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Redster: Seven
Cutester: Three and more than three quarters

Turtle beach, Dalyan

Before the Cutester got cross

Here we are holidaying in Turkey, sadly missing Nanny, whose idea it was – not to mention who funded the whole thing – and then who broke her leg a few days before take-off. It’s right at the end of the holiday season here, and there were other cancelled bookings, so we walked into a ghost hotel hosting only one other family.

The other (very nice and friendly) family is having a completely different holiday to us. This may be in part because their budget isn’t quite as tight as ours, but mainly because their kids are ten years older. The jeep safari, Turkish bath, kayaking, sightseeing on foot all day and swimming across the river are mostly out of the question with the Redster and all of them with the Cutester.

How far to Rhodes?

Three rubber rings

All of which is fine, I remind myself – it’s good to look ahead and imagine what we can get up to as a family with teenagers, providing of course that we’re not too old by then to enjoy such things… it’s just about getting into the mindset of being on the kind of holiday we can have at this stage. One thing per day, nothing too ambitious, just enjoying the surroundings and the chance to swim and the fact that the summer here has not yet completely gone south; even if we brought with us the same old toilet trips, snot-wiping, snack-providing, soothing, cajoling, clothes-changing, force-feeding (though at least I didn’t cook it), argument-resolving and bedtime routine.

I decided before we came that I was mainly going to enjoy this holiday vicariously through the children, instead of hoping vainly for lots of rest and reading time, then feel either frustrated that I didn’t get it or guilty that I did. I particularly wanted them to enjoy the sea. The Redster dislikes swimming, for reasons that merit a whole other post, and I wanted her to realise that it’s fun, plus somehow recreate for her a bit of my own childhood, splashing around fearlessly in warm tropical waters.

Is it my turn yet?

A sense of injustice begins to brew

So I was set up for an hour of pure frustration this afternoon. There we were, on the beach once voted Best in the World (Iztuzu or Turtle Beach, Turquoise Coast) on a clear sunny afternoon, with enough wind to make the most alluring waves roll up the gently sloping shore, an hour and a half before home time, realising that neither of my children were going to get into the water.

The Redster wouldn’t go in past her knees without me on hand to reassure, while the Cutester had just been sprayed in the face by a sneaky wave and decided that Mummy belonged on the beach, with her, and would not hear of me being relocated to anywhere even slightly moister. Forty-five minutes of Needing Mummy ensued. All very understandable, and definitely meriting a cuddle on my lap wrapped in a towel (she was quite cold), but the sight of all that gorgeous surf being wasted on both my children was excruciating.

[Why couldn’t Babyfather help? Because, dear reader, divine punishment had befallen me. All week I had teased him about his ‘bikini’, a rather tight-fitting pair of black trunks he’d bought specially for this holiday. And behold, I forget my own swimsuit that day, and he kindly lends me his bikini to wear along with my (luckily black) bra. Then refuses to swim in his boxers. So there is no-one to take the Redster into the sea while the Cutester insists on her cuddle.]

Unexpectedly, the world did not end at that point. We dried the Cutester off, fed her half a banana, put on an extra layer, then persuaded her to build tiny castles right on the edge of the surf for waves to knock over. The Redster became so absorbed in this with her that it was pointless dragging her into the sea with me. Instead, I snuck off with the lilo on my own and had about 15 blissful minutes of being knocked about by the Mediterranean. (Which, equally, blissfully for Babyfather, he got to photograph. Remarks like ‘Come in a bit, you’re out of focus’ and ‘Try not to grimace like that’ were a bit superfluous, but I’m glad he enjoyed himself.)

Look out! Behind you!

They didn’t sell surf boards

So the children had a lovely time doing something they could have done on any beach in Britain, or indeed in a sandpit, and their parents had even more fun, despite my best intentions. What is the moral of this story? I’m not sure. Something like: you cannot make your children have the fun you think they ought to have, so go ahead and have it yourself.

Downside up

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The Redster: Seven at last
The Cutester: Still three

I think I’ve finally got a handle on this party thing… first, do nothing else for a whole week, second, delegate everything food-related to a very competent mother-in-law, and thirdly recreate all the games you can remember from the 1970s. It went well thanks!

It had an animal theme

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Beware of the loins

although my attempts to make our living room into a jungle were a bit lost on everyone.

I finally got to do that game where you pass a dice around, then whoever throws a six dives into the middle, dresses up, and attempts to unwrap the parcel before the next six is thrown. (They dressed up as a lion in Marigolds. That slowed them down.)

Roawrrrr!

As modelled by The Very Best Red-Headed Friend’s dad.

But what I am most proud of, because I am no seamstress, was the creation of a game called – not Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but Pull the Tail off the Tiger – complete with tiger costume and detachable tail. It was a bit like Grandmother’s Footsteps

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Freeze!

apart from the tail-grabbing part

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Note matching hair

And there was a matching mask, which Raaaahed when you pressed the nose (I bought that part ready-made).

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Add hands for extra scariness

And even the fact that a candle set fire to one of the jungle cake’s palm trees didn’t seem like a disaster, just an ecological comment.

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Note the scorched remains of the tree in front of the watering hole

A really enjoyable day. Thank you team. And great to hang out with the VBRHF’s family afterwards, when the girls played with the presents together, though whatever it is they’ve cooked up, I won’t be eating it.

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Redster: Seven yesterday
Cutester: Three and three quarters

Brighton by erase, on Flickr

I had a fortnight’s taste of being a working mother earlier this month. That was two weeks ago and the adrenaline is just beginning to subside.

I used to consider my working mum friends to be having a well-earned break, in their nice offices away from the children. Many of them seemed to confirm this – I’ve probably already mentioned one friend, who says she enjoys an environment in which her colleagues don’t throw the coffee she’s just made back in her face for being in the wrong-coloured cup. Even the thought of all that reading time on the tube used to fill me with envy.

Then, the tables turned – at three years old the Cutester started her five subsidised nursery sessions per week. Fifteen hours of child-free time a week, with no job to do. At last! Time to concentrate on something, anything, for more than half an hour at a time. Time to finish things; time to sit down with a cup of tea and slice of toast for ten minutes before starting things, and still get them finished. And at last, some space in my head. The garden flourished, the decorating got finished, the admin got done, I completed an Open University course, read some books, and all the stuff I do for church got the attention it deserved.

But just before term started again, after a long long summer of lots of lovely things but no time to accomplish anything, I get offered some paid editing work. As soon as the kids were back in school and nursery, I got my head down (literally – editing documents on my tiny, cute little netbook is like trying to watch a widescreen film from inside a tank). Those first two weeks of term were frantic. The Cutester found herself in nursery a day and a half longer each week than she’d ever been before. Even so, there was no leisurely wending my way home or jogging or fraternising with the chickens or gentle gardening before sitting down at the computer. I just rushed home, switched it on, and stared at the screen for up to five hours solid, before getting up with backache and a headache (should buy a desk really) and rushing back to get the kids again. Evenings, when there were no church meetings, consisted of more editing, and then washing up / dishwasher emptying / laundry at 11pm or later.

By the second week, I wasn’t sleeping properly. Yet this is what all my working mum friends do! When their kids are in the care of school or nursery, they are working. There isn’t any child-free space just to get their heads in order. How do they manage it?? This last week, I’ve spent doing very little other than housework and planning the Redster’s party. Now that I’ve experienced the alternative, I think I will actual relish the role of full-time housewife and mother while it lasts…