By KATE HUNTER
Ralph Lauren has a lot to answer for.
Those gorgeous black and white photos taken on windswept beaches; beautiful families all dressed in white; revelling in the simple magic of being together.
In my heart, I suppose I always knew those pics were a crock but in those love-struck early days of our marriage, I did imagine our family holidays would be like that.
My fantasy looked like this: We arrive at our destination on sunset and tumble joyfully from the car. There would be a walk on the beach with our rosy-cheeked toddler atop daddy’s shoulders, the baby asleep in a Baby Bjorn on my chest, our five year old frolicking a little ahead of us, collecting seashells.
The children go to bed, tired and happy while husband and I sip wine in the balmy night air, planning the sun- soaked days to come.
Parents reading this would be struck by the fact that nowhere in my fantasy family holiday did I mention packing. Or travel cots, sunscreen, swim nappies or mealtimes. This is because a) I was an idiot, and b) because Ralph Lauren makes clothes, not documentaries.
Our real life family holidays began more like this:
Day Of Departure
8am Husb leaves for work, promising to be home by 3pm so as to avoid traffic. Children spend day in ill-fitting rags as all clothes earmarked for holiday have been quarantined.
8.30am Take eldest to school then dash home to commence packing, making mental note to purchase baby Panadol from chemist on way home from delivering dog to boarding kennel. Realise no one’s swimmers fit and baby has no swimmers. Resolve to go to Target as well as stopping at chemist (baby Panadol) on way home from kennel. Wonder whether we will be arrive at destination in time for kid-friendly dinner at surf club. Decide that given husb will arrives home at 3pm, this should be no problem. There may even be time for Ralph Laurenesque walk on beach.
11am Dog safely at kennel, swimmers purchased. Arrive home and clean out fridge so as not to return home post holiday to manky milk and slimy salad makings.
12 noon Put youngest children to sleep early in anticipation of later than normal bedtime. No sleep happens. Collect eldest child (early) from school so as to be ready for 3pm departure. Pack car, leaving esky with perishables until last.
3.15pm No sign of husband. Turn on ABC Kids for cranky, sleep-deprived children.
3.33pm Receive text from husb. Has been corralled by boss – home in 30 minutes. Remove esky with perishables from car.
4.48pm Husb arrives home. Not talking to him, so point at 3 year old now snoring on floor.
5.20pm En route. Estimate 70 minute drive will take two hours due to traffic. Surf Club dinner and Ralph bloody Lauren walk clearly off agenda so detour via McDonalds drive through.
6.11pm Three year old vomits Oreo McFlurry with such force it hits the windscreen
7.30pm Arrive at beach house. Realise travel cot still beside front gate at home. Argue about whose fault this is.
8.10pm Kids in bed [read, baby in parents' bed as no travel cot]. Speaking to husb again out of necessity as need to negotiate who will get up when baby wakes at 4am. Trade-off will be afternoon nap rights. 1am Baby wakes with high temperature. There is no baby Panadol.
This post, however, is not a tale of woe. The message I want to leave parents of babies and toddlers with is this: IT GETS BETTER.
You WILL reclaim your holidays.
It’s happening for us now. For a long time, a holiday was little more than a change of location – transporting the chaos from one dwelling to another, but now, only a few short years later, I am taking a novel away with me. And I have every intention of finishing it. A wise friend told me, ‘You get your holidays back once your youngest can read and swim.’
It’s true. For a child, reading is the greatest gift, but it’s arguably greater for that child’s parent. Jumping into the pool with your kids is fun, sure, but being able to dive into a novel while they play Marco Polo is even better. Our youngest is now six, and she more or less packs for herself. Happily we go nowhere that her pole-dancer/flowerchild look isn’t tolerated. No one needs nappies, bottles, blankies. Our kids can get their own breakfast and even go out for the paper. That, to me, is a real holiday.
Ralph Lauren would do well to take note.
So, school holidays. What are you expecting?