That a child can be trained in pest control. Big ants, little ants, translucent ants that you don’t even know you’re treading on – all found their way into the gîte. Not being able to put down pesticide powder for fear of Monkey thinking it was sherbet, we tried all manner of methods to get rid of the little beggars. Yet filling holes in the floor with toothpaste, blocking gaps with cardboard and sweeping them into a dustpan made no impact on their steady progress across the hall, around the perimeter of the bathroom and into the kitchen. Now, how about getting your child to point at an ant – “Closer, closer, no, don’t touch it! Oh. That was too close. Here, let me wipe your finger”. There are some advantages to them generally doing the opposite of what you say.
Travel sickness – a propensity for. I’d always assumed that any sickness in the car was the result of (a) my driving under the illusion I’m a world class rally driver or (b) travelling too soon after eating. On holiday we discovered that a little ‘barf in the back’ was the rule rather than an exception. Did I say ‘little’? What I mean is an eruption on the scale of Eyjafjallajökull sending rivers over Monkey, through and out the car seat before pooling on the back seat. I have many good things to say about French service stations – one of them is their frequency, another is their capacity to stock the components of what is now known as the ‘Quick! Sick! Repair Kit’ – wet wipes, kitchen roll, tea towels, naff t-shirts (‘je t’aime le nearby tourist spot’). The merest hint of a cough from the back seat (followed by a request for a ‘cuggle’) now sends me retching [sic!] for the kit.
The second stomach for ice cream. What more can I say? Possibly a girl thing. Possibly inherited from her mother. Definitely a physiological miracle.
The power of sand. Everyone wants a holiday that will keep their kids busy. I’d assumed that the Monkey being busy demanded that Ma and Pa were busy too. Supervising in the pool, building towers with the complimentary, but slightly manky, Duplo in the gîte, intercepting furniture before it gets relocated in the garden, etc etc. Monkey had never been to a beach before so little did we know the hypnotic effect of being deposited in sand with a bucket and spade. Two experimental sandcastles later and we gingerly retreated to the sun loungers. “What’s she doing?” “Is she alright?” “It’s gone a bit quiet over there.” The pleasures of pure self-occupied play. Forget culture and countryside, we’re already planning our next holiday. A beach holiday. And we may even get to read a book or two.
Demands and expectations that can’t be met when you get home. Me: “What would you like to do?” Monkey: “Sea!” Okay, so home is at least a 2-hour drive from the sea, it’s 6pm and Daddy has the car. For some this would be enough to make the idea of a seaside jaunt seem ludicrous – to a 2-year-old, no. “Sea!” Faced with the emergence of a bottom lip the only option is to negotiate.
“If we can’t go to the sea what would you like to do?”
[A glimmer of hope – it’s still light enough to get the sand table out.]
“Put your shoes on then and we’ll go in the garden.”
“No garden. Sea!”
Sigh. Would it be better to let our children just experience the mundane to protect them from life’s disappointments? I’d like to go to the sea, I really would. I’d also like to go to Las Vegas, look like Angelina Jolie and be able to survive wholly on a diet of chocolate without my teeth falling out. Is that my bottom lip I can see?
Having a child in tow gets you in all the best restaurant loos. Tired of dirty public toilets and the prospect of squatting? Then try this simple routine. Urgent walk. Worried Mother face. The waiter’s expression says You’ve not spent any money here, but throw in a quick “I know it’s urgent” to your child and their head soon says Don’t let that child wee on our floor. Result. Proper loo, paper (if you’re lucky) and a tap that works. And you’ve not even had to make the pre-pee gesture of buying a drink. [Exit, pursued by a bear …]
Things that were once ordinary at home will evoke bad holiday memories. The smell of wetwipes will always remind you of your little angel’s vomit on the back seat of a baking hot car. That washable swim nappy will bring back the memory of fishing out jobbies on the beach with your bare hand. Your much-loved and much-travelled white linen shirt (now only destined for the bin) will be the final reminder that looking clean, cool and sophisticated on holiday is a thing of the past …