It’s never fun coming home from a long anticipated holiday – after all, what will you look forward to now? Those fond thoughts of the sun and sea and sleep are no longer – you’re coming back to a cold house, smelling as though no one lived in it ever, unbelievable piles of work, and (for teachers) the toughest half term in the school calendar, all without the daydreams of a sun drenched break with nothing to do to distract you. No, it’s never fun. But when you have children, the post-holiday blues are a special kind of hell all on their own.
You start all holidays (whether going away or not) in a kind of blissful euphoric haze. You get time off! You might be able to spend the odd half hour with your children where you actually concentrate on them and not on that last task at work that you just never got around to doing, or what you’re going to teach year 10 tomorrow! You can lie in! (well, not really, but you can at least stay in your pyjamas) You hit a high somewhere around the middle of the first week, where you’ve never loved your children more, you’ve seen all the friends you never have time to see since you started full time work, you’ve juggled playdates with consummate ease, the children have got on like a house on fire and played together with no threats of violence, AND you’ve read with them every morning. You start feeling like super mum and spend much time congratulating yourself on your skills. You don’t even find them boring! By the beginning of the second week, this is all a distant memory. The kids hate each other. They fight. You’ve run out of enriching activities, and frankly, you’re totally over that anyway. You no longer care how good their reading and writing is. You’d rather eat your own arm than think about what they’re going to eat for yet another meal. They whinge about missing their school friends, even though you’ve had about eighteen playdates and are totally fed up of being incredibly cheerful and super-helpful with other people’s children. You start wondering if you could give them away, just for a few days
When you’ve actually been away, you can multiply this comedown from the holiday honeymoon phase by a million. And if you’ve been to Disney World, you can multiply it by another million, and here are the reasons why:
1. You’ve lost the greatest bargaining chip you ever had. Child 2 lived in abject fear for weeks that she wouldn’t get to go. Once I got as far as picking up the phone and telling her I’d rung Virgin and they were just about to give her plane ticket to someone else. Yes, yes, I’ve read the books about how you should never make threats you won’t follow through on too, but needs must. Now, that ship has sailed. I’ll need to return to the hell of the naughty step.
2. On holiday, you eat chips with everything. Everything. I miss the chips. And the kids get an ice cream every afternoon. In a four or five year old’s brain, just coming home isn’t enough of a reason for that not to continue to happen. Child 2 cried when I refused her an ice cream this afternoon. Actual, devasated tears. It went on so long that I really wished I’d never started it in the first place. It was sunny. It’s the holidays. Let the bloody child have an ice cream. I felt a bit tearful over the lack of chips with my tea, too.
3. People are just happier at Disney World. They wear T shirts proclaiming it. They tell you all the time. There’s this feeling in the air. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the family who were on holiday as a group (two sets of grandparents, who seemed to get on like a house on fire, or perhaps were just drunk or something, a mum, a dad, and a child) The number of adults seemed excessive for this one child, but the dad explained to me that they were about to have another baby, and it was so important that the first one got his first trip to Disney all by himself. The child was two, and he was asleep at the time. I really hope he got more out of it when he woke up; that was a lot of adults to please. But it matters not; these were people who were out to have a good time and nothing would get in their way. Like most of the rest of Disney-goers. I miss that.
4. DIsney employees are paid to make you think they think your child is the cutest thing ever. They express interest in your children on a scale that makes grandparents look uncommitted. Child 2, in particular, clad as she was permanently in a Cinderella dress and bun, accompanied by a couple of cuddly Marie-from-the-Aristocats, proved particularly popular with American students who probably can’t stand the sight of children but who do an amazing job of acting. Now we’re back, I’m having to stop the children waylaying total strangers in the street and regaling them with tales of Jedi training and princess-meeting. Still, it’s an important lesson to learn, children: people are just not that interested.
5. We took an overnight flight home. Child 1 slept for six hours of the eight hour flight, and child 2 for five; at the time we congratulated ourselves on these impressive hours of sleep. Sadly this did not last. By five pm yesterday we all wanted to kill each other. Child 2 cried over – well, pretty much everything.
6. In addition to the overnight flight, there’s a five hour time difference between here and Florida. Child 2 (and therefore I) was awake at 1am. She tried to be quiet but the loud whisper in my ear asking ‘IS IT MORNING YET?’ kind of ruined my sleep for me.
7. Generally, the kids went to bed late while on holiday, and we didn’t read them bedtime stories. This was one of the very greatest things about it; I felt freed from all those tick boxes that I mentally go through at the end of the day about what kind of parent I’ve been, and ditching the bedtime stories was part of that. I know, what a rebel I am. (I know it’s not done to admit it, but I really hate the bedtime story. Every long drawn out, exhausted second of it. I’m sure I’ll miss it when they don’t want it any more, but right now that seems an impossible dream.) Returning from holiday means the return of maternal guilt and therefore the return of Mog for Child 2 and Beast Quest for Child 1. How they’ve been missed.
8. Along with the bedtime stories also comes a return to Making the Children Read. We could all have had a little cry by the end of Child 2’s attempt. And I wanted to throw myself at a wall with boredom after sitting through several chapters of Child 1’s Star Wars book. His enthusiasm, naturally, was commendable and I told him so; I just wish the book was shorter. We also returned to the handwriting exercises he has to do every day; I bribed him with Easter egg to get through that.
9. Your children have never hated each other more. All that queuing for princesses without complaint and rehashing joyfully their Jedi training and playing in the pool is long forgotten. Child 1 winds up Child 2, ceaselessly and incredibly easily. Child 2 cries. (naturally) You want to stop the car and put them both by the side of the road. (not seriously, honestly. My blog about reading with the child attracted some ‘helpful’ negative chat about how I was putting too much pressure on them. I was hoping that people understood that my blog isn’t actually serious on these matters.)
10. You’re no longer on holiday, and you’ve put on at least half a stone, so you should be eating more healthily. No more chips. No more ice cream. No more chocolate. Well, after you’ve finished off the kids’ Easter eggs, of course.
So that’s it….our Disney adventure is over, and the comedown is fully in place. We’ve been, shared the whole lot on facebook with my long suffering friends, and bought the Minnie ears and Chip and Dale hat. And now I’m off to count my blessings that, whinging, tired children and adults notwithstanding, I couldn’t be more fortunate than to have shared it with my favourite people on earth.