The Magic of Holidays with a Toddler

Gone are the days when going on holiday meant late, warm and sultry evenings dancing the night away, nights philosophising about the meaning of life over too many bottles of wine with a loved one or friend, your words becoming a whisper as you hear the birds announcing the arrival of morning, and late morning lie-ins with brunches which become lunches, which become dinners. Those were the days when holidays were one spontaneous activity after another, with no set routines or place to be.

Now we have a toddler and the meaning of ‘going on holiday’ has changed: it means planned holiday outings revolving around napping and feeding schedules. It means finding child-friendly venues instead of cocktail bars and spending afternoons in the pool teaching your child how to swim, the sound of shrieking and laughter filling the air, instead of relaxing on a li-lo, cocktail in hand, dozing off to the sweet sound of splashing water.  It means spending the day indoors cooking or baking, wanting to spoil your loved ones with a special meal, instead of booking a table at the trendy new restaurant down the road.

Being on holiday with a toddler means being awake before dawn, softly reading a book in the hope of letting the rest of the family lie in, the house filled with a peaceful silence, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the air and golden rays of light peeking through drawn curtains. It’s realising that this is the best part of the day (and of being a parent) – the allure of a new beginning, of a new adventure and of another chance knocking on the door to your soul.

One morning during our recent holiday, Bean decided to wake up at 04:30 am. It was still dark outside, and after trying to ignore his insistent calls, ‘Mama, MAMA, MAAAAAMAAAAAA’, I decided to fetch him from his cot in the hope that he might doze off again in bed next to me. As I lay down, Bean comfortable in my arms, he popped his thumb into his mouth and I, elated, thinking this plan might actually work, closed my eyes as I let out a sigh of relief, ready to go back to sleep. As I was taking in the sound of silence engulfing us, feeling blessed to have this little body lie next to mine, I felt his soft hand caressing my cheek, then moving onto my eyes and finally landing on my nose, where it hovered for a while until I felt a gentle squeeze, Bean gleefully shouting ‘meep, meep’. Needless to say, playtime had officially started.

Our holidays are now filled with important moments like these and I wish there was a way we could photograph these special never-to-be-repeated scenes in an attempt to keep them in our memory banks forever, instead of the monument or the view which will probably still be there in 10 years to come: the moment when your child shouts out ‘woweee’ every time he sees a flag or when he runs to his sleeping gran’s bedroom door at 4am excitedly shouting ‘Oma, Oma, Oma’, as he knocks on the door and the groggy but happy face beaming down at him as the door opens.

These are the moments which are truly unforgettable and magical and simply wonderful.

 

To Have a Child – or Not

My husband and I are both the eldest children in our respective families, our little Bean being the first grandchild. This means that we often end up in discussions with our younger siblings about whether they should start a family or not and if yes, when they should do this. I am so in love my little Bean that I am of course of the opinion that we should all have at least 4 children but my husband and sister tend to disagree. I have therefore decided to set up a pros and cons list so that we can settle this argument once and for all.

Children are hard work

Now, this is very true. Taking care of yourself and your family can be tiring and at the end of the day you fall down into the couch with a glass of red wine in your hand, and you think, ‘what a day’. It is hard work doing everything for a little person who cannot do anything himself. But it is so rewarding seeing him try (and succeed) to do these things independently, knowing that all your hard work is helping a person grow. It is so rewarding when your little Bean takes his first steps or when he stops playing to walk over to you, thumb in mouth, for a cuddle – just because he needs to refuel some ‘mom’.

Someone’s career will have to take a back seat

This is something I never really thought about too much before I had Bean. Of course I realised that I would have to be home in time for bath time and bed time but I was under the impression that I would simply carry on working, building on my career, as normal. I was, of course, wrong. Being home in time for bath time and bed time meant that I could not work the extra hours I used to. Having a sick baby at home meant that I would have to stay home with him and take a day’s leave. Dropping a baby off at crèche meant that I would sometimes go into the office late and having a husband who is a workaholic meant that there was a chance that there would be no one to take care of Bean if I had to travel for work. A baby takes up time and someone’s (whether it’s mom’s or dad’s) career simply has to take a step back. In our case, I decided to give up a traditional corporate career and become a work from home mom, freelancing, instead. This does not mean that I gave up my career – I simply adjusted it to start something new. Something which suits my lifestyle better.

