Imperfect Family Travel

The Queen of Tapas. She, and the lovely Delia, deserve a blog post to themselves. Probably in the bleakness of January’s early cold and dark days, when normal life resumes its relentness pattern and I (at least) will be needing some tasty, moreish Sevillan We Love Tapas moments to keep me satisfied.

In the meantime I’ll come clean.

I’m thinking you might be tired of tempting tapas pictures (posted on FB, Instagram and twitter – like the ones below)?

Possibly weary of a laughing family’s festive Sevilla shots followed by sunny seaside pictures in Nerja’s December warmth? (Ditto parenthesis above).

Yet another perfect family holiday #happydays.

Or…..?

Of course not. We are a family, both at home and away.

Sunshine smiles and salty, splashing in the sea, screaming at the chasing waves…bliss – but we let them stay too long. Feeling the cold with a sudden quickness we should have anticipated. Shoves and snide comments disguised as “jokes” on the tired, scratchy walk home with sand-infested shoes.

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Kind and generous sharing of platters of cheese, iberico ham, grilled fish and vegetable tapas: Mum, would you like some? The meal passes by lazily, we adults sip cervezas, gazing at our lucky kids eating like kings. Then scrapping, selfish fingers swipe the last chip. Our faces fall, shoulders slump, the usual, boring cross words.

Even arguments about who has used another’s toothbrush (I guess I should be grateful they are brushing their teeth, especially on holiday).

Yes we have some pretty as a postcard pictures:

But some lovely landscapes tell a different story. Like the garden by the sea shot on the right, which was taken on a morning run when a hearty dose of headspace was needed.

Other pictures barely betray the minor battles:

And I’ve learned my lesson about never trusting a teenager with enormous potential for sleight of hand: https://www.instagram.com/p/_xMNIJvI2n/

None of these pictures hint at the kids’ nighttime immunity to sleep, when they suddenly become fully fit to fight.

Madrid (first night) was TERRIBLE. So bad I wish I knew how to supersize capitals in italics.

Sevilla was surprisingly good. Perhaps we were so tired we just passed out quarrel-free each night.

Nerja (so far) not so wonderful (nothing to do with our apartment, which is excellent).

Ever heard of the game Musical Beds? No rules. No rhyme or reason as to who is going to misbehave next. Four kids paired up in two bedrooms. First night went something like this:

One pair starts to fight. We calmly try to pacify them with the positive parenting skills we know we must employ. Another child throws in some (deeply unhelpful) words. Stay calm, we tell ourselves. But sparring pair’s ire is reinflamed by the mischievous input of the meddling child. Fourth child cries: I can’t get to sleep. And so it goes on.

Parental positivity wanes. One of us says something we know we shouldn’t: I can’t believe none of you know how to behave, you ungrateful lot. You have no idea how fortunate you are being taken on holiday to Spain. You’ve celebrated Christmas in Seville by ice-skating in the sun for goodness sake!

The other parent turns and gives THAT LOOK: Really??

Then No. 1’s “This is NOT a first-world problem.”

Oh, someone, please help.

The threshold of exhaustion has been passed. Pity our poor Nerja neighbours.

Enter the game of Musical Beds. Which is how I’ve discovered that No. 4 sleeps like he’s a hermit crab. In deep oblivion, he scuttles at speed across the big bed, whacking me wide awake. Then he settles down snug and warm and snores like his father.

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Second night – a bit better, but Musical Beds (and its scuttling crab sidekick) is still the game to play. Third night….time will tell. Judging by the spats on the sofa as we try to incentivise them with a family-friendly movie downloaded on our laptop, it doesn’t bode too well. **

Can we wait until we’re home and in our own beds with our normal routines?

No, not really. Just a bit. Home is good, home is comfortable. But we are a family both at home and away. Imperfectly ordinary with good times and bad.

We love it here, and perfect pictures will permeate our memories in a way that I trust Musical Beds and bad manners will not. My kids (whom I adore even when they are massive pains in the backsides at bedtime and mealtimes and times in between) splashed in Spanish waves on 27th December, while we sat drinking coffee by the beach, faces lifted to the sun. How lucky are we.

I’m hopeful that the sunlight will have poured sufficient warmth and optimism into the Parenting Positively Bank to fortify us in Madrid on New Year’s Eve, as we say goodbye to the old year and welcome 2016, whatever it may bring.

And perhaps that evening the clever thing to do would be to avoid all collisions and conflict (and Musical Beds) and stay up all night like the Spanish … when in Rome … or Madrid.

Which would give us plenty more perfect photo opportunities 😉


  • More to come on Christmas in Seville, the wonderful Queen of Tapas and We Love Tapas.
  • I must re-emphasise that tricky Nerja nights have nothing to do with our temporary and lovely home here, or the pretty town itself. We found Maribel’s appartment through Airbnb. Maribel gave us a supremely warm welcome and has been helping us with odd questions since our arrival. The apartment is spacious, spotlessly clean and very child-friendly (even when our kids are not).
  • ** Morning update: No Musical Beds on Night 3. Only a late night “discussion” with No. 1 😉
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