When I first started making notes for this post, I considered naming it “The Aftermath”, since that’s what it initially felt like. I felt shell-shocked and the least rested I have ever felt after a holiday. However, I soon realised that “Lessons Learned” was more appropriate. As tricky as the holiday was at times, we are determined to learn from it and try again.
Preparation was key. I knew we couldn’t prepare for every eventuality but considering possible obstacles and thinking about how we could help Little Chick to overcome them was vital. Without doing this the holiday would have been much tougher.
Checking in and the time spent at the airport in the UK was relatively straightforward. The busyness and noise were difficult – for all of us – at times, but we coped. We were some of the first people onto the plane, which helped Little Chick to settle, but the additional time on the tarmac unsettled him. By the time we took off, he had been in his seat for an hour and was keen to take off.
He loved taking off. He looked so chilled and took it all in his stride. But he was also excited and amazed by the experience. Once we levelled off and the seatbelt signs came on the trouble began. We kept our belts on to encourage him to stay still, but he wanted to explore. I should have foreseen this as he always performs a full inspection when we visit somewhere new and there was no reason why he would see this as being any different. The lengthy delay added to the feeling that the flight was not just long but too long, for all of us. The toys and distractions worked reasonably well, and the snacks were happily devoured, but the Kindle barely left the bag. With hindsight, Little Chick displayed signs of hypervigilance, aroused as he was by the unfamiliar setting, all the new sights, smells, and sounds, not to mention the vast number of people in such proximity.
We arrived at our destination airport late in the evening, though the lack of lighting in the terminals made it feel considerably later. This also made everything feel slightly more chaotic. One thing I hadn’t considered was the different language. The staff in the resorts all speak excellent English but I had forgotten that it would be a much greater mix of nationalities and languages in the airport. At times the noise was deafening and the words were indecipherable. I think this was probably the hardest part of the day for Little Chick and I will need to consider how we can ease this pressure should we fly abroad again.
In some ways the travelling was as tiring as the entire holiday, especially when he didn’t sleep on the way home, even though it was a night flight and he was beyond shattered. Any future holidays may need to involve less travelling and waiting time. Though, like most things, I also anticipate that the more we do it the easier it will become. The fear of the unknown is hard for Little Chick, but my own anxiety can also make things harder than they need to be. I need to consider my own self care in order to make it easier for him.
Our time abroad was definitely a mixed bag. Undoubtedly, the biggest issue was food and mealtimes. Little Chick is a good eater and will try most things, which he did. But he struggled with the number of people and the necessity of staying still. We have experienced this a little when having meals out in the UK, but those occasions are few and far between. Since we had an all-inclusive package, mealtimes were plentiful and painful. The sheer abundance and availability of food was too much for Little Chick. By the end of our holiday we were taking shifts and the five of us were unable to eat together. But we all ate well and mostly enjoyed the occasion.
As we had an open plan apartment Little Chick essentially shared a room with us. This disrupted his sleep, even though we made allowances, such as putting him to bed much later than usual, so that we were all on similar timetables. His lack of rest equally disrupted us and the combined tiredness was not pleasant. Having grandparents in the adjoining apartment was a blessing and he had a couple of sleepovers to allow us to restore our energy and refresh ourselves for lots of time in the pool.
Little Chick is such a water baby, but the public baths are too hot, too noisy, and too crowded for him to enjoy. The openness of the outdoor pool suited him much better and his confidence and ability in the water improved incredibly over our stay.
Undoubtedly, the best outcome from the holiday was Little Chick’s progress with toilet training. About a week before leaving he had announced he wanted big boy pants. We happily obliged and encouraged this. Our previous attempts to get him dry for school in September had been futile: this was the moment we had been waiting for. He did brilliantly well at home and at nursery, so we decided to run with the momentum of his success and try it on holiday. He was a superstar. The good weather, the regular toilet breaks, and the child sized toilets all contributed to major progress. Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to put my head in the pool as I think that may have been used as a giant toilet but… This leap forward is a relief for us. We suspected that he might not be toilet trained by September and, while we appreciate that it must be in his own time, we didn’t want him to stand out from his peers. More importantly, Little Chick has grown in confidence and takes such pride in his newfound skills. Though we did make more than a dozen trips to the toilet on the flight home just in case he really did need to go. We didn’t want to do anything that would dent his confidence.
To be honest, if you had offered me the improvements in toilet training and confidence in the pool for the cost of the holiday, I would have snapped your hand off. So, anything else – the day trips, the sun, the unlimited ice cream and cocktails – was a bonus.
So, would we do it again? Probably. But not yet. It was entirely different to the holidays the Other Mrs Reed Warbler and I have enjoyed in the past. It was often tense and the lack of sleep made us more tired upon our return than before we left. But we spent quality time with Little Chick (and my parents) and we saw his joy. Yes, there were bleak moments where I think we all considered thumbing a lift back to the airport, but overall it was filled with memories. And that’s what holidays and family are all about. And, hopefully, Little Chick will learn that one of the best things about going away is coming home again.
Edit (July 2019): When you’re in the midst of things it is hard to see clearly. Similarly, it is easy to remember only the stress and disappointment rather than the successes and moments of joy. Looking back, it was tricky, but it could have been much trickier. We have paid for the holiday in the form of dysregulation and other fallout, but we have also gained a much more confident little boy who can (occasionally) show pride in his achievements. Ultimately, it’s about whether Little Chick managed it and enjoyed it. He says he did and wants to go again. I doubt that we will go abroad again next year (not least for financial reasons) but it is encouraging to know that it has not been ruled out entirely. As I’ve said before, we love travelling and have gained so much from our experiences. We want to share that with Little Chick, but only if it is helpful and beneficial.