Your marriage will suffer

Children add a lot of pressure to a relationship. The lack of sleep, the added financial pressures and the changed social life can be difficult to navigate and being tired and stressed generally brings out the worst in people. Being tired and stressed after a long day with a screaming, difficult child, can in fact easily tear a relationship apart. There are however days filled with moments when your child masters a new skill or does something cute and you and your spouse look at each other with such love and pride and you realise how deeply connected you are as a family.

The truth is that your relationship will change. It will strengthen and deepen and mould into something far greater than it was before. A child makes you a family, it creates a bond between husband and wife which, if cared for, is very difficult to break.

Having children will change your life and this means that you will need to adapt, you will need to adjust to this new role of mother and father and family of three or more. It does not however mean that you have to give up your life, it does not mean that you have to lose your sense of self, or your spark as a couple. I am still me, a more responsible mom version of me, yes, but I am still here. My husband and I are still here and although we have our ups and downs like everyone else, we are happy.

I cannot imagine how different our lives would be if we had decided not to have a child, how empty the world would seem without this new life. Bean is not just my son, he is my little companion.

Have a child, or two or three, it is the most beautiful and inexplicably wondrous thing.

Trapped

‘I feel trapped’, my husband said as we were washing up little Bean’s bottles. As any mom and wife will know, these are not words one wants to hear.  He, luckily, did not mean that he felt trapped in our marriage, but rather that he felt trapped in our routine-driven lives. Instead of spontaneously going for a night on the town or a movie, we had to carefully plan every activity we wanted to participate in. Could we take Bean with? If not, who would watch him? If yes, what did we need to pack to be able to go? Our lives had become one continuous routine of washing and sterilising bottles, nap time, play time and cooking food for our little guy, with the odd well-planned and well-packed excursion in between.

This made me think: why did I not feel this way? I experience feelings of anxiousness and stress – yes, often; but never trapped. I fully understood where he was coming from of course: our previously busy, adventure-laden and spontaneous lives had become boring and we had become that settled, married couple we had been so scared of becoming. Yet, I was quite happy with our new ‘dreary’ life.

Upon closer inspection our lives are filled with little bits of wonder, excitement and adventure every day. Bean is growing at such a fast pace and developing so quickly, that every day brings with it something new. On the night in question for example, I was busy feeding Bean his bed time bottle when he had a dirty nappy. Being my compulsive self, petrified of a nappy rash, I immediately placed Bean on his change mat and removed the dirty nappy. Excited by the freedom I had now bestowed upon my son, he decided to unleash the fury and so, in the midst of it all, he pooped in my hand. Hearing my panicked cries from the bedroom, my husband ran up the stairs, saw what was going on and promptly burst out laughing. This was a definite first and a funny, ‘adventurous’, one at that.

On the same day, Bean started throwing his arms around my neck, squeezing tightly, smiling his widest smile, all the while cooing excitedly, every time I picked him up. This filled me with so much gratitude and so much wonder, that it felt as if my heart was going to explode: it could not possibly contain the amount of love I felt at that moment.

A week later Bean started rolling – something I had been trying to teach him for (which felt like) forever. This was another exciting moment which caused me to jump up and down in our lounge, doing my little happy dance, feeling incredibly proud. And all this while Bean smiled at me impassively as if to say, ‘what is the big deal, lady?’

Now, coming back to the question of why I did not feel trapped by our routine– how could I with a living miracle in my heart, in my life, in my home?

It is easy to feel trapped while looking at an empty freezer knowing that you will have to spend the next 48 hours cooking for your child, or when you look at the dirty bottles piling up and you have just received a message from one of your ‘non-parent’ friends asking if you feel like going for a quick drink. I have felt this feeling creep up, threatening to spread a little bit of darkness over my heart – but in these moments all I need to do is look at my beautiful son, his eyes filled with wonder and excitement every time he sees or hears something new (even if it’s just water running out of the tap) and I know, with a knowledge deeply instilled in my soul, that he is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I would choose my dreary, routine driven and settled family life over and over and over again (and I know that my husband would do the same).

Picture Credit: http://www.canva.com