It’s the two words all women love to hear – mini break. However, after a recent experience I have come to realise these words no longer have the same meaning post-kids. When we first came up with the idea I thought some quality time away with hubbie and the kids, what more could one ask for? A change of scenery and some well needed relaxation. Hold on, for a minute there it sounded like I said relaxation? Let us get back down to reality. The prospect of time away with your kids is undoubtedly valuable – particularly with the knowledge that the day will soon come when they are too embarrassed to even be in your presence. However, when your kids are a combination of a toddler entering the infamous terrible twos and a newborn baby, relaxation should not be in your set of holiday expectations.
Nonetheless filled with foolish optimism we decided to take on the challenge of spending 72 hours away from the comfort of home. The naivety begins with the seemingly simple task of packing. Ah, packing. Gone are the days of such a thing as ‘travelling light.’ With a totally unrealistic goal of reaching our destination by midday (we never get anywhere by midday), I begin with the expectation to be done within the hour. HA HA HA. Close to three hours later (a few nappy interruptions along the way) we are ALMOST ready. For all the childless readers out there you may ask what could possibly take you so long? Well, when travelling with kids you never want to be caught out and so attempt to cater for all possible eventualities. This results in the luggage for a three day excursion looking like a year-long trip around the world. On the list we have: medicine in case of illness – check; clothes to cover all weather possibilities including bulky ski attire – check; food for the journey – check; toiletries – check. Multiply all of this by two to cover both adults and kids and you’re somewhere close to being done.
Finally once all the suitcases are packed and neatly stacked up by the door I run around the house picking up all those vital left over items that spring to mind (that you invariably never use) but won’t fit into already bursting at the seams suitcases. So, the ever-handy supermarket ‘bag for life’ presents itself where all these vital extras go. No matter how hard I try to avoid that extra supermarket bag it always manages to put in an appearance on every trip. By mid-afternoon we have made it into the car. In a basic of travelling with kids we manage to make it in time to head off toddler melt-down number one by timing the journey to coincide with his nap. Seat-belts buckled, engine roaring and off we go. Hold on just a minute… we did pack the travel cot didn’t we?? Half an hour later with toddler meltdown only half way in we set off on our journey with the new aim of arriving by nightfall. This shifting of timescales seems to be a reoccurring theme of life with small kids, and yet we continue to think we will get to places on time again and again. That Einstein fellow might be on to something here – pretty sure I lost my sanity a kid and a half ago.
Dinner time approaching (bear in mind we reside in a country where dinner is never served before 9pm) we arrive in good time to hit the hotel restaurant along with the other early diners – the OAP crowd. As we take our seats anxiously awaiting someone to rapidly take our order to avoid meltdown number two, hubbie spots there is a three course menu he would like to try. Not wanting to dampen the ‘holiday’ spirit I contain my thoughts of ‘are you mad?’ Note to all parents out there – your menu days are over. Be happy if you make it through one course unscathed and take solace in the fact that although you have to cut your dining experience short and head back to your room there is always the mini bar.
A handful of grey hairs later, dinner is finally over and the four of us settle in for a night of ‘rest’ in our 30 sqm. I won’t bore you with the details of how this played out as sure you can imagine for yourselves. I shall simply comment that it was like attempting to sleep against the backdrop of a symphony of shrieking. Stress 1 – relaxation 0.
As the sun rose the following morning – which we were of course awake to witness – we were determined to make the most of our remaining hours of quality family time. Setting off into the mountains, we decided to take the boys to the snow filled-peaks of Andorra with the hope that a day of outdoor activity would tire at least one of them out resulting in a better night’s sleep than the previous one. As we made our way through the scenic Pyrenees (ignoring the fact that my body was contorted in ways it should never be as I was wedged between two car seats in the backseat) hubbie innocently asks me ‘you do have your passport don’t you?’ This question was helpfully posed around 10 minutes ahead of crossing the border. Ummm, let me see. In the five suitcases of c**p I packed I am afraid to say personal identification was not one of the items checked off my list of things to bring. So, that would be no passport for me, no passport for kids and no official documents for the car. We were like bandits on the run. Half exhilarated by the thrill of the prospect of ‘being caught’ and the other half fast feeling the already heightened stress levels rapidly rising I try to remain calm. As I rustle through my handbag filled with pacifiers and remains of emergency bear shaped biscuits I stumble across some photographic ID – ‘do you think they’ll accept our Zoo cards?’ Never have I felt more like a mum. Driving up to the officials at the border I think something I never thought I would – at this very point in time it would be incredibly helpful if both kids start simultaneously screaming which will hopefully put off any official from coming within ten yards of us. Of course both kids are now sound asleep and as angelic as ever. Thanks kids. I’ll remember this later when we are in our 30sqm at 2am. Focus. As beads of sweat start formulating, we try to strike the perfect balance of driving cautiously but not too suspiciously through the border so as not to arouse any suspicion. Hubbie helpfully points out that the worst that could happen is me and the kids are detained and left at the boarder while he drives back to Barcelona to collect our documents. From where I am standing that’s a pretty bad outcome. I am pleased to report this was not the case. Small hitch over we focus on the fact that at least we’ll see some snow right? Wrong. No snow. And yes, we have to take on our bandit personas once more as we return through the border.
Evening of day two and we decide to celebrate our new found freedom with dinner in a restaurant recommended to us. Now this recommendation was for a place with a top local chef and good atmosphere. Two things when dining out with kids you really don’t need to know. The only two things we should have asked were do they have pasta pesto on the menu and is it large enough to house our monstrosity of a double buggy. The answer to both was no. The restaurant was smaller than our hotel room and the other diners were not won over by the cuteness of our boys as we tried to manoeuvre the four-wheeled mode of transport around the exclusive space comprised of six tables. Within two minutes of entering the restaurant our toddler had dramatically fallen off his chair twice (of course no high chairs in such an establishment) taking all the cutlery & crockery with him and his baby brother was making himself know by wailing at the top of his lungs. At this point I wanted the ground to swallow me up and the other diners undoubtedly wanted to push us all in. But, not wanting to be defeated I did what any self-respecting mother would do and ordered myself a cold cerveza and sat down to enjoy my meal. As the waitress approaches us she utters the words I am dreading ‘I recommend the three course menu’ but without any hesitation hubbie vehemently replies ‘we’ll just be having the one course.’ Good man.