We started thinking about this trip about a year ago when Imogen started school and our first school summer holiday was on the horizon. I knew that I wanted a way to make sure we made the most of the holidays and that we got some quality time altogether. Regular readers will know just how hard my husband works and putting aside a month of family time really helped us to get through some tough, busy times when we didn't see much of him.
Having spent most of my childhood summers in France I have many happy memories of things I want to share with my children. To relive my childhood summers with them. My Mum also lives in France, so it's important for me for my children to have a good connection with her home.
We've had quite a crazy year (I'm sure I say that every single year...good ol' start-up life!!) and having this month off booked into the diary really kept me going when things all got a bit too much. We certainly needed a holiday and some family time. We haven't ever had a proper family summer holiday and the last time we went away for more than a week together was six years ago.
I was hoping that this post would be full of tips and advice on going away for a month with young children. I thought it would be full of enthusiasm and excitement. I thought I would be full of plans to do it all over again next year. Sadly it's not.
We did have some special times and we definitely made some new happy family memories. We had a lovely time staying with my Mum. And best of all the children got really confident in the swimming pool, which was so exciting to see. Being able to swim everyday, was something I really wanted to happen over the Summer. And it certainly did.
However, what I didn't plan was the crazy heatwave and 40°C every day. It was quite impossible. It made us all grumpy. No-one slept very well. We all lived for 5pm when we could finally brave the heat and go out into the pool. We only had aircon in the car (our gite was boiling hot), so most days we went for a drive just to cool down. I also spent a lot of time at the hypermarket in the cheese aisle cooling down! I'm pretty good at being in hot weather. In fact I quite like it but that's when everything is calm, when I can relax by the pool reading a book or having a sneaky nap. That's not going to happen with three little ones around is it? Have you ever tried cuddling an upset toddler in 40°C heat? Yuck! I had to keep dunking him the pool and spraying him with a cooling water spray. He was so sticky. And so sad in the heat.
Being away from home is difficult when children are little, particularly for under 3s. And the concept of a holiday with young children is a totally different thing to a holiday without children is. Fun, exciting and happy it might be but it is much more exhausting than being at home, particularly if the weather is hot. Because it was so hot we needed all our powers of patience to keep it altogether!
When we came home (sadly a week earlier than planned for my Grandma's funeral) I felt terrible for feeling pretty down about what was supposed to be an amazing month away, and actually really relived to be home early. How lucky we were to have had the opportunity to do it in the first place and here I was feeling sad about and definitely unable to write about it here. But then I started talking to other mums and they completely understood, especially ones who'd been in similar heat this Summer. And it was then I started to think that next year we may have a month-long staycation instead of going away full of treats, days out, adventures, creating, games and plenty of naps!
So, our month in Frane turned into three weeks. We did have some lovely times but we didn't come back as refreshed and energized as I had hoped we would. I don't have lots of stuff to tell you because it really all was about getting in that swimming pool at 5pm every day! And I think the next time we attempt a long holiday away from home, the children will all be at least 4.
Apologies if I sound grumpy and ungrateful. I'm just being honest and realistic about holidays with little ones in hot places. It's not always as romantic as it sounds. I do hope you all had better Summer holidays.