1) First up, I feel there is a need to address the name that such weeks go by. "Holiday". To me, a week at Centre Parcs in the rain with a toddler and a six month old should not, by all standards of logic, be defined in the same way as a fortnight on a beach in Mauritius with only the fizzing of a cold beer and your own thoughts to break the silence. Yes, I had fun and yes I consumed (marginally) more alcohol and (substantially) more food last week than I do most weeks but there, my friends, the similarities end, and trying to shoehorn the two together under a common heading is like trying to draw similarities of musical genius between Justin Bieber and Bob Dylan.
2) I remember years ago my Mum telling me that her very first childhood holiday was a camping trip that saw them cycle over the border from Hertfordshire to Essex and set up camp a mere few miles from home. As a teenager, I scoffed at such ridiculousness. As a twenty something with both income and time at my fingertips, and only myself to organise, I laughed in the face of the "staycation" and took full advantage of European free movement (perhaps a good job I did when I could) as well as accessible global travel. Now? Well, I'm beginning to think that Granny and Grandpa Wallace may have been on to a good thing. Once we had opted for Centre Parcs it was a no brainer that our chosen venue would be the one 20 minutes down the road in Sherwood Forest. I am very much inclined towards the path of least resistance these days. Nothing fills me with dread more than the thought of shepherding my two and a half year old (who will career with ease between running at full pelt and absolutely, categorically refusing to walk) through T4, boarding a plane and spending the next goodness knows how long trying to come up with creative distraction techniques with a solitary colouring book and travel scrabble. 20 minutes in the car (sorry Granny and Grandpa, the bikes were reserved for when we got there this time), and we were into our cabin and opening the wine faster than you can say Peppa Pig.
3) Whilst the attention span of a toddler is, in most day to day scenarios, limited to say the least, when it comes to certain activities there seems no end to their enthusiasm. After his first go on one of the water slides in the "Subtropical Swimming Paradise" (who are they trying to kid, exactly? Paradise, this most certainly ain't) there was absolutely no stopping him. Barely had he reached the bottom before he yelled "more, more". He would have been absolutely content to do circuits of the same piddly little slide all week, had we not dragged him (initially kicking and screaming) to some of the others, including those which he had to be accompanied down. At one point, having plunged face first underwater at the end of a rather rapid descent with Daddy, he practically choked on a lungful of chlorinated water as he shouted "MORE MORE" before he had fully resurfaced. It has to be said, enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. If you had asked me 15 years ago what my worst holiday nightmare looked like, I may well have described something that closely resembled the Subtropical Swimming Paradise on a wet Wednesday afternoon. As it goes MD and I were (almost) as giddy as Littly when it came to being the "responsible adult" that accompanied him.
4) Leading neatly on from number three, is the testing of boundaries and related parental pride. Littly is (I believe) a typical toddler, in so much as he is often loud, occasionally infuriating and increasingly selectively deaf. but he can also be a little shy and a little unsure of himself. Often this will manifest itself in a tantrum, and often I don't handle it very well. But things are different on holiday. Time is more elastic. Patience is more free flowing. His progress in the water came slowly at first, but then rapidly, and it was beautiful to watch as he grinned from ear to ear, where before he had been trepidatious and hesitant. On the Thursday he was booked in to do a (much) scaled down version of Go Ape. He initially refused to put the harness on. There was foot stamping and thumb sucking. But with Daddy's encouragement he did it and Hell, he enjoyed it! We cheered and high fived, but I also took a quiet moment before bedtime that night to tell him how proud I am of him. Time together as a family, regardless of destination, is invaluable during these formative years to encourage wider thinking and greater adventure amongst the security of those they know.
5) 4:30pm is the new 8pm. For dinner, obvs. On a normal day, I refuse to eat my main meal of the day so soon after lunch. However, this was a family holiday, and therefore we decided to participate wholeheartedly as a family, including eating all together. That meant cycling to the "Country Club" (I mean seriously, who comes up with these names??!) for a (questionable) burger and chips in broad daylight, and having to seriously consider whether it was too early to order a large glass of (questionable) wine to accompany it (for the record, the answer to that is a resounding no. This might be a family holiday, but dammit, it's my only holiday). But actually it was rather nice to eat together every day for a week. Even Beth joined in to a degree - she sucked the life out of the odd bit of carrot here and there, munched on barbecued asparagus spears and threw bread in every direction except towards her mouth. Finn was utterly delighted that he had not only his own food, but Mummy's and Daddy's to sample as well. And as for us, we were just happy that this is all considered pretty normal behaviour within the confines of Centre Parcs.
6) It became clear when we got home that I NEVER take enough photos, or rather, enough decent, good quality photos. This time, I went a step further and forgot to pack the camera entirely. Don't do this. As lovely as a candid snap on an iPhone is, I wish we had a few "proper' pictures to document the week. Specifically, one of the four of us which we still don't really have. It just means we'll have to go back next year, and do it all again I guess.
Heaven help us all.