I am not the brightest of the three bears sometimes, but I think this is a new low for me.
Becoming a dad is a life-changing moment. The clue I seemed to have missed is life-changing. Not life-changing, except for holidays.
After our first family holiday I had a ‘what the hell did you expect’ moment. And so just in case anyone else missed the ‘kids change everything including holidays’ memo, here are some lessons.
Lesson 1: Age Matters
Two kids, aged two years and 10 months, are not at the ideal ages for a holiday. Life at this stage is a repetitious pattern of juggling two distinct feed-play-sleep cycles. Repeat it three to four times a day and break it up with a bath and that is your day.
Taking a holiday at this stage simply takes this mind-numbing and exhausting cycle to a new destination.
There is only a small window of opportunity – about one hour – when both kids are not sleeping or feeding or crying because they needed to sleep or be fed. This doesn’t lend itself to a day of sightseeing.
Worse, you make the process harder as all the tools, toys and facilities that make the cycle of sleep, eat and play easy are left at home so you are just trying to make do. Trying is the key word there.
So at this age, I wouldn’t bother with a big expensive holiday. The only caveat is if a nanny (AKA the Granny/Nanna/Grandma/Nona or whatever) is invited along to be the trusted babysitter.
But, as I found out, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a restful holiday.
Lesson 2: Mum’s Headspace Matters
Yes, you can have the babysitter along for the ride, a fantastic holiday location, but if Mum can’t tear herself away from the bundles of joy for more than half a day, again maybe wait until the kids are older and Mum is ready to do things for herself.
Lesson 3: Rooms Can Become a Gaol
So if the child needs to sleep, then you can’t simply leave them and walk away. So the room can quickly become a gaol, where one parent is locked in watching a sleeping child while the other takes the non-sleeping child out for playtime.
Lesson 4: First-World problems are far better than Third-World ones for parents
Full declaration here is that we went to Bali. So I took a two-year-old and a 10-month-old to eat in Third World restaurants where Bali Belly is a real threat.
Add the Dengue Fever mosquitoes, rabid dogs and insanely tedious traffic and it’s not the most stress-less travel for protective parents.
The real conundrum is that families need holidays. The benefits, as I can certainly testify, are real and important. Mums get a rest and out of their Groundhog-Day life with loads more support from a present dad and maybe granny.
Dads get to spend real, extended quality time with the kids. And maybe, just maybe, Mum and Dad can have some quality time to remind themselves they are actually in a relationship with that strange person who seems to be in their house a lot. In fact, they are quite fond of them.
This did all happen for us, but it was not easy and certainly didn’t feel like a holiday but a strange week where we were together a lot, just in a different living room. Is that the way it is from now on? I hope not.
I hope in three years the family holiday will become a thing of greater joy, more quality time with the kids, where we create cherished family moments and less tedium.
But just in case can someone send me the memo?