A Lovely Little Family Break(down)

6 Jan

I love a good holiday, I would go as far as to say that I’m a bastard for a good holiday, if I could turn life into one big holiday, and I am working on it, then I would. The chance to step out of the 9-5 trudge and remember what it’s like to spend an evening in a state of deep relaxation rather than deep panic is pure unadulterated bliss. I am a terrible person to be around in the run up to a holiday, and I have a run up that would put the majority of Australian fast bowlers to shame, I will busily tell anyone and everyone, no matter how disinterested, all of the luxuries and indulgences that I am about to embark upon; “Did I mention there is a roll top bath on the balcony overlooking the bay? No? Well there is – rumour has it the local dolphin pod put on quite a show for your viewing pleasure although I will probably be too far into a state of deep relaxation from the massage that’s duly being administered to even notice the needy little attention seekers”.

This was to be our first holiday of any length with our plus one. After toying with Thailand and musing over Malaysia we decided that packing up our car full of Max’s creature comforts might be the better bet – I fully subscribe to the happy toddler = happy parent school of thought. Saving a bit on flights made it all the easier to justify splurging a little on a stunning property in Wye River on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. I could picture me and The Boy constructing elaborate multi-tiered sand castles, perhaps indulging in a little father/son beach cricket, who knows perhaps he has inherited his Dad’s legendary surfing genes? Of course he would be going to bed for his usual 3 hour Siesta, did someone say G&T’o’clock? And night times would be sure to serve up no little romance between husband and wife. In short this was to be like any other holiday with the addition of sand castles.
We returned home yesterday after two long weeks, wondering what had just happened to us. I think on Day 4 I was quoted asking “will holidays ever be holidays again?” The problem was, not wanting to put too finer point on it, Max. Try as I may to explain he just couldn’t quite grasp the whole concept of a holiday. He had meticulously planned the onset of his terrible two’s, not such a myth after all, to coincide with my terrific two’s. Of course I can’t lay all the blame squarely at Max’s feet, don’t get me wrong I will try to, but there were some fairly fundamental parenting errors of judgement on our part that led to our lovely little family break, turning into a lovely little family breakdown.
What sort of buffoons would choose their annual holiday, their one chance of the year to switch off and unwind, to introduce their recently turned 2-year-old toddler to the joys of a “big boys bed” – and that would be us. The big boys bed that lacked the comforting prison cell-like confinement of a cot and became the bain of our fortnight. No sooner had wine been poured and Barry White started to work his magic than we heard the pitter patter of tiny feet, “it’s probably just a koala bear with a thirst for adventure. Hang on a minute that koala bear seems to be staring at us through the crack in the door, the dirty little perv”. Fancy that in a matter of moments Max has put two and two together and worked out that no bars = no boundaries. And so for two weeks the little oasis in our day that was meant to have us gently sighing “aaaaahhh” in fact had us screaming “aaaaahhhh” – the spelling is the same but the feeling is quite far removed. One word, or is it two? PORTACOT!
I have a soft spot for the Great Ocean Road, I love it in winter when it’s at its powerful most majestic best, I love it in summer when it all but says come and frolic in my soothing waters and get yourself an ice cream for afters you deserve it. I love every little twist in the road and look forward to seeing what subtle nuances the next turn might throw up. The only thing throwing up was my son. Day trips had been meticulously planned with military precision, a waterfall one day, a berry farm the next and lots of excursions to neighbouring bays – gone, literally minutes of planning down the drain. Wye River is a lovely little place but it’s also 30 stomach churning minutes to the next lovely little place. And so for two weeks we rotated between beach and park, not so bad I thought to myself, we can make this work.
It turns out Max does not care much for the beach, worryingly hysterical near the sea and deeply frustrated by the sand, it did not look too promising. I tried to lure him into life with a multi-tiered sand castle complete with moat, feather flag, stone windows and some abstract seaweed art for the walls but he stroppily trampled on it. I tried the fatherly approach of forcing him against his will into the sea but his force was greater than mine. I encouraged him to throw sand at me in the hope it might flick his seaside switch, but nothing, only a look of shame, pity and embarrassment, with a sprinkling of contempt. So park it was, two weeks, two long weeks at a sub standard park, why would you even bother to build a park with only 2 swings?
To make matters worse, far, far worse, like really worse, the usually well oiled parenting machine that is Mr and Mrs Under was beginning to feel the strain. I tentatively pointed out he doesn’t usually behave this way when it’s just me, she responded by flashing me a death stare, the kind that ensures that the nest thing to leave your mouth comes in the form of a grovelling apology. She suggested I had been undermining her authority, I suggested she had no authority in the first place, I got a well deserved second serve of the death stare. I can’t be certain but I think I saw Max in the background muttering something about “love it when a plan comes together”. The lion suit did give us a good roar though, sorry, again.
The little bit of me time that I managed to scavenge was spent thrashing around in the sea looking every inch the blubbery injured seal and convincing myself over and over that the shadow of my board was in fact a 3 metre shark with big, sharp teeth, all the while the infamous Jaws tune providing a chilling backdrop in my own head. All these factors combined with a total lack of actual surfing ability were not conducive to good surfing. I did however get to use words like gnarly and stoked, which is always a pleasure.

