11 August 2019

Siblings and regret

The other day whilst sat in the bath Theo asked me whether Rohan will always have his disability, it was said with pure curiosity and trying to work out how it would all look. We talked a while about it but the answer being yes, Rohan will always probably have some sort of disability. I explained that it's hard to know exactly what his and therefore our future will look like, that he'll hopefully walk fairly soon, that hopefully he'll be able to speak, that hopefully his medical needs won't always be so great, but that Rohan's life will more than likely be very different from Theo's as he gets older. I explained that Rohan's learning may always be delayed, that he may not be able to live an independent life that Theo will most likely be able to, or like me and daddy have. I said we don't know what will happen with science or Rohan's development so it's hard to know exactly how things will be. He said ok. I asked him if that was ok and how he felt about it and why he asked, and he just said he'd been thinking about it, that it was ok. Then we left it there.

I know he does understand and pick up so much of what goes on with Rohan. I overheard him explain to a friend he met at the festival that his brother has a disability and can't walk, but he (Theo) is ok with it, then he went on to show his friend his CPAP machine and explained that it helps him breathe when he's asleep and without it he might die. It was all very matter of fact but my heart just leaped when I heard him talk about it. He takes in so much, probably so much more than I realise, he has to live with it all just as much as we all do, adapt and deal with the changes and challenges that come with having a family member with additional needs. Not for the first time my heart broke a little for him.

I carry with me a lot of regret and sadness about how Theo's childhood has changed, how his adult life might always be affected, how final and fleeting his own childhood has been now that we seem to be racing towards those later, less somehow innocent years. That all on it's own is enough to make me feel so very sad, the fact that those years of him needing me so much, those years of our family being enough for him and spending all of his time with us is coming a little to an end. He already is more than happy to go spend the day or have a sleepover with his friend and I had a jolt of realisation a few weekends back that those years of spending free time together as a family, going on adventures and walks, playing at home are slowly going to be replaced by taking him places to go with his friends, dropping him at activities and generally slowly letting go and trusting him more on his own. I'm very much not ready for it and it brings a huge lump to my throat knowing that he's no longer my little boy who is at my side. Whilst I find it intense to parent Theo and our days and time together may not always be plain sailing (they're exhausting) I have that feeling that I need to soak it all up now. The fact that he still puts his hand in mine when we cross the road, that he still climbs into our bed when he's had a nightmare, or in the mornings for a cuddle. I feel I wish I had more time, to do it all over again, however hard I found it all.

I often think about how his childhood could have been different, how if we'd had another child sooner what his experience with a sibling could have been like. I hold onto this regret, this realisation that we can't change the past or what has happened and that this is it. This is Theo's childhood, his only one and that it most definitely didn't go the way I planned it to. I would have loved to give Theo a sibling earlier, to see them grow up together and share experiences and have that sibling bond I would have loved for him. Things happened to make it not that way and it's that out of controlness that I hate. The fact that we had a him young, that we needed to get in a place where our feet were on solid ground and a little more stable before bringing another child into the world. The fact that we tried and lost a baby, the fact that it took a while before getting pregnant again, the fact that that pregnancy ended in Rohan. It all adds up to time.

My own childhood and adulthood is made up of two great sibling bonds, friendships that are my closest out of anyone I know and the ones that will always be there, no matter what we all go through. I know that I'm lucky to have this, that through all we've been through together as a family and as individuals that we will always have each other. Maybe that adds to the feeling of regret, knowing that I couldn't give that to my own child. Sometimes I wish we could just magic up a middle child, one to fit perfectly between Theo and Rohan, whether that would ease my guilt and make things easier. The thing is I know this is all silly, I can't change the past and it's all happened for whatever reason.

