We’ve just got back from a lovely family holiday by the seaside, although it was slightly fraught by the end!
We went to Deal in Kent where my mum’s partner’s family have been going every summer for years. It was a lovely chance to see lots of extended family members and for the kids and cousins to hang out too.
We were all scattered about in different AirBnB houses near each other so constantly popping in and out of each other’s houses, and there was plenty to do.
The kids swam in the sea almost every day, and we went to the park, shopped in charity shops, spent an afternoon in the penny arcade trying to win crap prizes, spent a morning in the leisure pool going down flumes, had brunch on the pier and gin and tonics at the pub, and ate fish and chips on the beach.
Overall the kids were great and everyone had a nice time. However there were a few minor bumps. S was very anxious and dysregulated – it was her first time going away on holiday with us so she was very nervous about it (and she’s been having some major sleep issues lately which I’ll do a separate post about).
So her general anxiety about the holiday meant that she was delightful to everyone else and fairly shitty to me – she mostly ignored me and then whenever she did speak to me it was generally pretty rude responses or snapping and yelling at me. I know that it’s because she was anxious and freaked out and I’m her safe person that she can let it all out onto, but nevertheless it was hard work. I tried to ignore it but we had a couple of minor fights where I called her on her behaviour and told her to check her attitude. Things did improve slightly after that and I got an “I’m sorry” and “I love you” text later on.
Sometimes it’s hard to balance the therapuetic parenting advice of not rising to it and not attending every fight you are invited to, but also putting boundaries about behaviour in place and managing expectations. On the one hand I know she’s scared and dysregulated and taking it out on me, so I want to let it slide, but on the other hand she’s 11 and a pre-teen and a bit stroppy and needs to know it’s not ok to treat me like crap for the whole holiday. So it was a little bumpy in places!
The girls also had a little bump. S was sharing a room with her cousin who is a similar age and they were very excited about that. However after a couple of nights, cousin U decided she didn’t want to share with S anymore and went off to sleep in her mum’s room (S thought she had gone to brush her teeth and didn’t know why she hadn’t come back).
In fairness, S has been having some problems sleeping lately and U was really tired and just wanted to go straight to bed and not stay up late talking. S tends to struggle to fall asleep so she is often up late and thus likes to sleep in late in the mornings, while U tends to go to sleep earlier and she is up much earlier in the mornings so they are not well suited to share a room anyway in terms of their sleep patterns!
U is only 10 and didn’t think anything of changing rooms on a whim, but of course she doesn’t really understand or know about trauma so poor S was utterly devastated by the perceived rejection. She was in floods of tears and completely gutted that U didn’t like her anymore and that she had done something wrong to drive her away etc. She ended up sleeping (well attempting to) in a nest in my room on the floor after lots of reassurance and a lot of tears. Poor kid was totally crushed.
Of course in the morning U bounced in and wanted to go back to sharing with S again, but I was very hesitant to go through all that again 2 days later. Knowing that U might change her mind again on a whim, or because she’s tired again, and she’s only 10 and doesn’t understand the impact of those decisions on S, I just couldn’t bear to let her be crushed all over again twice in one holiday. So I felt like the bad guy but decided not to let them go back in a room together for the rest of the holiday, as I needed to protect S from another rejection.
The girls were of course annoyed with me but it felt like a sensible decision, and I think S slept better in my room anyway as she felt a bit safer in with us once she adjusted to it. I think next time we’ll need to establish some clearer ground rules from the start that they either share a room for the whole week or they don’t, and teach them to set boundaries with each other about cut off times for sleeping and waking up to help them communicate their needs better to each other. And in any case by the end of the week everyone was tired and crotchety and they were starting to wind each other up a bit anyway so it wasn’t such a bad idea giving them some space.
Anyhow, apart from the odd drama we had a lovely time, and best of all my brother is over from Australia for a visit! I haven’t seen him for about 4 years and I have had 2 kids since we last saw each other so it’s been quite emotional getting to see him again! He had lots of lovely time hanging out with my kids and getting to know them, and we got to have a couple of nights out at the pub or staying in playing cards which has been lovely! We also got to meet his new girlfriend who is lovely.
However, it wouldn’t be quite right without a comedy disaster story so here it is!
On the last night S was very upset about everyone leaving and going home, (I think all the kids were to be fair) so there was a lot of grumping and grouching and tears and so on. On the morning we were leaving, A, who had been on SUCH good form all week, and genuinely been the best-behaved 4-year old you’ve ever seen, decided to have the world’s most epic meltdown screaming tantrum because one of her cousins wanted to take a shell home and they both claimed they owned it. Obviously. She properly screamed blue murder for a good 20 mins while my sister was trying to load up the car and she just could not be silenced.
After they left she finally calmed down and we finished packing up and emptying the BnB etc. As it was nearly 10am and we had a 3-hour drive ahead of us I suggested we walk to the bakery to get everyone a snack before we set off to hold us over until lunchtime. The girls got an iced bun each in a fancy bakery box and I had a chicken slice/pasty type thing. I decided to eat mine on the way back to the car as wouldn’t be able to manage while driving, and took about 2 bites out of it when something massive and terrifying crashed into my head at speed from behind.
Bastard seagull stole my pasty and basically bitch-slapped me in the face while he was at it. It literally flew full speed into my head! I was so shocked I screamed and my face was so sore I was convinced it must have drawn blood with it’s claws (it hadn’t but damn it hurt getting headbutted by a very large bird!).
So, rather shaken we set off from Deal for the drive home. The girls sensibly waited until they were in the car to eat their buns, and the traffic was generally terrible (train strike that day). Just as we entered the interminable queue for the Dartford Tunnel (crawling along at walking pace for at least 30 or 40 mins) A decided to vomit all over her ipad. S found it so disgusting that she started retching in solidarity and then just cried at how awful it was. A was genuinely so shocked that it had happened she just stared at her puke-covered tablet in amazement. And then cried, mostly because S was crying so she assumed that she ought to.
We popped into the nearest services to strip her down and clean her up, found a bowl to keep for future issues which she promptly puked into shortly after we left. Another stop, another services, and then we were off again. Except by this point it was way past lunchtime and they were hungry so we had to stop again to eat a sandwich (very slowly and carefully in case of upset tummies!).
After that we tried to get back on the road but something had clearly happened somewhere and we sat in the car park in a traffic jam unable to get out at all for over 45 mins, while other drivers started swearing, honking and getting pretty shirty with everyone else.
All in all it took us FOREVER to get home – 6 hours or so, instead of the 2.5 or 3 that it should have been, though I am reassured that others in our group had traffic jams all over the place that day so it wasn’t just us.
So although it was a lovely holiday, it was definitely time to come home and be back in our own space so that the children can decompress a bit, and I have started on the mammoth mountain of washing to be done (with my shiny new washing machine that definitely will not break ever!).
A week at home visiting some friends and then we are off camping! Lots of fun to look forward to!