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