, chest and legs. She looked like a teenage girl and she felt embarrassed by it. It looked incredibly itchy and sore but she coped with it brilliantly. We had a trip to the pharmacy in the town to get her cream and antihistamine medication and we had her hair braided to get her hair out of her face to try and keep her cool. I also changed the sun cream I was using on her, in case it was aggravating it. Despite it all, she enjoyed going to the kids club each day and doing activities and making friends. It was a comfort knowing she was being looked after and entertained, but also that she was out of the sun for a short while.
Weirdly, Sydney seemed to grow up whist we abroad. I am not sure whether it was because she looked so different with her hair braided, or whether it was because she made friends and went off so happily at the kids club, but she also grew physically. She grew out of her sandals whilst we were away so we had to buy her another pair from the hotel shop and clothes we went away with that fitted, don’t fit her now. We have come back and she doesn’t even have one pair of jeans or trousers that fit her. Sydney loved the pool and gained confidence with the water each day and it was so special seeing her having such fun and spending time with her.
Morgan approached the whole holiday like she does everything – with her “roughty-toughty” style. She didn’t batter an eyelid about travelling on a plane, going to a hot country or an hour coach ride to the hotel. She loved the pool but wanted to do her own thing and spent ages walking around the baby pool in a rubber ring making friends with other families, and she barely realised I had left the room when she went to the baby club. She learnt how to drink from a straw whilst we were away, as well as to say “no” by furiously shaking her head if we asked her if she wanted something that she didn’t. She was amazing and the holiday and how she was when we were away made me adore her even more, as did all of the staff at the hotel.
Whilst there were days that were tough, where I wished with were back in the normality of the UK, it was still amazing all being away together as a family; sitting together and all holding hands on the plane on take off, watching the girls both dancing to “Choco Latte“and laughing as Morgan ate her seventh sausage in a row, at one breakfast time.
Holidays, no matter where they are, or what they are doing, create memories and that is what is important about them.
I have a weird memory when it comes to my own childhood and there are loads of things that I don’t remember at all, but I do remember every family holiday; every detail, to the point where if I visited those same hotels now, I feel like I would know my way around them all over again.
I wonder if Sydney and Morgan will remember Rhodes and our first family holiday as a foursome?
I hope so, as I always will.