I know also that I'm looking at it through rose tinted glasses as there's no guarantee that if we'd had a child sooner that they'd even have a close bond, that they'd get along, that our lives would be easier or different. But I think that's what makes me feel sad the most, it's the not knowing how it could have been. I'm not going to lie though, I find the school holidays the hardest. I see siblings all around us, having a mate, even if they don't get along all the time just having someone else to share things with. When we go on holiday, or like to the festival we went to recently I often wish that Theo could have a sibling he could share it all with, someone to go off and play together, to show each other new things, to talk, to experience and have that friendship and companionship that I had. Except he has a brother who will pinch and scratch him and not leave him alone when they're in the same room together making it impossible to do anything together. He can't talk to Rohan and share games or toys or experiences. It's like he's an only child but without the benefit of having our full attention.

All of this is not to say that Theo and Rohan don't have a relationship, because they do, and they love each other. I also know that this experience will hopefully give Theo something that other children won't have, a deep understanding of disability and understanding and championing that and who knows how he'll use that in the future. I've shared many times how Theo is Rohan's biggest cheerleader and always encouraging him so much and is over the moon when he makes progress. He really is a great big brother, there's no doubting that, I just wish perhaps that I'd been able to give him a sibling he could have more of a friendship and companionship with too.

I do also worry about the future, I wonder what will happen when we all get older, how our lives will look and what support we will all have. I'm scared about what will happen when we're gone, and whether Theo will have to take on responsibilities. I feel guilty that it would all fall on his shoulders and not have siblings to share that with. I know it's morbid to think this way, but it's a reality.

All of this really amounts to the fact that I feel so out of control about the whole situation. I hate that we can't change things, that we can't stop time, that things are the way they are and that's that. I don't know what the future holds for us all, I know it will work out one way or another but there's definitely a lot of guilt and regret hanging around that I still need to work through. 

24 July 2019

Summer Holiday to Holland with Eurocamp #AD

 June was that time of year where we set sail across the channel in search of a new place to spend a week essentially reliving my childhood memories by holidaying with Eurocamp. This time though we went a little rogue and decided to go to Holland instead of France. We were heading for a week at Duirnell, Wassenaar not far from Amsterdam and The Hague.

When we were little I had no idea what went into organising the family holiday each year, we were just told near the time that we were going away, cases were packed, we jammed ourselves into the car with our pillows and cuddly toys, ready for that years adventure. I have no idea whether we visited the same park twice or my parents booked a different one each time, but what I do know is that we pretty much always went to France, sometimes quite far down and it often involved the ferry from Dover and long car journeys with the French countryside rushing past the windows. I remember service stations at the side of the road with picnic benches and funny toilets, stocking up in huge hypermarches and the smell of pine trees. But we'd always arrive at the campsite excited and ready to explore, and the memories of those holidays even though they have all kind of merged into one, definitely stayed with me and I'm so excited to show the boys the same experience.

We've been away with Eurocamp for the past three years, the first year in Spain, the second when we collaborated them last year when we visited France and this year we decided to take the plunge and visit somewhere completely different, Holland.

There were a few factors that made us choose this location, and that mainly being travel time and distance. Whilst we'd love to explore more of France it's very easy to under estimate how long it takes to get to different areas, especially those further down in the South. Rohan doesn't travel very well for long distances, so driving 6-8 hours a day wasn't really possible for us. So we looked around at France and the only parks that were a maximum of three hours drive was the park we visited last year, and whilst we loved that one we wanted to try something new. So se widened our search after realising that actually from Calais it's possible to drive straight up and into Holland in a few hours.

We've never been to Holland as a family so it was exciting to discover a new place altogether and do something a little different (for us!) We didn't really know what to expect, but went on the park first and foremost because it looked like it offered everything we were looking for. It still made me feel a little anxious though and not knowing whether it would be the right sort of atmosphere and place for us, but I'm so glad we did as it definitely exceeded any of our expectations! I guess really it would have been good to read a real and honest review and like the one I'm about to write so you can get an insight into choosing the right park for you.

So other than the initial attraction of the driving distance of the park from Calais what attracted us most to the park was the fact it was set in a woodland area, that it had it's own theme park on site and entry was included in our stay. It also has it's own huge water park complex, which is an additional cost, but very reasonable and worth it. We also really liked that it was within easy driving distance of Amsterdam, meaning we could go in and out in one day with under an hour travel time (by car). It was also on the coast and there was a beach a short distance from the park, which in warmer weather would have been lovely to spend a few hours at. Whilst the park doesn't have any kids clubs we thought that actually there would be enough to do there without having Theo go off to an activity, but on the other hand it would be nice to give him the opportunity to go off and socialise with other children.

