Thursday, 27 March 2014
A Dad's View 7: Restful family break?
When listing the necessities for a restful family break, Tom Dunmore includes a flight cot, smitten waitresses and, er, the grandparents
Unfortunately, the thing we need a holiday from is the very thing that makes us parents – that mewling, puking little darling that can't bear to let us sleep.
Having been housebound for six months after Ava's birth, we decided to take a two-week trip to a friend's wedding in Thailand.
As the departure date loomed, I started to think the whole plan was massively overambitious. True to form, Ava screamed all the way to the airport and threw up in our cabin bag. But then something miraculous happened: she fell in love with the aeroplane. We managed to secure a flight cot and, crammed into upright cattle class seats, we enjoyed our best sleep in months.
Once we arrived in Thailand, the problem wasn't looking after Ava – it was keeping an eye on her whereabouts after another cooing waitress whisked her off to let us enjoy some time on our own. It was a truly wonderful break, made all the sweeter by the knowledge that it would be our last long-haul holiday for a while.
Because once your child turns one, everything changes: you have to start buying a full-price seat for them, for a start – and as a special thank you, it's par for the course that the little angel start acting up as soon as the aeroplane door closes.
It turns out that this isn't the best way to make friends with your fellow passengers, who assume that you are, at best, a pitiful excuse for a parent.
At worst, you've simply stolen a child.
Suddenly, holidaying close to home becomes a much more appealing option. The secret is to find somewhere remote enough that you don't feel self-conscious about midnight screaming sessions, and then try to achieve a Zen-like calm that no tantrum can penetrate. Keep telling yourself it's a holiday; keep reminding yourself that at least you're not at work.
But if I had to give one piece of advice to new parents thinking about holidays, it would be this: share the pain. Joint holidays with fellow parents can be fun, but when it comes to support, grandparents win hands-down. There's nothing that can match the pleasure of handing a baby over, guilt-free, to someone who really wants to spend time with them – someone that you don't have to pay, except by dutifully losing at Scrabble in the evenings.
If the idea of board games with your in-laws fills you with dread, there's always the more rock 'n' roll option of going to a music festival. Toddlers fit right in – with the bright colours, music and hysterical, stumbling crowds, festivals are little more than giant outdoor nurseries for not-very-grownups.
Ava loved her first festival (the small, family-friendly End of the Road in Dorset) but it was challenging, too – and not just for reasons of personal hygiene.
Festival-going with a child reduces your chances of seeing any of your favourite bands by approximately 1,000 per cent, while the likelihood of having your face painted like a rabid badger increases inversely. What's more, adding a small child to the already potent mixture of cider, sunshine and mud is a dangerous thing.
So be sure to partner up with someone who doesn't drink, likes returning to the tent early and enjoys helping small people to pee in a bottle – and don't forget to introduce them to me. I have a feeling they'll become a lifelong friend.