Travel Trauma

imageWe just got back from our first foreign holiday with the kids, having opted for cheaper, easier (and wetter) holidays in the UK for many years. After a total washout holiday last year, we took the plunge and went to Corfu. And we had a really brilliant time. From hours on the beach in the sunshine to dolphin spotting on a fantastic boat trip, it was pretty ace, all in.

But you don’t want to hear a dull holiday report of everything going beautifully, do you? Let me instead tell you about our travel trauma on the way home. It was one of those days when, even as I was going though the worst of it, I knew that one day I would look back on it and laugh. So hopefully it will amuse you too. Just don’t read it while eating. You have been warned.

Before we even set off, our M was looking peaky. She had been very subdued and tired the night before and was looking rather washed out and pale, as if she was coming down with something. She refused any breakfast and tried to sleep whenever we sat her down anywhere. She was also car sick for the first time ever earlier in the week so the prospect of getting through a whole day of travel without incident wasn’t looking great.

imageLike a good, organised parent, I made damn sure I was fully prepared for possible spew ups in the coach transfer back to the airport. I packed a plastic bag – having first checked for holes – a whole pack of wipes, a spare t-shirt for M, a bottle of water and lots of tissues. I then congratulated myself for being so clever and forward thinking.

We got on the coach, which was already pretty full. I wanted M to be near the front and my little limpet boy T wanted to be near me, natch. So I sat M next to the window in the first free seats, with me beside her and her T just across the aisle, next to a woman who looked less than pleased about having to endure a coach trip with a snotty toddler. Little did she know what she had coming. But more on that later. My husband and H had to sit half way down the coach in the next available seats.

Well, as expected, we were about half way through our coach journey and my poor little girl was looking awful. I was on standby with my pre-tested carrier bag. Chirpy T was being very good across the aisle, yelling about all the other buses he could spot, making the woman beside him wince at the volume.

imageM started to throw up and, despite me having an open bag on her lap, a good deal of it missed the target because she clamped her hand over her mouth and vomit squirted out between her fingers at crazy angles. It was all over her, on my hands and on her beloved Bear. Sick bag fail. After a very brief moment of panic, I rallied well and dug into my bag, nicely spreading the vom around inside it from the back of my hand. I retrieved the wipes and used about half a bag to clean us up pretty well.

The vom bag was a right off with spew dripping down the sides and, from the look on M’s face, more was clearly on the way. I frantically searched in vain for another bag in my rucksack but only found about 50 nappy sacks, which were clearly not up to the job. So I did a stage whisper down the coach to my husband, who dug out and lobbed down a beaten up old plastic bag with multiple holes in the bottom. It would have to do.

imageOriginal spew covered bag inserted into hole-filled bag, along with handfuls of used wipes, and we were ready for round two, which didn’t take long to arrive. Throughout the whole process, dear little M was remarkably calm and a total trooper. No crying or yelling. She just quietly threw her guts up, whilst I tried to deal with the fallout in as inconspicuous a way as possible. The smell may have given us away a tad but I thought, given the circumstances, things were just about under control.

It was at this point that T started moaning from across the aisle. And I don’t mean a bit of background, bored griping. I mean serious whining. I was still balancing the bag of doom on M’s lap when this moaning ramped up and suddenly, out of absolutely bloody nowhere, he projectile vomitted up his toast and jam. This from a kid who has never been travel sick in his life and, unlike M, had showed no signs of illness previously.

It was one of those moments when you are literally frozen in panic. I had spew on both sides and I had no idea what to do next. I wanted a hole in the bottom of the coach to swallow me up. My husband clocked that something was afoot but had no idea what until I turned to him and simply mouthed “Help!”

He was there in a flash and, thankfully, got the clean up started as I was still reeling and frozen in horror. It was one of his most epic moments, for which I will be eternally grateful. T was stripped, the remainder of the pack of wipes was used up and vom was picked out of hair. About 40 of our 50 nappy sacks were employed to bag up various items of clothing and regurgitated matter. And let’s not forget that T was sat next to some poor random woman who did her very best to stare out the window and ignore the whole drama, whilst surreptitiously dodging bits of flying spew.

We finally pulled into the airport and I could have wept with relief. I apologised profusely to the woman and bundled our nappy clad toddler and vom girl off the bus, followed by H who was loudly saying “So, has everyone been sick?!”

Multiple bags of vom dumped, full body changes and lots of washing of hands and hair in the grimy toilets and we were sorted. We had no wipes left but hey, we were at an airport, so there was bound to be a chemist here, right?

After standing in no less that six different queues, we were through security and went in search of a chemist. Hmmm. No chemist. But surely one of these random tat shops would sell some basic essentials like baby wipes, wouldn’t they? No, they wouldn’t. If we’d been after olive oil or Greek tourist crap though, we’d have been sorted.

So, we were stuck in the limbo world between passport control the aeroplanes, with a two-hour wait and a three-hour flight ahead of us, with three kids, one of whom still wears nappies and was definitely due a crap.

imageI stocked up on napkins from the snack bar and a large bottle of water as my makeshift wipes kit and prayed.

Our flight was eventually called and we were in our final queue to board, with T happily watching the planes out the window. He ran over to tell me all about them and the whiff hit me. He had done a massive shit. Excellent timing, son.

On to the plane we went and my first question to the smiling air steward was “Are there sick bags in the seat pockets and can I use the toilet right now? This one has done a big poo”.

I won’t go into details but I hope you never have the experience of having to change the nappy of a gangly toddler in a tiny aeroplane toilet with nothing but napkins, hand-towels and water at your disposal.

