If you’re a parent but you haven’t yet been on holiday with your child or children, then let me tell you this. Dispense with any fairy-tale notion that you’re ever going to have a relaxing holiday when you go away as a family. Yes, maybe they’ll be a little easier once they hit their teens, especially if you only ever have one child, but those days of going on a chilled holiday as a couple are long gone.
We were probably a little naïve in thinking it wouldn’t be too hard with a two-year-old. I mean, he throws a little paddy simply because a toy car won’t fit under a wooden bridge that’s about three sizes too small for it. So, why we thought he’d be ok I’ll never know. At least we didn’t have the stress of going abroad, as it was just a two and a half-hour drive to a Haven holiday park known as Primrose Valley in Yorkshire.
It’s technically not our first holiday, as we went to Spain for a family wedding when he was only around 5 months old. But that was relatively easy, as he was still in the stage where he slept for most of the day. This holiday was our first trip together where Noah could now take part in activities and enjoy himself, although he had many moments that just made us want to pack up and head home.
But I’m probably being a little too harsh, as we did have fun moments on our holiday. It is, after all, mostly about your child having fun. Yet, we were utterly exhausted by the end of it to the point that we travelled home a day early on the Sunday (we were supposed to be out of our accommodation by the Monday) simply because we could have a day off from work to recover once we were back.
The WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. My son, Noah, wasn’t even one on that date.
Here is Noah just a few days before that.
Here is Noah on the Sunday just gone. He’ll turn two next month.
You can sort of chart the course of the year by looking at his hair, which has obviously grown a lot since the pandemic began over a year ago. It was whispy and thin at that age. It’s now longer and thicker, and he has the most magnificent bedhead every morning.
We’ve had few opportunities to get it cut, with hairdressers being open for a few weeks before having to close again. Cutting it ourselves just makes it look like we’ve put a bowl on his head, so we’re content to keep it as it is for now.
But you can also see how much his face has changed. He’s now a little boy who can run around and say over 50 words. I’m constantly amazed by every new little thing he does, and he has a cheeky little character that always has me in fits of laughter.
It’s a shame that the majority of a year of his life, which is a long time in a child of his age, has been spent being cooped up within the same four walls. We try to go for walks or go to the park when the weather is fine, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re limited to your local area and lots of activities you can do with your children are still closed.
He still gets to the go to the childminders, so at least he has the social contact that he is mostly being deprived of in other areas right now.
It’s the effect that the coronavirus pandemic has had on children that worries me the most. Maybe not so much Noah, as he’s still very young. But all the kids at school and the amount of learning – or simply just being able to be a child – that they’ve missed out on.
It’s been hard for us all, mentally and physically, but I hate that children have had to miss out on chunks of their childhood. It’s something they’ll never get back.
Everything changes when you have a child, including every room in your home. You’ll even find a sign of their presence in the rooms they never go in (at least that’s what they want you to think). You’ll find a random object that’s on the other side of the house from where it’s supposed to be. While the back of the sofa is apparently a good place to store your toys. This is their home now, you’re just a guest who happens to feed them and change their dirty nappies.
Here are three photos that show a child has well and truly taken over your home.
The bath is no longer a place to relax after a long day at work. It’s now a place where you have to peel off various bath toys that are stuck to the surface of the bath, or completely give up and kiss your relaxing soak goodbye. That’s if you even get the chance to have a bath, because you’ll inevitably hear your child screaming about something downstairs while they’re with the other parent. Bath bombs and candles cease to mean anything.
As I said yesterday, we fill our home with books so that we can encourage Noah to be a big reader as he grows up. My child must be super advanced for his age, because he’s suddenly giving me book recommendations by deciding to carry one of his books from his bedroom and popping it on top of the stack of books that lies next to my side of the bed. Either that or he thinks I’m socially inept and I struggle to say hello to people.
Finally, your living room will go from looking neat and tidy to a complete bomb site within the space of 5 seconds. Because your child also has an attention span of about 5 seconds for each and every toy that they own. Once everything is out on the floor, they’ll inevitably get bored and wander off to try and play with something that they shouldn’t be touching, leaving you to accidentally step on one of their toy bricks for the 50th time.
Oh, and that carpet you spent a small fortune on? Milk stains, milk stains everywhere. Admittedly, giving him a bottle of milk to run around with isn’t the best idea we’ve ever had. We should now be fully aware that a toddler will simply throw their bottle once they’ve had a swig from it.
My wife also wrote about the final point and used the same photo. While it looks chaotic, it’s actually been worse, and that photo only shows a small slice of the living room. He also appears to be watching TV in that photograph, completely ignoring the chaos he’s caused around him.
