We were away – catching some unseasonal summery weather in a lovely holiday home with a pool. We’d booked very last minute and had been hesitating between several options, studying pictures and descriptions. In the end we chose a villa that had a long list of rave reviews from previous visitors, and we weren’t disappointed.
When we arrived, we discovered that the pictures had really not done the villa justice. It had a vast garden, an orchard, a bird house, a separate pool house with a little fridge and a bar and – there was a children’s play house. With a fence around it. And toys inside. And a tricycle. It was absolutely perfect and we all fell in love as soon as we set foot in the grounds.
Every morning as soon as she woke up, the Girl ran to the back door, pressed her nose against the glass and said hopefully: “Housh?” The Boy christened it “the tree house”, and found some peculiar but apparently very absorbing Boy-activities there that he loved (they involved making a mole hill out of gravel…) There was so much to do: the Girl force-fed the dolls orange juice, the Boy rode the tricycle, he wanted me to read the sign next to the little dog house every day, I was commissioned to Do Writing on the blackboard, we read Richard Scarry books in Spanish, we (I) did puzzles and played with the toy microwave oven.
The Boy and the Girl also had heart-meltingly lovely times when they played together. The cutest was when they sat together on the gravelly ground, the Girl scooping up handfuls of “stones” and handing them to her brother, who piled them high into one of his mole hills while singing a jolly song. They did this for about ten minutes, and all that time the Girl had a little hand resting on The Boy’s leg. When she lost interest and toddled off, the Boy lay down sadly on the ground and muttered disconsolately: “I want to play with you, A.” She just ignored him and tried to make the dollies sit on little stools.
The last time we went on holiday it was in an apartment and the Girl had only just learned to walk. This time, things were very different and she toddled about with great glee, enjoying a bit of freedom to run around. It wasn’t easy, though. Everything was at an angle, or had steps. There was gravel instead of grass, and there were tiles instead of carpets. I was a little worried about whether she’d cope, but in actual fact, the Girl took to the challenge with infectious enthusiasm. As the days went by, she learned how to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. She remembered where all the steps were and would find something to hold on to as she went down them, saying “step, step, step” as she came down. She scrambled and slid up the steep gravelly slopes on all fours at first, but by day four she was walking up them upright, compensating for the angle by leaning forwards and taking smaller steps.
Maybe, I thought, this was just what she needed. Challenges, and opportunities to learn. She certainly got more steady on her feet.
We went to the beach, where she exclaimed in delight over the sand, but expressed some distress at it getting in her favourite strawberry shoes. The Boy took his bucket and spade and continued his mole hill project, getting very annoyed if the Girl tried to get involved or knocked his hill over. The sea, for him, was a source of water to improve the texture of the sand for mole hill building. The Girl, on the other hand, was enchanted by the water itself. As soon as she saw the sea, her tiny face lit up. She ran towards the waves, pulling me along behind her, her little feet sinking into the soft sand. She walked right in, and laughed and cheered and stomped her little feet in the waves, not caring if they soaked her, shouting “plash! plash!”
Our villa was a calm, sunny space where time moved slowly, and we had the time to watch our children play and realise how much they had grown up. There was the Girl, climbing onto chairs and sitting up at the table next to her brother. Her vocabulary exploded in those seven days, with all the new things to see and talk about, and she chattered away saying “S sit here” and “Daddy have juice” and “oh no! ball ‘way!”
The Boy was so independent, inventing his own games, busy with little projects, but also connecting with us on a much more grown up level. He appointed himself Daddy’s swimming coach as he attempted a dip in the ice cold pool. The week was lovely and sunny, but the pool was not heated and I was definitely not going to be doing any swimming. The Husband, however, braved the cold, cheered on by The Boy who counted the steps down into the pool. In the afternoons when the Girl napped, The Boy would come and lie on the sun lounger next to mine and do drawings, stickers or his Peter Rabbit magazine while I read a book. This was a new and pleasant development.
We watched the two of them, playing and laughing and discovering, and felt very lucky. It was lovely to have this pause, this refuge, these frozen moments in time to look and think and sit back and be.
Now, we are back home , trying to cling on to the good things from our week away. We squeezed in another barbecue last weekend and mowed the lawn to make the garden more inviting for the kids to play in. I found that I was a lot less stressed about taking the kids to play outside, having spent an entire week outdoors, and made sure that we were out for a while every day while the sun was shining.
I am also trying to give the Boy more independence and responsibility, trying to trust him more, not doing everything for him because I think it will be quicker.
And the same goes for the Girl, who I often carry out to the car or up and down the stairs, for speed. I have started putting her little feet down on the ground, taking a deep breath and accepting that things will need to take a bit longer, but that in the long run, it will lead to more independent children. So I let her walk up and down the stairs at her own pace.
“Step, step, step,” she says, placing her feet with precision, holding on to the rail with one hand and my finger with the other, her tiny bunches bobbing with every step.
Like spring flowers, we have spent time in the sun and slowly, we are starting to blossom.
Linking up to Loud ‘n Proud over at Mother of Three World. Next week I’ll be hosting so come back then to share more of your proud moments!