When days out don’t go quite to plan

WHEN you work full time, family time becomes precious. We only get two days together a week – and that’s not guaranteed as sometimes Stew works weekends – so we always try to work plan to do something nice or go somewhere different.

Over half term we both took the Thursday off so we could all spend the day together. Luckily, it was a sunny day and we decided to visit a heritage centre we’d never been to before. Stew had heard good things about their Halloween activities, and we thought the boys would enjoy the animal area we’d read about online.

After paying £23 to get in, we realised there wasn’t all that much to do there and that we had two hours to wait until the broom flying lesson that Santi wanted to join in. We ended up having dinner – another £25 – to pass the time, and to be honest we felt a bit flat about the day out that we’d been looking forward to. It just wasn’t going as planned, and I was a bit disappointed that we’d spent our only day off of the holidays there.

As we were heading back to the car, Ezra started pulling us towards a little river that crossed the road. A post van went through it, splashing water everywhere and he giggled like it was the best thing he’d ever seen. We decided on a whim to put the boys’ wellies on – they’re a permanent fixture in the car – and let them have a paddle.

Paddling, of course, turned into the two of them getting soaked through, but it was so worth it. You’d swear we’d transported them to Disneyland, they were having so much fun (well, almost). Santi started off a bit tentative after seeing another little boy slip on a stone, but there was no stopping Ezra. He stomped straight in and started splashing around.

They didn’t care that the water was super cold, or that we were just yards from a car park.  To them it was an adventure, and it was so nice letting them play freely together. They threw stones in to watch them splash, and got deeper and deeper until the water was flowing over the tops of their wellies.

One other family let their children paddle for a photo before whisking them straight out, and it felt nice to be the ones letting their children play.

I’m guilty of being a helicopter parent, and there are days when I would have said no to playing in the river because they’d get cold and wet. But we had spare clothes in the car, and a blanket for them to warm up, and there’s always that sneaky hope that all the fresh air will wear them out enough to fall asleep on the way home.

Plus, how can you deny these happy faces some free range fun?

It reminded me of exploring the river at the yurt we stayed in for their birthdays, except that then we were in shorts and t-shirts enjoying the sun! Still, it was so nice to be outdoors and not cooped up in the house as it feels like we’ve been for the past few weeks. Who knows how many dry days we’ll have over the winter?

What I’m trying to say is that sometimes days out don’t go to plan. You can have a stroppy three-year-old who wants to go straight to the soft play area instead of looking around, or a baby (who am I kidding, we all know he’s a toddler now) who needs to nap but refuses to go in the pram. Or if you’re very lucky, both at the same time. You can spend the best part of £50 on two hours at a disappointing attraction, where you have to cover up the fact that your darling child threw a plastic bottle over the fence into the stream, then cried to get it back, where the animal area is no more than a few chickens and a couple of rabbits, and there’s a meltdown over an overpriced toy in the shop on the way out.

It turns out that sometimes you don’t need to try so hard. All we needed to make Santi’s half term memorable was two pairs of wellies and a flooded road. So, the next dry day we have, you’ll find us at the river. And this time I’m taking my wellies too!

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