We were away last week. I refrain from using the usual terminology of ‘holiday’. This implies way too much relaxing, getting up late, impromptu glasses of wine and generally indulging yourself, and we have two children with us. There should be a more accurate way of describing our week at an English coastal town… how about a Samecation?
Because when you have kids, a holiday is pretty much exactly the same shit, just a travel cot, more ice cream bribes and a hastily selected bag of toys that are never the ones they want to actually play with.
“Where’s my helicopter, mummy?”
“We didn’t bring it.”
“Owwwwwwwww. I wanted to bring it. It’s my favourite.”
“The blue helicopter? The one that you haven’t played with for about two years and is probably covered in an inch of dust by now, abandoned at the back of your shelves?”
“Yes! That one!”
“No, we still didn’t bring it.”
When we arrive, B is still in the throes of a virus, presenting itself as a high temperature that will not budge. So we did what any parent would do in this situation: fill our holsters with Calpol and Ibuprofen and drown him in them. Consequently, he was not sleeping well. Ergo, neither did we. The lure of staying up late as we were on holiday soon seemed utter folly in the face of a one year old screaming the house down at 1am, 3am and 5am. So moderate wine was imbibed before scurrying off to bed at half past ten. Rock and bloody roll.
Mercifully, the virus didn’t seem to enjoy the brisk sea air, and two days in, packed its bags and left. But not before it had arranged a house sitter: constipation. B’s bowels were suddenly in lock down. Food went in the top, but nothing came out the bottom and he was so uncomfortable, he barely slept at night.
He woke about every 20 to 30 minutes, and fidgeted, cried and generally was reluctant to go back to sleep. Maybe he was having nightmares about a giant poo with sweetcorn for eyes about to gobble him up . M and I took it in turns to deal with him, with ever increasing desperation for some sleep. I would stroke his back, leaning into the travel cot, willing him to close his eyes. Eventually, he would lay quiet, and I would stroke some more, trying to ignore the pain in my chest where the edge of the travel cot that I was leaning on was slowly breaking my torso in half. My back ached, my arm was going numb and my jaw throbbed from all that teeth clenching. Finally, B’s breathing slowed and inch by inch, I withdrew my hand. He stirred, and I froze, arm mid-air. Nothing. I retreated some more, standing upright and getting a head rush from having spent the last twenty minutes inverted unnaturally into the cot. I tip toed backwards out the door and got as far as sitting on the edge of my bed before B started screaming again. The unwritten rules of night time child care state that it is still your shift if you have not laid down in bed, so I dragged myself back to B’s room and the whole sorry charade began again.
And that is the pattern for the next two nights as well. M and I are broken human beings. Someone could have set fire to my hair and I doubt I would have had the energy to put it out. I would be spending the last ounce of energy I did have contemplating that whilst it was not ideal that my head was a blazing inferno, just think of all that lying down in a hospital bed it would mean.
Incredibly, the sun was out in a cloudless sky the day we decided to go to the beach. Along with the bloody blue helicopter, I had not seen fit to pack sun hats. We were going to Kent, for chrissakes, not the Algarve. But as we stepped out of the house and into the sun, I looked at my blonde son and his little brother, with his downy, thin hair and decided that we must get hats. Now. In fact, it might even be dangerous to walk to the shop without some kind of head shelter. This, I believe, is what happens when you get approximately one hours sleep a night for two nights in a row. You go slightly mad. Any kind of perspective on anything dribbles out of your arse; leaving you running to the shop like a mad woman, elbowing old people out of the way and kicking cats from your path in order to get to the basket of sun hats at the back of the lovely, but ultimately over-priced, local children’s’ boutique.
I selected one for B, trying not to be too obvious about searching out the cheapest one. It’s all relative though, as it was an eye watering £14. E, by far more picky, tried on every sodding one in the basket before selecting a nasty beige one that still cost the earth. By now, I was contemplating just how bad sun stroke could be, as it might be worth the risk, but my middle class guilt about burning the flesh from my offspring’s boneswas too strong, and I bought the two hats for approximately the price of a pair of kid’s shoes.
Out of the shop we went, into the sun. Within thirty seconds E has pulled the hat from his head, saying it was uncomfortable. B, who had been staring intently at the brim of the weird thing that had appeared on his head, yanked his hat off and refused to have to reinstated. With a sigh of resignation and overwhelming fatigue, I stuffed both the hats under the pram. A few minutes after this, the sun disappeared behind a great big cloud. Bloody sun hats. Sodding sun.
That afternoon, I was doing yet another circuit of the harbour with B in the pram, trying to get him to sleep. It is seemingly quite hard to drop off for a snooze when you have three days worth of poo threatening to poke out of your throat due to its ever increasing size, but he dozed off eventually. I trudged on, in a daze, trying not to feel miserable. Because when you are sleep deprived all you really want to do is push a pram around for hours. It’s not like it adds to the sense of overwhelming futility, or anything. The pram wheel snagged on a stone. I pushed a bit harder. It was still jammed, so I pushed on, hoping the stone would dislodge, but no. So I pulled the pram toward me, before pushing again. That didn’t work, so I stopped and inspected the wheel. Around the back wheel was wrapped B’s new sun hat. I tutted and went to pull it off. It was only then that I realised that it was not just loosely wrapped around the wheel: it was wound round so tight that not one inch of it would budge. Pull as I might, I could not get the bloody thing off. So there I was, in the middle of the harbour, at the mercy of the cars driving past, stranded. I looked around for help: there was just an ice cream van. Could I freeze it off? Prise if off with a stick of flake? I suppose I could decorate it with some hundreds and thousands to pass the time. I spent the next quarter of an hour trying to free it, but it was jammed solid. Maybe I could find a fisherman with a knife? But then I thought about how much I have just paid for the bloody hat, and I can’t bring myself to do it. I put a call into M, who will be at least twenty minutes. I half-lift, half drag the pram onto the pedestrian area, as although I am not having a great time, getting squashed by a car would be significantly less of a laugh, and I sit down on the ground and try not to cry. B takes this as his cue to wake up and scream on my behalf, which he does with great gusto. I rock the pram and shush him, but there is no calming him down, so eventually, just leave him to cry. I am all out of ideas on the crying baby front. A woman walks past just as I have got back onto my haunches to have another go at freeing the hat, and makes a point of stepping round me, muttering something under her breath. I look up and manage to seriously clobber my temple on the pram frame. Well, this day just keeps getting better. I wonder when the killer whale is going to leap out of the sea and savage my limbs?
Then, just as the sun comes out because I am not hot and sweaty enough yet, a good twenty minutes since this whole debacle started, I get purchase on a tiny bit of the hat brim, and with copious and persistent wiggling, I manage to unwind it from the wheel. Hallelujah! The hat is missing one strap, but other than that, is intact. With a triumphant flourish and a quick dust down I put it on B’s head. He looks up at the brim, grabs it, and tosses it out the pram with contempt.
I may revise my renaming of our holiday. Samecation? Nah. Shitcation is far more accurate.