Holidaying with a toddler is kind of a contradiction in terms – if you expect, that is, for a holiday to be a relaxing affair. If you like high-octane adventure holidays, where you come home exhausted after two weeks of running, climbing and water-based-activities, then of course, holidaying with a toddler could be right up your street.
It started on the first evening, when we found him on the deck of the mobile home next door, after two minutes (but what seemed like two hours) of anxious searching. I had a serious chat with him – got down to his level and all that good stuff – looking into his two-and-a-half-year-old big blue eyes. I explained that he must never, ever leave our deck without mum or dad. “Otay mum,” he said (that’s not a typo – just a literal transcript), “sowwy mummy, me not do it again,” he said, eyes downcast, chin on chest. I hugged him, told him it was fine, and I went back inside to continue unpacking, happy that he had understood. Two minutes later, I spotted him walking casually but purposefully down the road and around the corner towards the pool. Stick in hand, like a gentleman farmer surveying his land. So this was how it will be, I thought, as I chased after him. And so it was.
On the ferry over he had locked himself into the toilet for five frantic minutes, then went missing during the disco for five much more frantic minutes (he was playing hide and seek but forgot to tell any of the rest of us).
There was not one single meal during the entire holiday at which he didn’t spill his drink, though the subsequent “sowwy mummy” and apologetic look from the big blue eyes almost made the clean-up worth it.
He insisted on scooting everywhere, although he isn’t able to scoot, so the journey home from the playground which should take three minutes instead took thirty-five. But that was still better than the time he decided to crawl home like a puppy.
There was no poolside sunbathing – we were in the water with him, or sitting at the edge of the baby-pool while he splashed around. There was no seaside sunbathing – we were up and down to the sea to get buckets of water, which were immediately spilled out on the sand, necessitating a return trip. There was no on-the-deck sunbathing, because a half-closed eye meant he was gone like lightning; off to survey his surroundings, stick in hand. He’s two-and-a-half; big enough to run away but not big enough to have any sense whatsoever – an exhausting combination.
Next year, he’ll have some sense and it’ll be easier. But I’ll kind of miss this stage too – I’m aware that the lack of sense that generates the challenges is also what brings about the fun.
Like pretending to be a puppy throughout the holiday, for no reason whatsoever. And pretending to be a baby – talking in a baby voice, unaware that because he’s two, he already talks in a baby voice. Like saying “Me need my Scooby snacks” every time he’s hungry, and tipping his bowl of Corn Flakes into his yogurt, much to his big sisters’ mutual horror. Like the sulks that are funny, because of the folded arms and the foot stomp and the “That not is fair!” over being told he can’t stamp his sister’s leg with buttered bread. Like the indignant “How dare you!” he shouts at everyone who wrongs him, including bigger kids who push him out of the way in the playground. Like wanting to walk home on his own from the playground at 10 o’clock at night. Like wanting ice-cream at 8.30am, and at bed-time and straight after he’s just had an ice-cream. Like saying “Mummy you is my lady” and “Me sleep on your heart” as he snuggles in to my arms after a long day playing.
There was no lie-in, but the mornings were all the more golden for his Corn Flake giggles. There was no sun-bathing, but the towel-wrapped after-swim cuddles were indescribably good. There was no night-life, but a squeezy bedtime hug and a “Is my best holiday in ever” made up for it. At two-and-a-half, he curtailed our holiday a little; he kept us out of the sun, he kept us out of the bar, he kept us out of bed, and he sent us home exhausted. But he also kept us laughing – he was the extra sunshine; the beaming light around which we all revolved. And much as I’m looking forward to meeting next year’s reasonably sensible three-year-old, I’m really going to miss this baby-toddler who will be gone forever by then.