22 things you’ll know if you’ve been on a family summer holiday in the UK

1. Packing the car is like a particularly perilous game of Jenga. One false move and that boot will never shut.

2. The front seat passenger will be contorted in all directions due to the extra luggage at their feet.

3. You realise “Are we nearly there yet?” could be a useful interrogation tactic. Especially when it starts five minutes from home.

4. The comfortable time threshold for a car journey is 90 minutes by which time you’re willing to spend £7 on a sandwich each at the services just for a change of scene.

5. The 50mph signs on the M5 seem like a cruel joke because you’ve covered 0.9 miles in 20 minutes.

6. When you arrive where you’re staying, you realise you’ve forked out a small fortune to stay somewhere that is a fraction of the size of your home.

7. When you’re settled in to your accommodation, Wi-Fi is slow to the point of uselessness or non-existent. No streaming here!

8. The children’s holiday money will be spent on day one, often within the first hour, on an overpriced and ill-judged purchase.

9. But they will still ask for more during every other day of your holiday. Especially when you’re in the vicinity of a shop. Which is pretty much all the time.

10. Gift shops will become scene of nightmarish negotiations when you refuse to fork out £7.99 for a frisbee that your child insists they need.

11. You will never have packed enough pants for the children. Even the contingency ones will be used up with unexpected incidents such as rushing down a soggy slide or running into seawater in clothes.

12. There will be public tantrums on monumental scales attracting a mixture of disgust/sympathetic gazes.

13. Shattered from lack of sleep, the children will insist they can’t walk so you finish the holidays with superb biceps.

14. You’ll find yourself incredulous at the cost of any tourist attraction. £60 to look at a garden? Are you kidding me?

15. The British weather means you must bring coats/sun cream/hats/wellies/flip flops for every trip out so a 6lb bag accompanies you at all times. And you’ll still have forgotten something.

16. You’ll only realise you’ve forgotten that important thing when you’re miles from the car.

17. Despite your meticulous route planning and sat nav system, you will get lost usually as a child announces that they really need a wee.

18. Your child will start singing their rudest song during a quiet, educational day out making you want to crawl under the nearest table. Bum bum song at the museum anyone?

19. Someone will drop their ice cream the second after you’ve paid for it.

20. Any dream of a nice meal out will be shattered by the reality of overtired children and frazzled parents. Cereal it is then!

21. The onsite entertainment will remind you of Phoenix Nights, but the kids will love it and worship the oversized animal mascot sent out to interact with them.

22. The lack of structure means the children won’t sleep so your days consist of parenting between the hours of 5am until 9pm, when you collapse in an exhausted heap, too tired for wine.

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15 things you’ll learn as a parent on a day out at a theme park

1. Someone always needs a wee at the worst time. Either when you’re 50 miles from a service station or mid-way through a mind-bogglingly long queue for a ride with no loo nearby.

2. When you do locate a loo, the queue will be as long as the one for the rollercoaster.

3. You will fantastise about ankle-ramming the people who absentmindedly stop in front of your buggy. Look where you’re going people.

4. You will have arms of a weightlifter by the end of the day from carrying your toddler who has to walk absolutely everywhere and then needs to be carried absolutely everywhere as their little legs can’t cope.

5. You start to question your principled decision to refuse forking out for queue jump tickets after enduring 45 minutes waiting for a two-minute ride with an energetic and impatient toddler. There will be tantrums, tears and short-lived bribery snacks. 

6. And those smug queuebuster pass holders will always turn up when you get to the front of the queue meaning you have another final wait to go. And you will hate them for it.

7. The drinks and snacks you’ve lovingly prepared in advance will be refused in favour of a soft drink and packet of crisps that cost £3.99. Each.

8. You will fork out a small fortune at the gift shop while knowing you could get the same thing much cheaper on Amazon. Much cheaper.

9. Your child will find it impossible to chose what they want in said shop. And they’ll always insist on something that costs the same as the theme park ticket. You’ll then face a miserable battle of wills trying to convince them that the small teddy is just as good as the £65 play set they’ve set their little heart on.