The rest of the journey was thankfully uneventful. As uneventful as flying with three kids can be anyway. Until we got to Gatwick and realised one of our bags had gone AWOL en route. Marvellous.

Given how straightforward our journey to Corfu was, and how horrendous the trip home was, I think we’ve seen the full gamut of what travel with kids can be during our first foray into foreign holidays. We saw the highs with the total joy on the faces of kids flying for the first time, and we definitely saw the lows.

If I can take any positives from the lows, I guess I at least have a good story to embarrass the little two with when they are older. Oh, and I now know that it is a good idea to take travel sickness tablets for kids with you on holiday, even if you don’t think you’ll need them.

And wipes. Definitely take more wipes.

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(In in case you were wondering, Bear has been washed on a delicate cycle, smells sweet again and is recovering well from his ordeal).

Favourites

imageMy kids adore both their parents. Of course they do. But, if I am being totally honest, and if push came to shove, I know they’d pick me. At least the younger two would. It has levelled out now with the eldest, who was a Mummy’s boy too but is now pretty even-handed with his affections.

Being the favourite can be wonderful. I’ve never had a kid who prefers Daddy over me and I’m pretty glad as I think I’d be more than a little offended if, having slaved away with the little brats all day, they only had eyes for their old man. It can be utterly bewitching when they are little and they cuddle you in a way that makes you feel like you are their entire world. Not a lot compares to that, to be honest.

But there are downsides. And they are plentiful. My middle one, M, took it to extremes when she was a toddler, to the extent that you would be forgiven for thinking she actually hated her Dad for the best part of her first two years. She used to cry when he came into the room and shy away from him when he talked to her. She would scream “No Daddy!” if he dared to attempt to pick her up or give her a hug. Not only was that pretty miserable for my husband but it was also grim for me as she wouldn’t let him do anything for her at all.

imageThose days are far behind us now that she is five but she still very obviously shows preferential treatment for me. She adores her Dad and laughs and plays with him but she is very demonstrative and those cuddles and “I love yous” are mostly directed at me. If prompted, she throws Daddy and bone, saying “Of course, I love Daddy too”, usually whilst sitting on my lap with her arms wrapped around my neck. The three year old is also all about Mummy and I literally cannot sit down without the two of them attaching themselves to me.

Being treated as the favourite by two out of three makes me feel a weird mixture of things. I feel sorry and guilty about my poor husband being second best. He adores his kids and works so hard for them that it seems horribly unfair. But, at the same time, I am also grateful that it isn’t the other way round, that I’m not the one being shunted into second place. I revel in being their number one. Part of me laps it up and I cling onto it, in case it suddenly disappears and I am left bereft.

But I also feel beaten down by it and jealous of my husband’s relative freedom. All that adoration, being the preference for everything – from cuddles in front of the tele to getting them the million things a day they want – is downright draining. They ask me all their endless questions. They will walk past their Father to ask me what he is doing rather than direct the question at him. I am their font of all things and I’m decidedly not up to the job of idol. My husband can sit on the sofa and read a paper. I am mobbed the moment I attempt to do the same.

Noone likes to think about the possibility that their kids love one parent more than another. And it may well be that mine don’t really, not deep down, that they just need their Mum more that this young age.

Favouritism in a family is a topic that society doesn’t like to dwell on. As parents, we know we are supposed to say that we do not have a favourite child but I know a few parents who clearly do, even if they don’t admit as much. I guess we’d all like to hope that the same rule applies to how kids see their parents, holding them in equal esteem.  Although, in reality, we know that not everyone cherishes both parents evenly as adults, so why should they do so as kids?

imageIf my little two follow their big brother, they will begin to be less obsessed with me and more fair in the way their share the love around when they get a bit older. Time will tell. The way they mob me tends to mean H gets left out a bit, which I also worry about. He is happy to be with either parent, which means he ends up with Daddy more often than not, as the other two cling onto me. The last thing I want is for him to feel left out, to think he is not as loved.

Whilst the kids may have a favourite parent, I decidedly do not have a favourite kid, which I am still little surprised by. I didn’t really believe it was possible to love them all equally until I experienced it. H was a little harder to love when he first arrived as he was a horrendous baby. I adored him despite it but, when pregnant with my second, I was worried I would love her more, because she was not such a pain in the arse. And also because she was a much wanted girl. Along she came and she was easier than her brother but I found, to my surprise, that I didn’t love her more. I adored them both equally, despite my fears.

And then again, when number three was on his way, I feared I might just be out of love, that there wasn’t enough left in the pot for another one. But it didn’t work out that way. The capacity to love is endless, it seems, and I adore all three of them, equally but in different ways. No favourites here.

That said, I do like to amuse myself with Daily Favourites, a little game I play in my head every evening. It depends on how well they each behave as to who gets the title. I don’t share the winner with them, I hasten to add. Daily Favourites is for my amusement only. It is just so satisfying to relieve the frustrations of the day by deciding who the winner is and, more importantly, who is the loser. There is something so taboo about having a favourite kid that it cheers me up, in a sort of rebellious way, to use the label of favourite so flippantly.

Today’s favourite was H. He was no trouble at all and did minimum moaning. T was the overall loser but it was a close run thing with his big sister.  Somehow, demoting the little terrors from the favourite spot, if only in my head, is deeply satisfying. And the fact that it is officially not allowed, makes it even more enjoyable.

If you have more than one kid, I suggest you try it. Having a temporary favourite is quite liberating: a cheeky side-stepping of the no favourites rule. Daily Favourites is a great game and wonderful stress relief. Kid been an arsehole all day? Call them the loser in your head and you immediately feel much better. Give it a go.

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