We have just been on vacation to Fiji, and came back with more than your usual souvenir. The kids were busy souvenir hunting and came back with little soft toys. Turtle teddies. Four of them. Each child had theirs in their backpack when returning home, and each child’s backpack got pulled aside once through the x-ray machine at the baggage reclaim. On each search, the attendant pulled out a little green turtle.
It was pretty funny actually. I guess they thought the little critters were real and that we were trying to smuggle them into the country. Some kind of rare turtle breed traffickers, or something. They grabbed the backpacks with relish and gusto, only to look rather sheepishly amused when they discovered what was really in the backpack.
Back to Fiji, though. We loved it; had a great time. Until my youngest child developed a high fever on our penultimate evening in Fiji. His fever was UP there. With several other kids, I have experienced 40+ degrees (centigrade) of fever. I know what it feels like to my hand. His was at least 40 degrees. With vomiting. But by the next morning he seemed fine.
However, a couple of days on, and a sudden rash sprung up on his hands and feet. So a quick trip to the doctor later, and he was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease, rather more of a souvenir than we bargained for.
Added to that, my next youngest had a slight fever today, and threw up a few times, so I’ll be watching her hands and feet pretty carefully!
Never mind, them’s the breaks I guess. Especially when your kids want to go to the kids’ club at the resort, and get sneezed on and coughed at, by dozens of other kids.
Other than that though, it was great. The weather was great (we love warm weather), the food was lovely, and plentiful, we kayaked, swam and snorkeled, and just generally unwound.
Maybe we’ll just avoid kids’ clubs next time around.
So now we have a dichotomy, a dilemma, a fork in the road. The trouble is, up until now, we haven’t known which path to take.
On the one hand we have tropical bliss. We are just reaching the end of a week in Fiji, and to be honest, being here on Plantation Island, or a place like it, is like being in paradise.
And on the other hand, we have a life a business opportunities, conferences, courses, lessons, classes, activities for the kids, within a very organized society.
Both paths have been calling our names. And it’s been a problem, really it has.
The main thing any parent wants to do, is to do right by their kids. But do the kids really want to be ferried around from one activity to another, or do they want time spent as a family, doing things together?
Do we want warm weather, or cold? Do we want blue skies, or cold, wet (or snowy) and gray? Does it even matter? When my husband and I lived in the UK, we pretty much didn’t step out of doors for nine months of the year, because it was just too miserable outside.
I realize that we are totally ‘lucky’ to even have the option. Most people just stay where they are born, at least in the same country, anyway. And here, we have the option of several countries to choose from. But it has been a dilemma. Truly.
You see, more than just good weather versus bad weather, and tropical fruits versus apples and pears, is the tearing within our own souls. We are people who want to be busy, yet we also want a relaxed life with no pressure. Business opportunities are important to us, but so is a quiet life. And mixing the two just doesn’t seem to be that simple, when your husband works in Financial Services. We want a life that is easy and peaceful, and slow moving, but then there’s that voice which shouts that we need to find something to ‘do’.
The Law of Compensation is this: if you take the left path, you’ll miss all the opportunities, all the futures that you would have had if you’d taken the right. But if you take the right, you’ll miss the peacefulness and tranquility that you would have had, had you taken the left. The real dilemma is that both are really important to us. We want to have our cake, and eat it too.
So is there a way of doing both?
Up until now, this has not been a rhetorical question. We did not know the answer, and perhaps we still don’t, though we are starting to think more creatively about things. Hopefully we will have our answers fairly soon, because we’ve sold our house and our moving date has been brought forward. We leave in three weeks and will be homeless!
So what would you do, if you had sold up and could do anything you wanted?
Would you travel? Or would you settle somewhere tropical? Somewhere Mediterranean? Somewhere cold? In the country? Or the city? On the beach? Would you try and find another job somewhere? Start your own business? Go and live in a log cabin on a mountain somewhere?
Anyway, watch this space. The answer will come; it always does.
How NOT to travel with a bunch of kids: all taken from one 11,000-mile journey, where we made every rookie mistake possible.