We were staying in the Avant range of holiday homes, which gave us three bedrooms, one shower room, a kitchen and living area with a large table and a big covered decking out the front with a table for outside eating. We've stayed in a few different styles over the years but I think this is my favourite layout. I liked that there was quite a lot of space in the the living area of the holiday home and the bedrooms whilst small (which you expect), felt like they had lots of storage space. All of the appliances were pretty modern and clean, the beds were also comfy which is a big factor! We did had to visit the reception again as the floor of our holiday home wasn't very clean (Rohan had been on it for about 5 minutes before his hands and feet were pretty covered!) but they did send someone round to clean it for us shortly after. We were also missing our BBQ which did take a day or so to turn up. Other than this we were really pleased with the service and had someone pop round to check everything was ok throughout the week, which was different from last year and we really appreciated it. I feel like we've been lucky that the accommodation we've stayed in has all been fairly new so in good condition.

So back to our stay, when we arrived and finally unpacked and sorted the evening was getting on so we decided to save the exploring for the next day after and just relax after a day of travelling. Theo and Rob headed off to the bar to watch the champions league final whilst I hung out with Rohan and got him settled into his new bedroom (not an easy task!) then enjoyed a glass of wine and a bit of time to myself! The holiday was perfect for sitting out on the decking enjoying the warm evening and surrounded by trees.

The next morning we all got ready for a little more exploring and more importantly to check out the water park. The weather was supposed to be really warm so we figured spending the day in water was a pretty good idea. Entry to the water park wasn't included with the stay, which is a little different from other Eurocamp parks we have stayed on previously, but once we got inside we realised why, as it was it's whole own big park, rather than a pool or two with a couple of slides. We opted for the whole day as we wanted enough time to explore as we didn't really know what to expect and I'm pretty glad we did as we ended up spending around 4 hours in the pool! We all had such a great time trying out all the different slides and pools that it had to offer and we were just blown away at how clean and well thought out the whole place was. There were lots of different areas for Rohan to play in and as the day went on his confidence just grew and grew. He went on a few little baby slides and just enjoyed floating around and all the pools, especially the ones for younger children were all really warm. There was such a great range of slides for all the family, including some pretty fast and scary ones that only the adults could go on! Theo is lucky as he's tall enough to go on most of the rides and our favourites were the ones you could go on together on a giant doughnut float - they were so much fun!

So after our waterpark adventure we headed back to the holiday home for lunch and a well earned nap for Rohan. Rob headed off to the supermarket in the nearby town to get some supplies whilst Theo and I hung out and played with the lego. When Rob returned we decided to have a little bit more of an explore around the site and get our bearings a little more. The whole site is really well laid out though, with a central park area just before that the Theme park and Aqua park are around. There's a main reception building, the shopping and restaurant complex which has a take away and snack bar, buffet style restaurant, supermarket and in the basement a large pub with a bowling alley, arcade games and lots of seating. We had a little look around all of these, played in the arcade and having a little pre dinner beer in the pub!

First of all we went for a walk around the Theme park, which closed at 6pm, but is still open to walk around. The whole site is set in a forest so it made for a pretty nice evening walk to take in the surroundings. We made our way back to the main park (which is less than 5 minutes walk from the holiday home) and played for quite a while, again marvelling at how brave and confident Rohan was. There was a good mix of things for younger and older children to enjoy. The one thing we did think about the park was that there wasn't particularly many areas where kids could go off and meet other children, we didn't really find any smaller parks or sports courts that kids could start games together, and that's one thing that we found a little lacking. From memory that's what I felt like we always quite enjoyed about Eurocamp, going off with our new friends and making up games on site. I think it would be great it you visited with a larger group of family or friends and then let your children go off that way. It did all feel very safe and well looked after though, so if Theo had met friends then I would've felt ok with letting him go to the park on his own. But then again I feel like there was so much to do on site that Theo never really expressed the need to go and meet other children and felt like he was having more than enough fun just with us!

