Three's A'loud

Take me back to the beach

Spring is here! And with that the thought of holidays. Working in an industry where we generally take care of others while they are on holiday, our family’s occasional breakaways are even more of a luxury than it is for most people. We always promise ourselves we will go away after peak season when everyone is back at work and the beaches are empty but somehow, after peak season, there is always more work to be done and we put if off just a little bit longer…

This year, however, the planets aligned in a miraculous way to send us on a last minute holiday to Durban. At Easter. A full week of relaxation and fun. Sunshine and sand. Cocktails and wine. Happy days.

Except, we kinda forgot for a split second there that we have three kids between the ages of one and eight. Not quite so simple anymore. But hey! We can still have a full week of relaxation and fun and changing nappies. Sunshine and sand and colouring books and crayons. Cocktails and wine and tricycles and bottles and blankies and a mini-portable-pharmacy with everything from pain meds to cough meds to plasters and something for bug bites. Happy days. Excited. Please make sure we don’t forget the wine…

So it came to be that we loaded three little sleepy monkeys in the car at 3AM on a Sunday morning. We figured that it would save us around 45 678 “are-we-there-yets” if they only wake up once we are at least halfway through our road trip. Turns out the joke was on us. Our eldest woke up when we locked the house behind us and didn’t sleep again until after 10 o’clock that night. Our 5-year-old woke up about 2 hours into the 9-hour trip and proceeded to ask 45 678 questions about mountains and clouds and buildings and cows and every other conceivable object we passed along the way. Our youngest, thankfully, slept for a considerable portion of the trip. He only woke up a few times in the most deserted parts of the country where there is absolutely nowhere safe or convenient to stop to give us sleepy smiles… and dirty nappies. For which we had to stop.

Holidays with young children are wonderful, but often they also require a doctorate in Logistics Management. Also, don’t attempt them if you don’t have at least a Master’s degree in Extreme Patience and nothing less than a bachelor’s degree in Not Screaming at Your Spouse Because the kids are Driving you Nuts. But in-between the madness and the tears, the kids wanting to pee on each other because they think a bluebottle stung them and the sand in every conceivable nook and cranny, there are those little magical moments that make it all worthwhile…

When talking about our upcoming holiday, my husband and I envisioned sunrise walks on the beach with hot coffee and laughing children playing in the waves. In reality, our third morning on Durban’s South Beach started with our 5-year-old rolling off the bed and hitting her head on the tiles and then getting hysterical when her 7-year-old sister started giggling. Of course, the baby, being in an unfamiliar environment, barely slept the previous night and so mommy and daddy’s humor-ometers were running close to empty. However, we pulled ourselves together and calmed everyone down… for at least 5 minutes until little miss Fall-off-the-bed punched little miss Giggle for giggling. We managed to get everyone dressed and downstairs for breakfast where little miss Giggle was now little miss Sulking-for-being-punched-by-her-younger-sister and the baby knocked over two glasses of peach iced tea. At least we had freshly brewed coffee in our mouths to make up for the iced tea in our laps.

After breakfast, we had an earnest talk with the kids. We asked them nicely to calm down and be kind to each other and to smile because we were taking them to uShaka Marine World and Aquarium. Yay! Everyone changed their attitudes there and then and we left the building with shouts of laughter and excitement. It lasted all of 90 seconds until one of the girls discovered there was something in her eye. We stopped and checked. Nothing as far as we could see. We had brought along the tandem pram that Grandpa bought the week before in a moment of pure genius and at least she could share it with the baby on the long walk down the promenade until her eye feels better. But then she spotted Grandma in a moment of miraculous eye-healing where she was driving down in that same direction with Grandpa and Aunt Jeanette. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to stop them. They kindly offered a lift to the girls (one of which’s foot now hurt all of a sudden and the other remembering her incapacitating eye injury with a little shout of pain.) But the logistics got a bit complicated and before we knew it all 5 of us were squashed into the car with the grandparents and the aunt and the tandem-pram and the nappy bag and the medicine bag which contained everything in the world except eye drops. Because this blog does not have any age restrictions I will fast forward to longest 3km drive in the history of the world. But suffice to say that by the time we got out the baby was sleeping, Aunt was irritated (and she hadn’t even found the chewing gum on her car seat yet…), Mom was squashed, Dad was grumbling, one girl had a sore eye and the other’s mysterious foot injury was getting worse by the second. And Grandpa and Grandma were probably considering adoption because as parents we were clearly not qualified to keep these three alive and healthy. But don’t underestimate us! We have been doing this for more than eight years. We pulled together, gave the woken up, screaming baby his bottle, put the sore foot and the blind eye in the pram and the baby on Dad’s shoulders. We bade the family a warm and slightly bewildered farewell (they were going shopping) and entered the aquarium…

Upon entering the gates and paying the admission fee the sun broke through the clouds and the kids had a few moments of calm. Blind Sister even helped cripple Sister from the pram which I proceeded to fold up… and get her finger caught in a mechanism.

Armageddon does not even begin to describe it.

The eye was now forgotten completely because the finger was surely going to fall off. That was the one moment in the day that my resolve faltered and I decided this is it. Let’s call it a day. We can go back to the hotel and the kids can watch the 7 hours Tom & Jerry extravaganza while Dad and I read a book and drink wine. Or beer. Or tequila. Or all of the above.

But luckily there were two of us and somewhere in the past 15 years, we have developed that magical amazing ability to find some strength in the moments when the other completely loses their sh*t. So Superdad rallied the troops and saved us all from certain admission to a local mental institution. He lovingly applied some super healing-spit and a few spare kisses to the finger and still had enough left over for the sore foot. And after that, he still had some left over for my sad heart and my bruised ego. I mean proverbial spit for my bruised ego, not literal spit – that would be gross. By the time we entered the dimly lit underground aquarium a few moments later, everyone was calm and quickly filled with quiet wonder. Miraculously the blind eye adjusted to the gloom and the sore foot seemed to heal all by itself as it started running to the huge window with a massive sea turtle swimming towards it from the other side. “Dy da!!!” yelled the baby which roughly translates to “Look there!” and wormed himself down from Dad’s shoulders. I slowly folded up the pram, checking at least 7 times that there were no little fingers close to the clips and started following the three little bodies around. All three were laughing, exclaiming and calling each other over to their latest find. The older sister was explaining sea currents to her younger sister (and me!) and the younger sister was picking up the baby so he could see better. They were babbling and giggling and asking ten billion questions about sea turtles and sharks and Limousines (Uhm, yes really). For very close to two hours there was no fighting and no eye-rolling. No nagging and no tantrums. And just as I thought this magical place could not get any better, Dad stood next to me with a cold beer. Excuse me, what? They actually have a liquor license. The only thing better than watching jellyfish go nowhere slowly with little kids filled with wonder is doing all of that with a cold beer in your hand.

As we walked back into the sunshine much later, I was thankful and humbled and maybe a little tipsy. For my little family, my amazing husband and the wonders of the world we live in. And then one of the girls started blinking her eyes very dramatically. “My eye, mommy! Something is wrong with my eye…”

Holidays with kids are awesome. We look forward to them all year. But chaos will happen. Routines that took us months to perfect will be a long forgotten memory and insanity will reign. The important thing is to ride these waves of hysteria and make sure you don’t miss the little moments of magic in-between. Drink in the few seconds of dreamy wonder when they watch the sunrise on the beach with their sippy cup. Laugh along at the ecstatic joy when they find a beautiful shell buried in the sand. Hug them extra tight when you catch them being kind to one another. When those moments happen, make 100% sure you burn them into your memory forever. You will need the fortification when the next tsunami hits.

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