DO NOT attempt an 11,000-mile journey with four kids aged five and under, without having an hotel stopover halfway. You will find that this is a big mistake. Huge. Your kids will all sleep on the first flight, and be wide awake for the next 20 hours, while you and your partner will not sleep for two days straight. You will not cope well.
DO NOT book the bassinet row for you and your nursing new born. Bad move. I am being a little sarcastic here, because of course you should be entitled to a bassinet with a new born baby. However, it is more likely that you will be separated from your husband and the rest of your kids, and sat in between two burly football player types, who booked those seats for the extra legroom. They will be the type who say, “Ugh, babies,” as they sit next to you, and their faces will be about 18 inches away from your exposed breast every time you need to feed your baby.
DO NOT ask to change seats if you are put in between said football players. You will then be moved to another bassinet seat, 15 rows further in front, and will not be able to help your stressed husband with the other three kids. You won’t be able to leave your seat to help him get the other kids to the potty, or to help them with their food, because it will mean disturbing the people you are squished in between. You will either have to wake your new born and bring her with you, or leave her in the care of the strange person next to you while you squeeze by her, knocking her drink into her lap, as you run to help.
DO NOT order a special meal. If you order vegetarian, or gluten-free, or any of the other special meals, you’ll be in for a real treat. They are generally far worse than normal airplane food. And to add to that, they will arrive at your tray table at least an hour before the normal meals get dished out, but only collected at the same time. This means that you’ll have trays of food stacked in front of your littlies for at least three hours. For added excitement, your children will inadvertently send them flying every time they try and get comfortable in their seats. There will be food everywhere, especially as they probably haven’t eaten even one mouthful.
DO NOT decide to wait until you disembark at the end of your flight before you complete the landing cards. You will be too stressed and too tired, and if you’re anything like me, your eyes won’t work properly after such a long trip and you won’t even be able to read the darn things by then, anyway.
DO NOT decide that it’s only one landing card per family, when as a family, you are entering the country on a total of six separate passports. You will stand in line for hours to get through immigration, only to be sent back to the desk for incompetent people, where you will have to fill in the required one card per person.
This brings me back to my previous point:
DO NOT decide to wait until you disembark at the end of your flight before you complete the landing cards. Because IT’S ONE CARD PER PERSON! And that equals six cards. With lots of details on each. And you will be stressed and snapping at your partner; probably one of you will threaten to get on the next plane to where you just came from. Because at that point in time, another 24-hour journey seems a lot less complicated than trying to fill in a zillion things on a card, multiplied by six. Oh, and by now, your kids will be so bored, tired, hungry and exhausted, that they will be roaring and wailing, and rolling all over the airport floor, because it’s just too much, and they can’t take anymore. One of the immigration officers might be kind enough to come and offer to help you, but only after you have been struggling for half an hour, and are halfway through the last card. It will be a very nice gesture though.
DO NOT book a rental car which says it’s a seven-seater, but really isn’t. Instead, it’s a five-seater, with two fold out seats that open in the trunk. If you hire that baby, you’ll have no room for your luggage. Your tired children will end up with suitcases piled on top of them, under their feet, and you’ll end up sandwiched into your seat so tightly that you won’t be able to move again until you reach your destination, and your legs will have gone to sleep by the time you do. H ire a bus. Even if it costs the earth, it’ll be worth it. There is such a thing as false economy, and I reckon this would fit into that category.
DO NOT let the kids drag you out to the pool or the beach, when you arrive at your destination. And don’t try and stay awake for as long as possible. Just sleep, and make your kids lie down until they fall asleep. You’ll probably all be comatose for the next eight hours, but when you wake up, you’ll all be happy again; even if it is in the middle of the night.
Avoid all of these pitfalls, and it’ll be a piece of cake.
We’ve got it down to a fine art now, and I’ve even taken it upon myself to fill in the landing cards at the beginning of each flight. Then I get to sit back and bask in the glow of my own smug competence for the rest of the journey. Well maybe not, but at least I don’t have wailing, rolling kids at our destination airport anymore.