There is something special about going on holiday before Christmas.
The rest of the world isn’t quite ready to slow down by mid-December, so it can be difficult to extricate ourselves from all the work and busy-ness and it feels like a lot of effort to get ready for holidays, as well as prepare for the Christmas that will inevitably be on our doorstep the moment we return. We madly organise Christmas presents, attend end-of-year events, do laundry and pack bags, jam everything into the car, cajole and feed tired and restless kids, and tear our hair out whilst travelling with three small children who poke and prod each other in the back seat. But then we arrive. We breathe in the ocean air, feel the sand beneath our toes and all that real-world busy-ness fades away for a little while and we can escape from some of the pre-Christmas craziness.
Each year, my extended family try to get away for a week together before Christmas. It’s fondly known to us as ‘Mitchell Week’, and is a great opportunity for my parents, six siblings and their partners, and all the (now almost 20…any day now) grandchildren to spend some quality time together. While some years we manage to find a house big enough to accommodate all 30-something of us, this year, we escaped to a holiday park at Fingal Head, spreading out between a few cabins, caravans and tent sites. Sadly not all the family members were able to attend the recent holiday so it was a ‘small’ gathering of 25 of us. However, we had an added bonus of friends camping at the same spot for our first weekend away, so it was nice to catch up with them at the same time.
Holidaying with children isn’t always easy, and this week was no exception. As usual, it was difficult to get our excited children to bed when we arrived and no one ever seems to sleep particularly well on the first night away. We also had a bit of a rough start to our holiday, in that Sam had to have a course of steroids (as part of his scheduled treatment) while we were away. While it’s never particularly fun when he’s on steroids, this month was particularly bad in terms of side-effects and we found ourselves doing things like going for a drive at 2am to help him sleep. Poor Sam was so agitated and distressed and it meant that we really couldn’t go far from our cabin. When it reached the point of being unmanageable, our Oncologist gave us instructions to cease the drug mid-course, thankfully, so we were all able to relax a little more and hang out with the rest of the family as the week progressed. We are ever-thankful for the presence of grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins who embrace the ‘takes a village to raise a child’ theory and were happy swimming and surfing, playing with and distracting our cherubs at various times throughout the week. Oh, how we love our village.
As cameras, water and sand aren’t particularly great friends, I chose to be in the moment rather than photograph it, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you about the squeals of delight and the beaming smiles on the faces of my children as they jumped over waves, swam in the crystal clear surf and learned how to ride the waves on boogie boards. They created beach houses out of sticks, crafted sandcastles and collected jellyfish with their cousins. I lost count of how often we applied sunscreen, showered sandy bodies and rinsed and hung out swimwear, but it makes me smile just thinking about how much they loved their beach time.
From swimming in the surf to playing handball with cousins, cruising around the holiday park saying hello to the people they met along the way (or giving their mothers heart-attacks riding down hills), going ‘ghost-crabbing’ on the beach at night, sharing meals together and making up dances for a concert to mark the end of the week… these are all the things childhood memories are made of. It may not mean a week of relaxing with a good book and a cocktail for their parents (although, admittedly, the daddies did sneak out for the annual Mitchell Mens Lunch, and the ladies followed suit the following day), but I feel so thankful my boys are able to share such special holidays with the people they love.
I love being away, but I also love coming home and seeing things with fresh eyes. As we arrived home after a fun, busy beach holiday, our little house felt almost palatial after living in a one-bedroom cabin with three children and all their Lego. And, after having to brush a layer of sand off the bed in the cabin every night before sleeping in it, every surface at home felt luxuriously smooth ;)
Now with just a few days left until Christmas Day, I’m trying to harness any remaining beach zen and not get too caught up in the madness of the ‘silly season’. After all the recent tragedies that have occurred throughout the world, we don’t need to look far to be reminded of the fragility of life. I am counting my blessings, cuddling my four boys, and saying an extra prayer for those missing their loved ones at this time of year.
I’m going to cheat a little and make this my post for week 50, which is also a week late. And I’ve used an iPhone 6 for all the photos, instead of the Nikon. Breaking so many rules this week!