I believed I was signing up to the 3 S’s, Sun, Sea and Sand; instead I was dealt Screaming, Stress and Sickness.

Great to be back and sharing as always with essentiallyjess. Happy 2013 everyone.

61 Responses to “A Lovely Little Family Break(down)”

  1. Cherie (@raisingmax) January 6, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    Good flipping LORD I needed that laugh. And you? You need a holiday!

    … from your holiday.

    I read this to my husband after I’d read it, & it took us back to when our Max was 4 months old, & we decided on a last minute ‘weekend away’ (I guess parenthood hadn’t officially sunk in for us).

    I’ll spare the gory details, but we got moved from our hotel room 9 times (thanks to our screaming 4 month old, & a multitude of complaints from neighbouring guests).

    I hate that realisation when you realise holidays just aint’ holidays any more.

    But it gets better … !

    You just have to take them on MORE holidays!

    I have a Max too, & he just turned 2 at the same time as yours (t’was the season to birth sons named Max, I guess) 😉

    We have just returned from the most INSANELY good holiday to Adelaide, & the south Australian coast (& … wait for it … WE DROVE THERE … from MELBOURNE)

    That’s 18 hours all up.

    And our kid was flipping amazing.

    But I know all about your holiday, & the fights, & the death stares, & the everything you described above.

    Sorry for the novel-like comment, but … this was brilliant.

    I feel for you, I seriously do, but geez it was funny to read as someone who has HAD that holiday & lived to tell the tale!

    Cherie (Cherie Anne on FB)


    • daddownunder January 6, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      You win longest reply ever Cherie, that’s a compliment rather than a complaint. What is it about knowing that someone else has suffered in the same way that makes you feel a bit better about things? Thanks for popping by and I look forward to reciprocating.

  2. Caroline January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Yes … holidays are a blast when it is no longer just two. I am brought back to when we decided to take our 7 year old, 5 year old and 2 year old to Bali. We discovered half way there that our 2 year old and 5 year old do not deal well with turbulence … the 5 year old recovered but the 2 year old threw up the rest of the way there … we were met by our driver at the Denpasar and settled down for our 3 hour car trip to Lovina on the other side (up and down mountains through volcanos etc etc) and my husband and I arrived finally at our destination completely covered in vomit … we were scared stupid at the thought of having to return home! Actually most of our holidays since becoming parents have resulted in lots of vomit!

    • daddownunder January 6, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      Sounds like I just need to suck it up and get used to the vomit Caroline, say it ain’t so?

      • Caroline January 6, 2013 at 9:20 am #

        Pretty much – the said 2 year old is now 5 1/2 and his motion sickness has improved … not disappeared but certainly improved … last year we had the wonderful idea of going over to Heron Island (at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef) … this involved a 7ish hour drive up to Gladstone and then a 2 hour ferry trip over the island … we managed the trip up to Gladstone without vomit … but unfortunately the sea was exceptionally rough and everyone except me and our then 6 month old threw up for 2 hours (husband included) … we were very tempted to shell out the money for the helicopter to take us back … thankfully the sea was calmer coming home …

  3. mumabulous January 6, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – your parenting experience will get easier. Holidays will become fun again in time. Unless of course you go and do something stupid like getting knocked up with number 2.

    • daddownunder January 6, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      Thnak you for your ongoing positivity : ) Number 2 feels alittle further away than it did a fortnight ago

      • Caroline January 6, 2013 at 9:32 am #


  4. Deb January 6, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    No portacot = rookie error. You wont make that mistake again. The longer they are in that thing, the better. We often go camping with our youngins, and have only just made the transition from cot to bed with Miss 3. We also make sure the zipper is up high, they cant escape then. Perhaps try camping next time. Trade off is bird calls at 5am are a bitch….

