Taking your child away on holiday can sometimes be a very dangerous thing to do. In only a few short weeks they can morph into a human being barely recognisable from the one you once knew. As routine, balanced diet and consistency goes out the window, everything you ever taught them seems to follow, including good manners, eating habits and general all round intelligence.
In the case of my 3 year-old, this certainly seemed to be the case. He left Perth a mild-mannered, book loving, happy eater, and arrived in England a screeching, uncontrollable terror. Who wouldn’t eat a single vegetable. Including beans. Coated in tomato sauce. Made by Heinz. Heavens above, what child refuses those?
What the hell happened up there at 33,000 feet you might ask? I’m still pondering the very same question myself – but looking back it’s easy to see where it all went so wrong.
A stranger to sugar and capable of sleeping for up to 4 hours in his afternoon nap, my son found his world being tipped upside down as he was dragged from his bed and shoe horned into the car on the way to the airport. There we were, in the middle of the night, singing to try to keep him awake. Dragging him behind us at speed, force feeding him cookies (albeit low-fat ones) to coax him on a plane he didn’t want to go on, and then telling him he must then lie down and go back to sleep, with bright lights and dinner trays clattering all around him.
It was a recipe for disaster from the start, and the rest of the holiday carried on in much the same vein. Erratic bed times, long stretches in the car, sporadic mealtimes containing all the wrong foods and a difference set of people every time he woke up. To say he was a fish out of water was an understatement. More like a little boy in a parallel universe.
As a direct result of this holiday madness, and so not really his fault at all, his behaviour often veered on the side of manic. Energy levels went through the roof, ears sealed off to reasoning and his mouth went into screeching overdrive. And all in a country where you are no longer allowed to ‘discipline’ your child in public … tricky.
He now saw eating – unless the food in question came under the food group ‘treat’ – as an unncessary inconvenience, and as mentioned before, anything that had once grown up from, across or dropped to the ground was now met with a pursed mouth and muffled cries of “Don’t like it”. A tad frustrating, especially as the week before he’d happily opened up for aubergine and olives.
The ‘highlight’ of this out-of-control behaviour came however, at perhaps the very worst time possible of our entire holiday. I’d go as far as to say, that in the collective 12 years my offspring have been alive, never have I wanted to hang my head so low in shame.
While visiting a potential school for my daughter, my son reached deep into his inner demon and pulled out quite possibly the worst behaviour that the inside of the headmasters office has ever seen. He spread crumbs far and wide (from a biscuit off the tea-tray he’d launched himself at), squeezed his juice box across the polished table and pulled himself back and forwards across the floor like the member of a crack commando team. He climbed on the window seats, threw cushions on the floor and very nearly pulled down the curtains – 4 times. He struggled when I picked him up, pulled at me when I put him down and slithered to the ground when I put him back in his seat. The entire time he screeched and shrieked and laughed like a nutter possessed.
It was pretty toe-curling stuff, as any parent could well imagine.
There we were, talking about school reports and untapped potential and trying to give a good impression. And there was my little monster – who would also be eligible to go there in a years time – bouncing off the walls like Tiger on a mixture of crack cocaine and speed.
The only saving grace in this whole embarrassing ordeal was that the headmaster knew better than to judge the entire family based off of the actions of its smallest member. As well as being a parent, he was also my old English teacher – the teacher who had in fact inspired me to start writing in the first place, many light years ago.
Should this worrying tale of holiday woe begin to put off any parent thinking of taking a break, then fear not, it does have a happy ending.
After the episode at the school, sugar was abruptly cut out of his diet (which was unfortunate for him as this happened before Christmas). Within days he started to ease off his high and calm down again – apparently it takes at least 2 weeks for somebody to go cold turkey where the sweet stuff is involved. Now back in Perth, my son is already back to his old self, and get this, better than before. His manners are perfect, he’s calm and controllable and best of all, he’s eating vegetables faster than I can get them on his plate.
Not that I’d ever recommend killing your child’s routine and dragging them round the world to help knock them into shape, but on this occasion, it seems to have done the job.
Incidentally, the same also seems to be true of Charlie. He went into the kennels as a naughty, barking, escape artist, and come out a changed dog. He is now well-behaved, quiet and far more obedient than the 2 year-old Spoodle that went in. He didn’t even make a run for it the other day, when I accidently opened the garage door without shutting him inside first.
Now, if my daughter had gone in the same direction as my son and the dog, I could have said I had a hat trick on my hands. Unfortunately the excellent behaviour she showed when away (which was enough to get her offered a place at the school) has worn off some, and been replaced with the somewhat emotional and pouting little girl of before.
Still, can’t win them all, and 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.