I was warned by parents far more experienced than me, that holidaying abroad with two little people was a different kettle of fish from bygone days of a romantic couple's holiday. I got it, but I didn’t get it - if you know what I mean. You can’t really know until you walk in those shoes. So there we were, the four of us. We survived the flight (thank God for stickers and Paw Patrol), the transfer, the check-in, the air conditioning not working, and the moving of sleeping children up two floors without waking them.
We woke that first morning full of excitement and absolutely starving. We’d go for breakfast. It took 40 minutes to get everyone ready, but that seemed reasonable, and off we went. The one-year-old dawdling, the four-year-old speeding ahead. We had visions of relaxing over croissants but then realised we’d have to tag-team it at the breakfast buffet. The cornflakes tasted different. The UHT milk with extra sugar was an acquired taste. No, you can’t have chocolate. Yes, let’s find straws. With slight indigestion we decided, fair enough, sure we’re not here for the food anyway, let’s head out and enjoy the sunshine. But first, let’s nip back to the room and pop on suncream and swimsuits.
I can feel the smirks of the more experienced parents at the innocence of me thinking there might be any ‘nipping’ or ‘popping’ when there are little people involved. Suncream only makes it easier to wriggle away. It is an undisputable fact that babies poo only in a fresh nappy once their UV suit and arm bands have been prised on. We gather up the beach ball, the lilo, changes of clothes, extra nappies and teddies. We are sweating slightly and need coffee. We make it to the pool and feel slightly irritated when we see every single sunbed has a towel on it. Not that many people around, but plenty of bagsy-ing. The irritation quickly gives way to a dawning: there will be no need for a sunbed, as there will be no sunbathing. None. At no point will either parent lie down.
We walk laps of the baby pool. I’d say 5k per day, no joke. We catch children as they fling themselves into the pool. I try to think of how toned my arms will be as I narrowly avoid another bruise from kicking legs. Prune-like, we eventually convince them to get out of the pool to go for lunch. Lunch consists of ice-cream. We make attempts to encourage salad but can see it’s completely pointless. The afternoon is a repeat of the morning at the pool. But the squeals and laughter from them would melt the hardest of hearts, so despite being exhausted and missing those bygone days an awful lot, deep down we don’t really care.
I guess the moral of my long story is something I work on with my coaching clients: the art of acceptance. In my case, I could feel myself fighting my situation; longing for a bit of me-time, the chance to read my book uninterrupted, to have dinner and a chat with my husband without endless interruptions. But when I accepted that that just wasn’t how it was going to be, I relaxed and went with it. I had fun. I looked for the positives; I had all this time away from work to concentrate on my kids, to give them a great experience, to watch their development as always happens when kids get exposed to something new. It was an incredible week, but only when I stopped fighting.
Now, let’s be clear. Acceptance isn’t lying down or giving in. Acceptance is not putting your energy into fighting something that can’t change. That’s a pure waste of your time. Acceptance is about considering your situation and saying, 'Look, I don’t like everything I see but I am only going to focus on what is within my control'. Everything else gets left to the side. By doing this, you will in fact change your situation - at the very least, your outlook on it, even if not much else changes. A lovely sense of peace can come from acceptance. It can be lovely to just give in instead of always giving out. Like when you are in awful traffic but instead of getting into a rage, you decide to let someone go in front of you. You are still stuck in the traffic jam but you feel good about yourself for that split second, because you did something nice. You changed your situation by focusing on the positives, not fuelling the negatives.
So as we grapple with the end of summer, the start of the school year for many, what in your life could you stop fighting and simply accept? And where could you direct your energy to change something within your control?