Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hellidays, horrordays and holidays

Soon after having our first child, my partner and I realised that there was a word missing from the English language.  The missing word is one that means going on holiday with small children.  The word "holiday" used to mean relaxation, spontaneity, carefree meals out at odd times of the day, big days out or complete slothdom, but after a few nightmarish holidays with our children, we reluctantly ditched all hopes of achieving these things. 

Instead we coined the word "Helliday".  Our numerous epic missions travelling overseas or to the other end of the country to visit our families usually involved horrendous road trips or horrific flights, mountains of paraphernalia, upset routines, sleepless nights, "child-friendly" holiday homes on a cliff-edges, far too many trips in ambulances and masses of puke - oh, the puke. (The most memorable one was by my daughter all over the dapper Government Minister sitting next to us on a domestic flight - who was an absolute gentleman about it.)  More often than not we would arrive home from Hellidays broke, exhausted, with a houseload of nits and swearing to never do it again.

Though thankfully as the children grew so did the the fun to hell ratio of "holidays".  There still wasn't a lot relaxation involved, but with older children we enjoyed the freedom to go to interesting places and have amazing adventures. While mostly great fun, these holidays were still very hard work and still had far too many unpleasantly dramatic times.  There were more hours spent in emergency departments in wet swimsuits, a small fortune spent replacing EpiPens, mystery rashes, a heck of a lot of puke and quite a few memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons moments. (The winner is the day my son's leg and my arm ended up raw and bloodied after a nasty encounter with a little-boy's-leg-sized gap and the sharp metal edges of Melbourne's Webb Bridge.) We had definitely moved on from Hellidays, but relaxing on a beach on an island while alternating between swimming and powering through a stack of novels was still just a tantalisingly unachievable dream. We decided we were now in the era of "Horrordays".

But then something miraculous happened.  One morning while on holiday in the beautiful seaside village of Moeraki, I awoke to ... silence.  Hmmm, I thought and picked up my book.  An hour later and the house was still quiet.  Convinced that the children had been stolen from their beds in the night, I sneaked a peek through their door only to find them both tucked up in their beds ... reading.  Yes! Yes! Yes!  That holiday was the first really restful holiday we had had since having children.  We had finally re-entered the world of real holidays.

But often the most restful holidays are the ones we have at home, simply filling the days with day trips or muckingaround at home.  I have had the great joy and privilege of spending many of my children's school holidays with them like this, while my partner carried on working.

But now I am working three days a week and my partner and I are tag-teaming the childcare throughout the school holidays. Already I'm missing that lovely carefree "what shall we do today?" feeling, though I won't begrudge my partner it as he is a decade overdue for some of that joy.  He and our children will no doubt have a wonderful time together because there are plenty of fabulous outings to go on here.  One of the very best day trips around these parts is one that only costs peanuts (ahhh, don't mention peanuts!) and that my partner hasn't been on yet: a visit to Penguin Island.

Penguin Island is just off the coast of Rockingham which is the next city up the coast from Mandurah.  Rockingham has a reputation for being the bogan capital of Australia but a) I live in Mandurah and you know what they say about people in glass houses and b) you don't have to look too hard to find plenty of far more interesting aspects to Rockingham than that.

Penguin Island is accessed by a 5 minute ferry ride.  (Some people walk there along the submerged sand bar my advice is "Don't even think about it". Every year people get caught out by changing weather and the fact that there is only one low tide a day here... and almost every year some of those people die. I reckon our lives are worth the small price of the ferry ride.) 

On this spectacular little island you can visit the Penguin Discovery Centre, see some rescued penguins get fed and learn all about them;

swim; snorkel; walk right around the island; see other penguins in the wild (depending upon the time of the year you go);

see all sorts of other wildlife; relax in the shade and read your book; admire the gorgeous views; have a picnic.  When my children and I went we did all of the above, had one of our very best days since moving here and probably annoyed my partner to bits by raving about it for weeks afterwards.

On the day my partner and children go there I'll try not to get too jealous as I'm sat slaving away in my office.  I'll just remind myself that if ever I want to enjoy all my favourite things about being on holiday packed into one perfect day, then I too can simply spend a day at Penguin Island. The only thing is that our children are now such great company that it just wouldn't feel like a holiday if I went without them.

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