    • daddownunder January 6, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      I dont think I would cope well with 5am bird calls, next time Bali with Nanny ; )

  5. Nikki Parkinson (@StylingYou) January 6, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    LOL Matt … you crack me up. And yes, holidays are never the same. In two weeks we are taking the teens and our 7YO to Bali. In theory these should be ok ages for a pain-free holiday … but as I sat down tonight to discuss what we were going to be up to during that week, I’m not so sure. The vision in my head involves massages, romance, cocktails and sunsets … will keep you posted.

    • daddownunder January 6, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      I look forward to reading a similar post from you then Nikki, hopefully ticking the massage, romance, cocktail and sunset boxes and leaving the rest to me.

  6. Catherine Rodie Blagg January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    I relate. We don’t get holidays anymore. Just location changes. Love the lion suit, such cuteness!

    • daddownunder January 7, 2013 at 12:56 am #

      It’s expensive to change locations isn’t it Catherine? Might keep the same location for a little while

  7. Julie January 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    We did France when Jarvis was 10 months old and survived. So we are attempting Fiji when he is 14 months. My partner has ideas of scuba diving and white water rafting. I am having visions of sleep and maybe a book. Not sure which of us is more crazy.


    • daddownunder January 7, 2013 at 12:56 am #

      Both scenarios sound like my ideal holidays, I hope they are realised ; )

  8. Steve Adams January 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    I often say to Emily “role the film” when it comes to making plans/moves/decisions. She hates hearing because I’m always saying it but my intention is for us (her) to imagine, really imagine, the scenario unfolding, and by doing so we can we can then minimize wasted energy – otherwise known as kid fuel.

    I know life never stops throwing curly ones but it really can help eliminate the big ones like a PORTACOT!!

    We’ve taken Ava to New York (is that showing off) and 80% of planning was around a PORTACOT!!

    Both kidlets have been driven interstate and every hotel double checked that it has an extra room with a PORTACOT!!

    I love the airline instruction that directs you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before the child – else you’re all f…cked!

    Retrospect is a wonderful thing Matt and I apologise for being master-of-the-bleeding-obvious.

    Hats of for throwing yourselves into the unknown and I’m positive our next trip will bite me on the arse big time…see… I’m rolling the film!

    • daddownunder January 7, 2013 at 12:59 am #

      New York, get you! That takes balls Steve, huge balls. Our dream of taking max travelling for a year before school might just remain a dream I’m afraid.

      • Steve Adams January 7, 2013 at 1:37 am #

        Can you fix my typos? I’m writing like a 2 year old!

  9. Sally@toddlersontour January 7, 2013 at 1:10 am #

    Oh I just feel so sad for you and your wife.

    I guess you kind of forgot that you are now a family and not a couple. Holidays won’t be like that again for a very very very long time.
    Next time just plan a little bit more. Think about what Max likes to do – obviously ensure a great park is nearby and prepare him before travel about bedding and your expectations eg. “stay in bed, we are just in the next room”.

    I find that showing pictures of where we are going and the room we are staying in really helps to relieve my sons nerves before travel and for an anxious child he settles really quickly.

    Good luck on your next family holiday

    • daddownunder January 9, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Lets just say it was a learning experience, some elementary errors on our part that we wont be making again. Thanks fo rstopping by

  10. Robyn parsons January 7, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    Welcome back. Missed ur blog but more seeing u guys at Veg out. Did water ur plot and admired not picked its bounty. Is the apricot tree ready for picking yet?
    Re holiday..I don’t have any and neither did u two b4 Max. Haow are u meant to know all these things about taking a PORTACOT and car sickness unless someone like u flags it. Aka we have to learn by doing.
    Ur all resilient given you’ve come half way around the world to live and grow a Max ( or 2 ).

    I tried living in Austria 4 8 years and tried very seriously having a family with my ski instructor fiancé at the time… Being so far away from handy babysitting grandparents etc is quite simply tough .

    So as an Occupational Therapist who treats kids with autism who have vestibular system disorders ie. otoliths canals and self regulatory problems try some conditioning…swings in a vertical line and build up to the more challenging curves ie roads on playground equipment…
    I also have had motion sickness ALL my life and there is no quick fix unless you can get a medical exemption to put c
    Max’s car restraint in the front seat

  11. Vic @ The Melbourne Dad January 7, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Sorry to hear that your first holiday with Max didn’t go as planned… the first time I took my Bub on holiday was a nightmare too – cue one hysterical baby in a fine dining restaurant, we took turns eating and taking her outside. Like others here, it does get easier, we tend to go away every couple of months, she’s getting better at sleeping in portacots and Bub is quite a seasoned short-haul flyer (thinks turbulence is a rollercoaster ride). We’ve just come back from a beach holiday at Noosa, and she loved playing in the sand, and being in the surf or pool. Here’s hoping that come winter time she also has a love for the snow as I push her down a hill in a toboggan…

    • daddownunder January 9, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      It wasn’t that bad Vic, I think it was just the realisation that holidays will never be the same again that really hit home. Good luck with the toboganning!

