It’s that time again. Rewind a week and lists were being made, last minute essentials were being purchased via Amazon Prime, and Aldi specials were being wrestled off the bargain shelves, not to mention the several trips to Poundland. Special purchases this year have included: water shoes (N.B. for the literal among you these are not shoes made out of water), a wetsuit for my three year old, tennis rackets and ball, bubble solution, a plastic archery set (guaranteed to last 5 minutes) and a variety of snacks for our journey to Wales. I have great expectations of myself on the holiday: the weather will be beautiful almost every day, I will maintain my healthy eating, I will try to be nice Mummy all the time, I will pack my trainers, I will do my exercise DVD every day, I might even go for a run...
Day before departure - I’ve completed the unexpectedly huge online shop, complete with croissants, pain au chocolats, and large amounts of Merlot. Hubby was supposed to have the afternoon off so we could get ready at a leisurely pace. Jobs such as getting the roof box from its place precariously stashed on the rafters of the garage were to be done, as well as general packing and discussions about what we might need. I was told he’d finish about 2pm. It’s now 3.30pm. I’ve been washing, sorting and packing for a few hours and have collected my six year old from school, hoping to drop him off at my mum’s so I can finish off the packing. Except he is not having any of it, and insists he come home to ‘help’. Mum comes with us so she can occupy him while I try and get organised. Still no husband. I call him and am told (with apologies) that he will be back no later than normal time. Okay, I think. We can do the final bits after the kids have gone to bed, then settle down with a glass of wine for the final episode of Stranger Things. We can feel like the holiday has begun.
I get as far as I can get before Z needs dinner and some attention, and Mum needs to go home as unsurprisingly she is worn out. Husband arrives home at about 6.30pm with our three year old in tow who he has collected from nursery. The boys are rather excited but husband just has ‘a few things’ to finish off, so sets himself up in the kitchen with his laptop while I bath the children and get them ready for bed. I can feel my stress levels rising. At 7.30pm he leaves his laptop to help me with bedtime and we prise the children apart from the daily wrestling session that they decide to wait until bedtime to undertake. After at least an hour and a half they are in bed. Husband is still working and I am pissed off. I make dinner and we argue. I am highly unsympathetic even though I know he needs to complete all his work before we go away or he can’t relax, because every holiday we go on it’s ALWAYS THE SAME! I tell him this in a horrible, shouty way and sulk dramatically. He takes his laptop in the living room to get away from his stressed out wife. I adjust my expectations and, as predicted, we don’t even get to watch Stranger Things with a glass of vin rouge because it’s too late by the time he’s finished.
Saturday morning - all the jobs I wanted us to have done already need to get done but gradually I accept this fact (and the fact that we won’t make it to the beach that day despite me telling the children we will). Finally at 11.30am, we are on the road to Anglesey. We have to stop for wees at least four times in the first hour. (For the kids, not for me. Honest.) Goodness knows how this happens. Perhaps the vibration of the car engine stimulates their bladders...? Despite this, we are on the road and so I can start to relax. We arrive and we’re all excited – there are toys and swings and all sorts for the children and they are playing together nicely. This is when I realise I’ve forgotten the bag with all the beach stuff in, and my swimsuit (and more importantly Marmite, which is a staple of our breakfast). Thankfully my mum and aunt are coming on Monday and it’s not exactly beach weather so we know we’ll cope. Everything will be okay. After 48 hours, I realise that I should have more realistic expectations: it’s windy and rainy, I am eating pain au chocolat for breakfast, I am drinking at least two glasses of red wine every night, the Canderel I brought with me to have in my tea is gathering dust, along with the exercise DVD. I don’t even know where my sporty leggings are. I am as grumpy here as I am at home.
It’s Tuesday when we are all on the beach and T is playing with his animals in a pool dug in the sand by hubby, and Z is floating in his giant golden rubber ring (‘It’s so shiny’ we have to sing every time he gets in it) and my mum and aunt are sitting together on the camping chairs with rather too much clothing on and I get to read a few pages of my book, that I look around and breathe it in and smell the salt and feel the sand underneath me and relax into that holiday feeling that we crave all year.
And later when I’m swimming in the clear sea and looking at the Welsh hills around me I can see my youngest building a wall of rocks with another boy and his dad, and I hear them laughing, and I watch my husband, who is my soul mate and who I adore even though he works too hard – climbing the rocks with my six year old. I look over at my mum and aunt who have retreated to the ‘cave’, a shaded area at the back of the beach and are also watching the family, our family, enjoying themselves. And I look at my life and think that it must be possible to feel like this all the time. Because what really makes me happy are the people I have here, the chance to stop and take it all in, and the love that binds us all together.
And all too quickly, our holiday comes to an end. I didn’t even need the water shoes or the wetsuits after all, and half the snacks are still in the cupboard as we start packing up to come home tomorrow. So I’m making a vow to be grateful for all I have every day, and to maintain that holiday feeling as long as I can. Minus the nightly bottle of red wine and daily pain au chocolat.