We’ve just returned from a week in Vanuatu, our first overseas trip with the Mouse. A beautiful resort with friendly, welcoming staff… great food and generous drinks…long days by the swimming pool while Mouse played happily at the kids club…lazy lunches with My Beloved (see previous comment re kids club)…afternoon naps (see previous comment re kids club)…in short, tropical paradise.
Yeah. Right. Has nearly four years of parenthood taught me absolutely nothing?
We had some beautiful moments during our holiday. The lagoon was full of beautiful starfish, and the Mouse loved placing them in little water-bound families. A short ferry ride across the water, Erakor Island resort provided a beautiful playground and white sand and ice-cream sundaes. We found a lovely café in town that was welcoming of kids and their…idiosyncrasies. The Mouse loved the water and looking for coconuts and dancing at every opportunity.
Sadly, though, these were the bright spots in what was an otherwise underwhelming experience.
The Mouse had been so excited about kids club – grass skirt making, t-shirt painting, coconut husking, jewellery making…it should have been a nearly-four-year-old’s dream holiday. However, the kids club was little more than a room with a couple of disengaged carers hovering around the edges. We left her there quite happy, but by the time My Beloved arrived back there with sunscreen (not provided), she was in tears and inconsolable. We took her out, but she was determined to go back for the t-shirt painting at 1pm. She bravely returned to the zoo, er… kids club, and we left her to get some lunch. When we arrived back, she was staring into space while her t-shirt dried in the sun. She was suspiciously paint-free, but had a lovely t-shirt painted by one of the women. It even had her name on it. Needless to say, kids club was not visited again.
So we began replicating some sort of routine for the Mouse that comprised endless trips into the spa, the only pool warm enough for swimming the first few days, and a daily trip into Port Vila. Endless viewings of over-watched DVDs carted all the way from home, sticker books, games with imaginary friends, trying to anticipate mood swings less predictable than Sydney trains…our days were unrefreshingly familiar.
But the holiday was not all about Mouse: both My Beloved and I were made to feel special in our own way. His running shoes were stolen from outside our bungalow on the second morning, and I spent our third night talking to God on the big white telephone. It seemed to be a 24 hour thing – I spent the next day in bed, alternating between hoping they would come change our towels and linen and hoping they would just leave me to wallow in my own misery.
The following day, I felt a little better and we went up for breakfast to the restaurant, only to be greeted by the Sales and Marketing Manager offering her apologies: none of the resort’s staff had attended work that morning. The restaurant was being manned by the marketing, finance and HR team, as far as I could tell and guests were clearing their own tables and taking their plates into the kitchen. Eventually, someone found some bread (frozen and gluten-free, but bread nonetheless), and someone else managed to fill a milk urn…but things looked pretty dire. We hired a cab and went to the Secret Garden and then the lower part of the Cascade waterfalls. I felt headachy and washed out, but by that night didn’t feel too bad and, wooed by the romance of the ferry trip to Erakor Island and a lovely, welcoming restaurant, I decided fettuccine carbonara was just the thing to eat a day after vomiting.
Needless to say, I spent the next day in bed too.
I had probably invested too much hope in the holiday – I acknowledge that. I had visions of us all relaxed, finding an easy rhythm to the day that would include G and Ts around 5 each day. Instead, I wept as we had to dump an only half-consumed bottle of gin at the airport on the way back home because alcohol was the last thing on my mind for half the holiday.
I pictured myself all Pacific Island-chic, looking polished and well-dressed at the breakfast table. Instead, I had puffy eyes and stuffy sinuses, hair that refused to show any interest in cooperating and I wore my shirt inside out to breakfast on the first morning.
I pictured the Mouse making friends with other kids and running off to play happily leaving My Beloved and me to kayak, run, read and…well, you know – do the things that grown ups do on holidays. Instead, we spent our time finding new ways to entertain her (or rather, visiting the starfish in the lagoon two or three times a day) until we could get her off to bed.
Next time, I’ll just hope we all come back free from Dengue Fever and accept anything else as a bonus.