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.

 

Magic and Cynicism

‘Where is my Bean?’ I call into our living room, as I see the swaying movement of the curtains behind our sofa stop. The scurrying noises I heard just a second ago stop as well and I hear a stifled giggle as I make my way to the area where he is hiding and call out his name again. I peak behind the sofa and see my 13 month old on all fours ready to dart away should I come too close, with his head bopping up and down as he is trying to contain his loud laughter. I burst out laughing in child-like delight and pick him up in one swoop. ‘I’ve got you!’ I declare loudly as his laughter resonates through our house. He wriggles in my arm trying to free himself so that we can start the game again and as I place him on the ground, I realise how wonderfully adventurous it must be to him.

He is able to communicate, not with words, but with sounds and actions. He is walking and crawling with the purpose of exploration. He has his own sense of humour, allowing him to laugh out loud in arbitrary moments, sometimes making me wonder what it is he is laughing about. He stares at cars as they drive by, making a ‘brrrrrmmmmmmm’ noise and he waves at lights as they go on and off. When he sees an empty bowl, he lifts his hands as if to say, ‘where have the contents gone?’ and he squeals with delight, waving his arms excitedly, every time he eats somethings he likes.

Everything he does, he does with a vibrant energy, a sense of adventure, of learning something new; and I often wonder staring at the openly curious look in his eyes when he sees, feels or smells something new: at what point when we grow up do we lose this sense of magic and replace it with the cynicism and bitterness so prevalent in adults? When do we stop being delighted by the simple things in life in an attempt to be more, have more? When is it that we become so entrenched in the drama and politics of everyday adult life? When does our ego become so important that we forget to appreciate the beautiful –  the vibrant colours of a sunset, the soothing sound of a breeze blowing through trees, the gurgling sounds of a river, a child’s laughter?

We are going to the Vaal river for a weekend getaway soon and as I was telling one of my friends about the trip, I jokingly mentioned that before I had Bean, I used to travel the world (for work) and now I get excited about a weekend to the Vaal. To be honest, sometimes, when Bean is being difficult and the day to day routine of being a mom gets a bit much, this little sentence makes me a bit depressed – I really miss getting on a plane wondering what adventures the next couple of weeks will have in store. But then I remember the drama and the politics this life brought with it: my own ego often getting in the way of happiness, being so easily swept up in unnecessary drama. So, despite no longer travelling the world, I really am excited about our little trip! It is a place I have never been to and although it is close to Johannesburg and by no stretch of the imagination an exotic break away, it is something new: a new experience and a new adventure which I can share with my little family.

It is the simple things that really matter: to be surrounded by the people you love, to enjoy a good glass of wine and a delicious meal, to partake in a lively conversation with strangers, learning something new. We need to see the world through the eyes of our children to know that every day is magical, every day is an adventure.

When you see your children changing into cynical, bitter and ego-driven adults, remind them of their inner child-like wonder, joy and magic. Remind yourself and your children how easily they got back up after they had fallen, how quickly they forgave you when you were having a bad day, how pure and unconditional their love was.

Children are simply and wonderfully magical, and we as adults have the inherent ability to be like this too – we were once simple and magical, after all.