  12. bossymummy January 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    Ha ha. Love this 🙂 My 2.5 year old hasn’t realised that he can get out of his big boy bed on his own. He sits in bed until I go into his room and tell him it’s time to get up 🙂 I am holding onto this habit with all my might 🙂

  13. bossymummy January 7, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Ha ha. Love this! Our 2.5 year old, after 6 months, has still not realised he could get out of his bed himself. He waits until I come into the room and give him permission. I am holding on to this habit with all my might 🙂

  14. Rachel Wernicke (@RedcliffeStyle) January 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Haha, so funny. I love the photos too. Rachel xx

    • daddownunder January 9, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      Thanks for stopping by and saying lovely things Rachel

  15. Kaz & Ang (@MeltingMoments_) January 7, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    Hubby and I had a good giggle (at your expense, sorry), as we just (barely) survived a week camping with our toddler. It was exhausting.

    • daddownunder January 9, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      Thats okay, I’m used to giggles at my expense. Camping is a whole other level!

  16. Vicky Finch (@Vicfinch) January 8, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    Well if that wasn’t a thump into the reality of parenthood …
    Best family holiday I have had was to day dream island and Long Island. Both had kids clubs. Which meant I got to have a massage, twice, go scuba diving, and use baby sitting services to go out and pretend that I was 20 odd again. Upside was the kids had a ball at the kids club, fell in love with the baby sitter, and I was a much happier mummy when we were spending time together, because I’d time to feel I was actually on holiday.
    This parenthood gig is a bloody steep learning curve.

    • daddownunder January 9, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      “This parenthood gig is a bloody steep learning curve” – and everytime you think your at the top of the curve you come crashing down again. Thanks for stopping by Vicky

  17. Kirsty @ My Home Truths January 8, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Yep. Unfortunately holidays are never quite the same with kids but they do get better. Just remember the portacot next time…!

  18. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen January 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Aaah portacot!! Just think, next time you’ll be a seasoned pro 🙂

  19. EssentiallyJess January 9, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Ha ha! Welcome to holidays with kids! We’re coming up to week 3 and it has had its challenges, but all our kids are beach babies like their dad so that has been a redeeming feature. Even if it did mean I was camping in sandy sheets for a few nights :/

    • daddownunder January 9, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      3 weeks camping is a good effort without kids, very impressed Jess

  20. Annie Letch January 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Oh I loved reading this, I have been snippily telling people for the last 8 years that it’s not a holiday it’s a trip!! Took our two overseas when they were 7mths and 2 1/2, definitely a trip….including vomit on the longhaul flight from the baby & screaming for days due to jet lag.
    It does get better, as they get older and they stay in bed, as they get older and they can entertain themselves for longer, but I am sorry to say that our first felt like a holiday moment came when they were 5 and 7….. Good luck!

    • daddownunder January 10, 2013 at 2:57 am #

      Thanks Annie for stopping by, longhaul definitely scares the life out of me. 3 years isn’t that far away, gulp!

  21. Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions January 10, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    Dude, a portacot was the very first thing you should have packed in the car. Even me in my relative newbie-ness knows that! My Mum even has one at her house for family dinner night, its a lifesaver!

    We had our first family holiday together when Mia was 7 months old and it went ok as a 7 month old can’t really do that much and hasn’t quite worked out her demands. When we go on our next one in November however, Mia will be almost 2 and bubs #2 will be about 4 months so its going to be very interesting indeed. I think we are gonna have to borrow my Mum’s portacot as well for that trip! Despite the fact Mia will have already been in a big girls bed for 6 months by that stage, its a holiday and dammit if I won’t be caging my children in their beds. We are also thinking of bringing the rest of my family too, I figure that has to give us some alone time for at least 10 minutes at some stage and if not then you know the saying, misery loves company!!

    • daddownunder January 10, 2013 at 2:59 am #

      I know dude, total school boy error! Misery loves company – I like it, spread the pain around a bit.

