Lucy Mangan talks family holidays
Packing your family's hopes and dreams into your luggage is simple. You'd think...
Nobody move. Nobody. Move. A. Muscle. We are on holiday and it is going... perfectly. I don't know how and I don't know why, but it is. I feel like I'm walking through the most fragile of illusions – one tiny wrong move and the whole thing will shatter like glass – but for now it is wonderful.
I was dreading going away. Until now, going on holiday was like being at home only worse, because nothing is in the right place. Such minimal time- and sanity-saving routines as we have are out of whack, the child is naturally overexcited and pinballing round the place in a way that makes me dream of crushing Ritalin into his morning porridge or amphetamines into mine – and there's absolutely no childcare whatsoever because I stupidly forgot to marry money and have a nanny with me wherever I go, instead of just sand and wet wipes.
But this year – this year something magical has happened. This is the fourth or fifth time we have been to the same place (Wells-Next-the-Sea, north Norfolk, because that is quite far enough) and now my son recognises where he is and is – relatively – calm, treating it more like a home-from-home than a shining city of fibrillating dreams that all must be explored in the next 20 minutes before this glorious vision of sea, sand and amusement arcades somehow disappears.
This year we pootle. We meander. We are hugely interested in seagulls. We blow off occasional steam by going to the local park. When he hankers after adventure we go on the miniature train ride down to the beach to check that the sea's still there ('It is! It is!').
His father and I are calmer because we have rented a cottage with a spare room and know that my mum and dad are coming down in the middle of the fortnight for three days, and for at least one of those nights Mr Mangan and I are going to go nuts.
Such plans we have, such plans! We're going to go out for dinner, drink ourselves insensible on at least two, maybe even three glasses of wine each, then walk back in the dark holding hands before going to bed to see if our genitals still work. I'll let you know.
We've also properly taken time off work. We met deadlines early, cancelled assignments that would have encroached, and now keep emails and work texts to the evening and bare minimum respectively – we cleared the whole fortnight.
I (freelance writer, sans holiday/sick/maternity pay or a pension plan) haven't done this in the four years since the child was born, nor in the ten years before that. It is incredible what a difference it makes. How much more enjoyable being with your child becomes when the work monkey isn't on your back, chattering viciously in your ear and threatening to nip you at every turn.
My son and I bask in the sun of each other's full attention. I'm sure that for both of us it would become too much after a while but for a fortnight – this fortnight – it is bliss. Our first halcyon days in four years. Roll on summer 2019. I can't wait.