Well, it sounds like a good idea. Until, on a windswept beach in north Wales, you are dragged into the sea by a child in a full wetsuit (the child, not me; I was in swimming shorts appropriate to a heated indoor pool) and spend the next half-hour wondering if you will get done by a jellyfish. I did get to do the weeing on the jellyfish joke (no, the woman in the coffee cart did not get it), which sort of made up for the borderline hypothermia that we both suffered as a result. Turns out 90mph winds don't make for pleasant beach conditions. Then there were the three women who swam knowingly past the sign which basically said 'don't swim past this sign, mofos, because when we drag you out of the sea at Wexford you won't be able to appreciate it when we say 'we did tell you, you know.' Or words to that effect. But they were grown adults who were capable of making sensible choices about their doings, even if they chose not to. The twenty-month old Tasmanian Devil who seems to dog my every move at the moment does not make these sorts of sensible decisions, which can lead to some tricky situations. He has recently developed the 'ability' to 'run', which he uses mainly to find out that he can't turn his oversized head without falling over. You'd think that the human race would have wiped itself out at a much earlier stage in its existence, watching him. He can, however, utter reasonably intelligible sentences (today's was "Ma get in the water," the kind of bossy instruction that he has learned to talk for the sole purpose of issuing, it seems), which makes up for the lack of physical coordination. This has had the unfortunate side-effect of making him capable of repeating the coarse phrases his father routinely uses, and the fact that the question of vulpine lexicon is used at least semi-appropriately (often with the addition of his own name at the end) indicates that he gets the idea of swearing, even if he doesn't know exactly what he is saying. I know what he is saying, to the extent that I have had to 'fess up to being the source, lest other innocent parties be caught in the crossfire.
This isn't one of those parenting blogs where I tell stories of the inadequacies of my or others' parenting, the funny things my children say and do, or the infuriation of day-to-day life with a toddler. There are plenty of things that would be worth writing about in a more formal context (those who know me will remember that I have a very deep interest in early language acquisition, as well as being interested in how children interact with the world, especially when those interactions are disordered in some way), but this is not the place for it. But I will indulge myself with just the one post, this one, on the subject. Whoever came up with the idea of going on holiday with the children was barking up the wrong tree altogether. It's just more difficult than being at home, because none of the stuff is in the right place, it's windy (and, being north Wales, miserably grey for a decent part of the time), it's steep, the shops are absurdly limited. Although there was a place - crewed by a pair of implausibly large young men - that did an actual flat white, as opposed to the usual flatte on offer, and to add to the charm, it also had a large selection of Thomas-related children's toys for him to play with. How there weren't more folk in there sheltering from the force 12 hurricane blowing in off the sea, I don't know.
So, anyway, after a couple of instances of shoulder-carrying the big one (at 30kg, a not inconsiderable mass to lift) back up the hill from the beach to the house - her recent dance-induced broken ankle having not healed adequately for a pebble beach - and miles of pavement pounding trying to get the small one to sleep, I've come home for a holiday. Except they're still here. They do that to you, kids. Follow your every move. Demand attention at every turn. And, like all the people you love, you don't begrudge them that. Because, even when you're reading Zog for the 812th time, or being forced to watch Peppa Pig (seriously, who is responsible for it? even the 'guess the voice' game loses its entertainment value by the seventh hour...), or standing in the clot-cold sea avoiding jellyfish, it's (sort-of) worth it. Each of those moments spent with someone you really care about, really love, matters both at the time and afterwards. And those moments might be gone (the small one's rendering of his sister's name as a series of tongue-waves and babble is now, sadly, replaced by a recognisable saying of her actual name), but that doesn't diminish the value that they had both at the time and as happy memories. Even the sad ones have their place. If this was a more conventional blog, I guess I might write something inspirational about appreciating all the moments you spend with your loved ones, and living in the moment. But it's not. So, instead, here's a bit from book IV:
“By God, Master Ascham, I miss him,” Elizabeth says, this time with a genuine smile. “All that time we spent together, I never knew how happy I was, not until he was gone.”
“That happiness was real. Look on it as you would a gift of crystal ginger. As you enjoyed it, it was thereby gone.”
“He is still out there, somewhere. And if I know him, he is as crushed as I am.”
“Madam, I have no doubt that he loves you still. But there is nothing to be done with that. Put him from your mind.”
“Have you ever loved, Master Ascham? Have you ever felt it so that one person occupies your thoughts to the exclusion of all else? So that time seems only to drag and grate?”
“Elizabeth,” he says, quietly, compassionately, “I understand. But you cannot live the rest of your life waiting for him.”
“I’m not sure you do understand, Sir. Without him… Nothing has any flavour. It is as thought the colour has gone from the world. It would be easier, I think, if he had died. Then I could grieve for him. But it is the hope that hurts. ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.’ Caritas, Ascham. God does not love me, Sir. And there are times when I cannot find it in my heart to love Him because he has taken my Edward away from me.” Elizabeth breaks down, the sobs taking over. Ascham stands, goes behind her, and puts a hand on her shoulder.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought