So the day has finally arrived. Packing day. We booked this holiday over 12 months ago, I’ve had that long to prepare and yet I feel totally un-prepared for the task before me.
My stomach is turning at the thought of a 7 hour car journey with 3 children aged 10 and under, not to mention the packing for 5 people, an over night stay on a ferry (which requires separate packing), a picnic and two rucksacks. The list goes on and my mind feels terrifyingly numb to it all. More tea and cake, lots and lots of cake.
I find myself scurrying from room to room as my glowing and pregnant sister lies draped across my bed, chuckling. The extremes of my control issues are presenting themselves in new and previously un-seen ways. I begin by rolling every item to achieve maximum surface area to volume capacity and at the same time mindlessly count, count and count again (and yet still manage to be short 3 pairs of socks!) At least someones getting entertained in the process.
The day ends without me crying over something ridiculous and I even managed to cope well with the realisation that the car needs 2 new rear tyres before we can even set off tomorrow but for now I’m happy with the score:
Zoe 1 holiday 0
Lets see what tomorrow brings.
Today the journey to Northern Ireland begins. The picnic’s packed and so are the bags. The need to be compulsive about where specific items are packed has got up and left, along with my calm, happy, holiday face. I’m frantically packing last minute “just in case” items, in the hold all that’s supposed to be for the ferry sleep over. I hope they don’t search it there’s all sorts of crap in there!
It’s 9.30am. The calm before the storm. Everything’s packed – I think (apart from those bastard socks!)
Two hours in and all’s going well. Nieve’s had a massive sleep and I’m feeling like super woman, I’m chilled. The crazy Zoe has re-treated and super-mum has arrived with uber amounts of patience and a zen like feel to her persona. There’s a good possibility that the next 2 hours will be hell, now that Nieve has slept so well, but I’m cool with it. I can totally rock this car journey. I CAN DO THIS!
One hour later – We’ve stopped at Blaise Castle, which has an amazing play area and free parking! The boys are loving the play area. We’ve not even reached the north of England, let along northern Ireland and I’m already freezing. I’m sat writing in my note book with a blanket wrapped round my shoulders. Clearly I’ve lived in the South too long and I’m turning nesh. We’re still at a holiday score of 1-0 to me and I’m taking full advantage of the kids being occupied and chilling out before we get back into the confines of the car. Hopefully Nieve and the boys will relax now they’ve had a run around and burnt off some steam. The boys are playing ninja warrior on the adventure playground. I’m purposely looking the other way, other wise I’ll have to shout and I’m still being zen. The car journey competition is working a treat too. Hats off to Brad for sorting that bad boy out.
30 minutes later – We’re back in the car. We’ve read 5 stories, Nieves nicked Darrell’s sweets and I’ve finally given in and given her the dodo (Nieve code for Dummy). Dylan and Darrell are still working their way through the car game and all we’re getting at the moment is the odd gasp from the back seats a they spot something the other hasn’t.
Only two hours and forty eight minutes to go until we arrive at the ferry according to the sat nav. The tablets are amazing. I’ve decided electronic parenting is my new ethos in Northern Ireland. Brad strikes again. He downloaded a couple of films each to keep them happy. I love that man.
We’re an hour ahead of schedule with a brewers fayre in our sites for dinner (with a play area!) hello wine o’clock!
OK so far everything’s been going just a little too well. I’m re-reading my notes as I’m typing this up and thinking to myself. You fool. How could you have written this down and thought that in doing so you were safe. Surely, as a parent you must realise by now, that in writing such things down you are in fact mocking the parenting gods and angering them into action.
It’s the eleventh hour! We broke down 2 hours ago. After mild smoke inhalation we’re off the hard shoulder and safely in a McDonald/Toys R’ Us car park in Birmingham. There’s a flock of travellers on the car park being escorted by the police and the chavs are looking about disgusted like they’re the model citizens. My little country bumpkins are taking it all in their stride and certainly blend in. Nieve’s rocking her bright pink Doc McStuffins tracksuit complete with glitter writing and crazy car hair. The mucky tomato sauce face finishes the ensemble ensuring she fits right in. I don’t even reach for a wet wipe. I’ve lost all motivation. The zen super mum, of 11.30 am, has well and truly deserted me. In her place is a strung out mess. I’ve seen druggies, on a come down looking more zen but then with only an hour to get us back on the road and the AA guy no where in sight, I feel this overall look is justified. We’re never going to make this ferry. The kids are happily playing, I’ve forced a big tasty down (oh the hardship!) and I’m currently inhaling an apple pie to keep my strength up, vitamin C and all that jazz. Nieves just done a massive poo. The boys are being total angels. Under the circumstances I’m still rocking this shit or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
The AA guys just arrived we’ve got exactly 54 minutes to get this show on the road or we’re getting a 2.30 am ferry instead and with 3 kids that is a no-go zone! I’m watching as Brad nods both approving and thoughtful in equal measure. He’s great with most things, cars do not fit this category and I know he has absolutely no idea what the guys saying. Internally I’m screaming JUST FIX THE F**KING THING! externally I coo at Nieve and play the choo choo chip game. God I feel like a psycho.
After what feels like a lifetime in McDonalds I decide a change of scenery’s in order. Toys R’ Us prepare yourselves we’re on our way. The AA man is MIA having rushed off to get us a part. 35 minutes to go before we’re officially behind schedule and missing the ferry. I hit Toys R’ Us and decide a parental update is in order and phone my mum. Instead of the tears I expect I’m more terrified to discover that, on her answering the phone, my internal dialogue spills out and I hysterically sing “it’s the final countdown” to her down the phone. She thinks it’s good news and shouts with happiness “are you on the road then?” (they’re supposed to be meeting us at the farmhouse in Ireland tomorrow) “Don’t be ridiculous” I answer. “I’ve hit hysteria and need you to talk me down. I’m wandering round Toys R’ Us letting the kids play with all the display toys and hoping I don’t get asked to leave.”
It’s been 20 minutes, we’ve taken pictures of the kids with some of the toys like we’re visiting a local attraction and I’ve had multiple staff wander past me, supposedly on their way to do something, but giving me the eye all the same. Time to leave.
I exit the shop to a blast of cleansing air. The AA man’s still working on the car but I’ve accepted it. Its the 2.30 am ferry. It’s fine. I CAN DO THIS! I’m still not feeling zen but to hell with that. I’m a strong, resourceful woman and we are going to enjoy this trip or so help me……………..The blessed AA man has done it! They really are the 4th emergency service. We’re back on the road and I can’t believe it. We’re going to make it. We’re actually going to get to sleep on the boat. We’ve been on the road now for 9 hours but we’re actually going to do it! The kids are quietly ecstatic and are still being amazing. I can’t believe how lucky I am that they ‘re not being total shits.
Three Hours Later – We’ve made it! We’re on board. I’ve got a tea, Brads savouring a well earned cider. Nieves slept a total of 4 hours today and is currently having a mad hour running round the play area. The boys are also burning off some steam and are wrestling as they slide down the padded ramp of the play area. I don’t care. I’m sitting with my back to them so I can feign ignorance if anyone complains. They’re happy and after being total legends in the car they totally deserve this time. They’re so excited about sleeping on a boat especially as they both get to be on the top bunks (there’s no way me or Brad is trying to climb up there!) No ones mythering me or shouting mum. It’s total bliss. The cabin is basic and clean. I’m so exhausted after 12 hours travelling it feels like a palace.
I’m not keeping score anymore the holiday can kiss my ultra zen ass. It may have won the journey but I will win the WAR……………holiday I totally meant holiday.