Overall the whole site was just so well laid out, very clean and organised and it just felt like a pleasure to be there. The fact that the whole park was in a forest was just lovely as it felt natural, open and spacious.

After our exploring we headed home for a BBQ (in the rain!) and a sit on the decking with some beers in the evening. It was a pretty great start to our holiday!

I've made a little video of the first few days too!

Our accommodation and ferry crossing was gifted to us by Eurocamp in exchange for a review. All my thoughts, words and images are my own.

16 June 2019

Family adventures: The Forest of Dean part 2 | AD

  (read part one here)

Sunday morning we all awoke to the sun filtering through the trees had a had another lazy breakfast before taking a little walk with the dog round the woodland trail right behind our cabin.

We followed the path through the woods, passed by runners on a morning jog and other dog walkers and spied yet more cabins nestled in amongst the trees. We had a little play and climb in a clearing before continuing on the loop that took us right round and back into the site. This is what I loved most about the Forest Holidays setting, that it was so easy just to step out the door and be immersed in the woods and nature.

Our plans for the day included a trip to the near by Beechenhurst lodge for a walk around and to have a go at the Go Ape they have on site there. Theo actually visited this place for his birthday back in January, where he and two friends and Rob travelled up just for the day to have a go, this is what originally inspired us to discover the Forest of Dean further! Seeing as Rob went last time Theo wanted me to join him, which I did thinking it would be easy but in actual fact I quickly realised that I'm not too keen on heights! This was actually only the kids trail, so I definitely wouldn't be able to do an adult one! Who knew that getting older meant that these fears suddenly creep in without you knowing?! Theo had a great time though, even though he was still a little hesitant - maybe he was picking up on my vibes! The staff were all really friendly and understanding that some people need a little more time and really tried their hardest to make you feel at ease! It definitely makes for a great place to take kids for a birthday or special occasion, or just something fun to do on a day out. Prices are £19 per person and you get an hour up in the trees and it is pretty fun (even if you are a bit afraid of heights!)

After having our fill of the heights we met back up with Rob and had a little lunch in the cafe on site and met up with my mum whilst we played in the park which was lovely for both the boys. We then went on a little walk around the grounds which has a sculpture trail and a mini 'Zog' trail for kids which you could purchase a little activity bag for for £3 in the cafe. Rohan had a little sleep whilst we navigated around and did the trail and the pup loped around having a whale of a time! There is a sculpture trail which we tried to follow in parts, but we either got a little lost or the sculptures were no longe there as we didn't see any which was a shame, but by this point the weather was just starting to turn so we decided to head back to the lodge for dinner.

We had bought ingredients for a BBQ and even though it was tipping it down we decided to have it anyway, but just eat inside, but if the weather had been nice there is a big table on the outside decking which would be perfect for sunny evenings eating surrounded by the forest. We of course had another dip in the hot tub, even in the rain!

On Monday it was time to pack up our lovely lodge and leave, even though we all agreed that we could have definitely stayed for a week and explore more! We were definitely sad to leave, so much so that we decided to stop off on the way home just to make the most of it, plus the weather was pretty lovely so it felt a shame to waste the day seeing as it only takes an hour to get home.

We stopped off at Goodrich Castle where we've been a few times before so we knew it was a good place to spend a few hours. It's set in a beautiful grounds and scenery and it's so interesting to read all about the history of the castle. Rohan had a little wander around whilst Theo and Rob climbed up the towers and we just soaked up the quiet morning!

We had an early picnic lunch back at the cafe and shop area before reluctantly heading back home. It really was such a great way to spend the weekend, and really made us have quality time as a family doing things we all really enjoy. I didn't really realise how easy it was to get to this area from Bristol, especially now that the bridge is toll free and there's just so much more to do here, so we'll definitely be back to explore further, next time even bringing our own bikes maybe!

Our trip was in collaboration with The Forest of Dean tourism board, our accommodation, travel and activities were gifted as part of the review but all words and images are my own. 
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