10. Someone will always end up getting their clothes (or shoes) soaked. 

11. You spend an age getting into the car park and have to park a long walk from the theme park entrance. That walk feels even longer when walking back there and trying to locate your car with overtired children. What row were we in again?

12. You need to be prepared for all weather eventualities so you’ll be carting around enough gear for a week abroad. Coats ✅ sun hats ✅ wellies ✅ sun cream ✅ 

13. Finding your way out is as difficult as finding your way there. How is it so complicated? 

14. You’ll feel like you’ve walked a marathon by the end of the day but your Fitbit only says 8,000 steps.

15. You’ll forget all of the above when you and the children remember the day and look back at magical photos. All completely worth it. Now, where’s the wine? 😉

To my son on his sports day

Today was your sports day, marking the near end of your Reception year. 

In that year I’ve watched you grow taller, more confident and learn more with each passing day. Your interests have changed, your sense of humour is cheekier and you are a fantastic, compassionate big brother to your sister (when you’re not scrapping and teasing each other). 

And today, your sports day, the sun shone. I was hoping it would. We parents, grandparents and loved ones gathered around the yard, chatting with excitement. 

You and your classmates filed out, took a seat and scanned the crowd for those familiar faces, lighting up when you saw them. You waved, gave us the thumbs up and proudly told your friends you’d seen your dad. 

That morning, we’d told you to try your best and not worry about winning. You, like me, are fiercely competitive so we worried you’d be sad if you didn’t come first.

We needn’t have. Because you tried your best at everything with a smile on your face. From bean bag balancing to running races, you  tried your hardest.

One of the loveliest things was seeing you with your friends, observing those friendships, hearing you laugh together. Just so happy.

And that’s all I ever want from you and for you. Try hard and be happy (showing a lot of kindness along the way). 

You make us prouder than I can ever say and watching you grow, change and learn is a privilege.

Well done darling boy. 

Sleep, precious sleep…

It’s safe to say that when I was pregnant with our first child I was expecting a bit of sleep disruption.

Yes, there’d be sleepless nights but it would be manageable, I thought. After all, I was the kind of person who was up by 7am at weekends. I’d always been a morning person. It would be fine. And babies slept through at around six months, right?

Then I had a child and realised that the sleep deprivation thing was so much harder than I imagined. There was the day when an all-night feeding frenzy meant I had an hour’s sleep. That day is burned into my brain. It was so hard to function that I wanted to weep.

Our son woke at least five times a night until he was 17 months. I was exhausted and it felt as though I’d never get a good night’s sleep again. He’d also get up at 5.30am every day, something he still does at the age of five.

But then, as though by magic, he grew out of the frequent night waking. By two he was sleeping through pretty consistently and I felt human again. There were a few months of disruption when he moved from a cot to a bed but then he settled down.

When it came to having our daughter eight months later, I felt more equipped with what to expect. And although the early weeks were incredibly hard and exhausting, by 10 weeks she learned to suck her thumb and started to sleep through.

A baby who slept! Suddenly I realised why I’d get odd looks from other parents when I said our son was not sleeping because our daughter did it as if by magic. 

And, until a few months ago, we’d rarely hear anything from her when she’d gone to sleep at night. I’m not going to lie –  it was awesome. Having been through months of sleep deprivation with our son, I was very aware of how lucky we were.

Then, the dreaded thing happened. She learned to escape her cot. We had no choice to put her into a toddler bed instead. I worried it would disturb her sleep.

The early days were tough. We spent hours every evening sitting by her bedroom door and ferrying her back to her bed.

After a few weeks, I cracked and insisted on putting a stairgate on her bedroom door. That way she could play safely in her room without roaming around.

It worked a treat. Until she figured out how to climb over the stairgate and how to remove it from her bedroom door.

So we’re now a fortnight in to very late bedtimes. On a good night she’s sleeping by 9.15pm, on a bad night it’s 10.20pm. I usually crash out not long after. 

And she’s still up bright and early each morning.

We’ve tried putting her back to bed and trying to get her to fall asleep in ours. We have tried reward charts, new night lights and bedtime stories. We have tried taking her for a walk in her pram too.