If you’re about to become a parent, just be prepared to deal with every object in your home being suddenly sticky and you have no idea why. There’s little point in trying to keep the perfect home, especially when it will be all torn apart as soon as they wake up or walk through the front door. Just deal with the fact that this is your life until they’re old enough to fully comprehend what tidying up means. Of course, by then they’ll probably be refusing to do chores, but that’s something we can look forward to having to deal with in the future.
This is a fantastic initiative that I’m 100% behind. Its mission is to promote reading for pleasure to kids around the world, saying that it’s ‘the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income’.
I completely agree with this and I believe it’s important to start reading to your child as early as possible. While it may feel a bit silly to read aloud to a 4-month-old who isn’t understanding a word you’re saying, it gets you in the habit of doing it for when your child is older. Plus, their brain is already developing the fundamentals of language before they can even speak. The more words they hear, the more words they’ll ultimately start to learn.
Reading has always been a massive part of my life and I want the same for Noah. I vividly remember when I was first learning to properly read, lying in bed with a Biff, Chip and Kipper book and suddenly realising that I understood the words. When a child finally learns to read, it opens up a whole new magical world for them. Until then, parents should take the time to read to their kids. We do with Noah, and while it may not seem like he’s always listening, he’s definitely still taking in the words (and he’s getting pretty good at words too, as I wrote about in this post).
As the years rolled by, I’d be that kid who tried to read with a light under his covers, frantically turning it off when I heard one of my parents coming upstairs. I fell in love with the worlds on the page. They allowed my imagination to run wild while also teaching me a hell of a lot about life. I was always baffled when a friend would say to me that they never read books, other than what they had to for school. Reading for pleasure was a foreign concept when TV and video games existed, and I imagine that maybe their parents didn’t read to them much as a child. While I love TV and video games things too, one of my favourite parts of the day was climbing in bed with a good book at night – and still is – even if it cost me a couple of hours of sleep.
To help Noah develop a love for books, we’ve made sure that our house is filled with books. We’ve got three bookcases upstairs and a bookcase downstairs, which is a feat considering that we don’t live in a large house. One of the bookcases is a smaller one in Noah’s room, and it’s now rammed full of books. Some of the books may be for kids a few years older than him, but we’re planning ahead. Just look at him getting a book from it here:
Whenever he goes into his bedroom, he’ll always run over and grab a book off the shelf (ok, usually more than one!). He’ll then flick through it to look at all the pictures, and we’ll read it to him on the floor or when he’s in his cot.
When the lockdown is over and our local library opens to visitors again, I can’t wait to take Noah there to browse through the children’s section. Hell, I can’t wait to go there just for myself. I love the library and regularly have around 4 or 5 books out at a time. It’s a great way to read without spending a fortune (which I end up doing anyway, as I still buy books) and also supports a valuable institution that should be a part of every community.
I’ll write more on libraries in the future, because I really want to stress how much we should support them. For now, remember to read to your kids. It will expand their minds and help them develop into a well-rounded, intelligent adult. Plus, you may just unlock a passion that will be with them for life, and you may just catch them reading a book instead of watching mindless YouTube videos of people unboxing toys.
If there was ever any doubt that my child is growing up in Lancashire, you only have to listen to him. He’s still a month shy of turning two, but his words are now coming thick and fast. It feels like every day he comes out with a new word.
We use a series of flash cards with pictures on to help him learn new words, and I feel proud to say that I taught him the word ‘apple’ by doing this (he delights in repeating it over and over again whenever he sees an apple or a picture of one). He’s getting so good that he can say what each picture is for about 80% of them now. It’s fascinating to see a little human learn before your eyes.
With these words comes a maturing accent. Most of the words come out as little squeaks, but there is one thing he loves to say that sounds like a heavy Lancastrian accent. The Burnley form of it, of course.
Whenever we go to the childminders, we have to drive down a narrow country lane that’s riddled with potholes, which have only grown larger and deeper due to the couple of months of freezing days and snow we had. The car jumps up and down as we drive over these, and it’s in this moment he’s learned to say ‘alright’. He’s probably heard us say it to each other, but for some reason he always chooses this particular moment to say it.
But it doesn’t just come out as ‘alright’, it comes out as ‘ALRRRRRRIGGGGGGHT!’ in a heavy North West England accent.
It’s hilarious. I’ve started thinking about getting him a flat cap.
When he says it, he looks at us with a questioning look on his face, so it feels like he’s genuinely asking us if we are alright because the car is bumping up and down. We always answer that we are alright, and then repeat the word back at him, which he copies again. He knows we find it funny too, as he grins when he says it back again.
It’s these little moments that I’ll always remember. I’m endlessly fascinated by all the new things he learns, like it’s the most surprising thing in the world for a growing child to be developing and growing his own personality. Most people won’t care, as it’s the way humans should be developing. But for a parent these moments are pure magic, and it always makes me look forward to what’s to come.