  22. Nee Say (@NeeSayer) January 10, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    It’s funny because it’s true. *sigh* I remember when holidays at the beach meant laying in the sun for hours devouring a good book & then popping into the waves every now & again to cool down. Now it’s “Don’t go out too deep.” “Don’t touch that jelly fish.” “Don’t throw sand at your brother.” “Don’t stare at that topless sun baker.” Ok, that last one might be for the husband -but only because he’s setting a bad example for the children 😉 Hope the next holiday is a little more relaxing.

    • daddownunder January 10, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Tell your husband to invest in some tinted glasses then he can stare at the sunbaker without getting caught ; )

  23. mamagrace71 January 11, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    Yes, but did you manage to fit in the word “Dude” and do the “shaka” hand gesture?
    That was pretty brave to try and do the big bed thing on a holiday. We’ve just been testing inflatable mattresses for the boys when sleeping over at Grandma’s and my parent’s place. We’ve had a few touch and go moments.

    • daddownunder January 11, 2013 at 5:37 am #

      There was some shaka action Grace and Dude is an ever present in my vocab. Brave, foolish, brave, foolish – foolish. Do I take Mrs unde ron a hot date to see Life of Pi this weekend and get a baby sitter or should I take heed of your tale?

  24. SarahMac January 11, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    Oh god yes I’m still not used to the holiday situ with.kid/s in tow…It’s a bit like the way I get all excited on Fridays still, I’m all TGIF yeah! And then wake up at sparrow fart on Sat morning to pooey nappies and what not, and think, bloody hell who CaRES about the weekend, its all the bloody same to me!!!
    Sorry about crazy.typos, stupid phone bane of my freaking existence…

    • daddownunder January 11, 2013 at 11:36 am #

      Sparrow fart? Is that like the crack of dawn? I might start using that. Thanks for the comment Sarah

  25. Kim-Marie from Kimba Likes January 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    It does get better. Trust me. I have a 8 and three quarters year old. (They learn to count too).

    Our fundamental error this year was not ensuring that his room wasn’t next to the lounge room. We spent our evenings outside wrapped in blankets (it’s cold beside the sea at night). I left the uncle and the Welshman to it once or thrice and watched TV on my iPad with headphones. Not quite the relaxing evenings we’d planned watching a movie and sharing a laugh or three. Whispering outside whilst swathed in bug spray and blankets?
    No ta.

    However, during the day he wanted to help in the kitchen, go boogie boarding, go on day trips etc.

    Our next stop was in a townhouse with him upstairs and us and a big screen TV and a bottle of wine downstairs.

    The only one who got carsick was me!

    • daddownunder January 13, 2013 at 8:49 am #

      Thanks for commenting Kim-Marie and glad you can relate. I can distinctly remember my dad trying to explain to me the rule sof a holiday when i was anipper, I fully understand now why he looked so desperate.

  26. thejennyevolution January 11, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    Please join us for a Friday Flash Blog, where you can share your favorite posting of the week and see what others are talking about at http://www.fridayflashblog.blogspot.com

    And be sure to sign up on our site to get an email notice when the next Friday Flash Blog is live.

  27. Kelly HTandT January 12, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Oh Matt, giving the big boy bed a go on a family trip is an amateur mistake! The only way to make holidays with kids successful is to make it as familiar and normal as possible! I hope you won’t make that mistake twice.
    Love the lion suit by the way, so adorable.
    Nice to have you back!

    • daddownunder January 13, 2013 at 8:43 am #

      Nice to be back Kelly. I am known for my ability to make the same mistake on multiple occasions but not this one! The lion suit made up for it!

  28. Shari Brewer January 13, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    Oh God, you’ll need a while getting over that one. Sorry that your holiday bubble has been burst but at least Max looks super cute as a lion!

    • daddownunder January 14, 2013 at 1:49 am #

      The lionsuit was definitely the silver lining Shari ; )

  29. Carly Findlay January 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Haha too funny (or terribly two funny?). That lion suit is so adorable that it would have made up for the three Ss, I’m sure 😉

  30. mummyto2boys January 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    one word Matt…. camping! i refuse to do the hotel sort of thing with my children 11 and 4 but they both love camping and there are soooo many terriffic child friendly places to go

    • daddownunder January 17, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

      I love camping but it feels a little, or a lot, daunting. Getting him down being the major concern. We will try it though soon and see how we go, it will certainly be an adventure

  31. Raymond March 10, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    I don’t write a ton of comments, however after looking at some of the remarks on A Lovely Little Family Break(down) | dad down under. I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s allright.
    Is it simply me or does it look like some of the remarks look like they are coming
    from brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are writing at additional
    sites, I’d like to follow everything new you have to post. Would you make a list of all of all your social community pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

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