Our latest approach is to bring her back downstairs after bath time and try to carry on with our evening as normally as we can. It meant she was watching Eurovision with us until 9.45pm last night.

Two weeks in, we’re exhausted. We look after her in shifts to make sure we each have a little bit of time to do what we want such as go to the gym, but we don’t get much down time together while we’re contending with this.

So, fellow parents of non-sleepers, you have my upmost sympathy.

And if you have any bright ideas for techniques and tactics to break this habit, I’d love to hear from you!

Navigating the terrible twos

Yesterday my daughter had a dreaded accident at a soft play centre. As I changed her clothes in the toilet, her screaming was so loud staff knocked the door to ask if everything was okay. “Yes. Just changing my daughter!” I replied as sweetly as I could.

At two and a half, she is fiercely independent, brilliantly confident and fearless. And that’s awesome, but challenging to parent. 

As she’s our second child, I’m finding navigating the toddler tantrums a little easier to navigate than they were with our eldest. 

So here are the three tips I’m clinging on to while navigating the toddler years.

1. Try to see the funny side It’s easy to lose your sense of humour after trying to get your toddler to put their socks on for the umpteenth time. But trying to see the funny side of their requests does help. This morning my daughter was crying because she couldn’t eat her breakfast in a high chair. We don’t own one anymore so there was little I could do to meet her demands. 

2. Pick your battles This is one I try hard to focus on when I’m negotiating. Does it really matter if they wear wellies and a party dress? This morning I spent 10 minutes trying to dress her in a matching outfit, but she was insistent on a pyjama top. So I let her wear it.

3. Put your pride aside. I’m a firm believer that any pride you had before becoming a parent is left firmly behind in the delivery room. I really struggled with this as a first time parent. I was mortified about what people would think of my child’s behaviour. But I try to park my pride during toddler meltdowns and support them through them. 

How do you manage toddler meltdowns? I’d love to hear your tips.

An ode to mums 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there. 

To the ones who miss sleep for feeds and cuddles.

To those who pack lunches, fill in permission slips and do everything in their power to find or make costumes for World Book Day and seasonal concerts.

To those who have watched their babies turn to teenagers and make their way into the world. And to those who have stayed up until 3am until they hear the key in the front door as their child returns from a night out.

To those who kiss away tears and scrapes and bruises. To those who say no when it would be so much easier to say yes.

To those who pack swimming kits and organise schedules like a pro. To those who agree to read just one more bedtime story.

To those who keep their cool during the most dramatic tantrums. And to those who always have wet wipes wherever they go.

To those who’ve persisted in teaching their child to read and ride a bike and to master the potty.

To those who watch their teenagers fall in and out of love and are there to deal with the fall out.

To those who chauffeur their wards to ballet, piano and gymnastics.

To those who are now grandma as well as mum and look after their grandchildren as though they were their own.

To those who get their toddler to agree to wearing shoes.

To those who wade through washing to make sure the uniforms are clean for the next day and that socks are paired.

To those who have sewn labels into jumpers, coats and hats.

To those who are doing it alone being mum and dad rolled into one.

To those who have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their kids’ medical history and are quicker at spotting an illness 

And to those who are no longer here but will be forever remembered for everything they did and were.

I salute you all.

My morning

This morning I almost lost it. It was 7.40am and I was trying to get the children ready for school and day nursery. My son was a darling, ready and waiting in 10 minutes. But my toddler was a different story.

She didn’t want to wee, wear clothes or shoes. She would have preferred to leave the house in her knickers and her Frozen pyjama top. And she made her views known in the best way she can at her age – a monumental tantrum.

I’m talking rolling on the floor, hitting and kicking me in the face and gnashing her teeth on her clothes as I tried to dress this tiny person filled with rage. She also smeared her snotty nose all over my work trousers.

After 27 minutes, she gave in and had a cuddle before agreeing on getting dressed. And 31 minutes later, we left the house late. I was sweaty and still wearing snot-stained clothes as I had no time to change.

I’ve now successfully dropped them both off to school and nursery and a day of work awaits.

And I’m shattered. So today I’ll be mainlining tea and chocolate. Sigh.