Prague…we very nearly didn’t get there, but we made it – just – and boy am I glad we did! We had a brilliant time, the birthday boy was well and truly taken by surprise, and we had a really lovely weekend of eating, drinking and making merry in truly brilliant company. Just what the doctor ordered, actually, so THANK YOU Czech friends for making it possible for me to be there – and equally to the UK contingent who took part in the childcare relay!
In the blur of the baby and toddler years, I had forgotten just how much I loved the Czech Republic. We used to visit a couple of times a year before we had kids and I am pretty sure we blithely assumed that we would carry on doing so; looking back, we did visit twice with our biggest boy, and then once after his sister had appeared. That final trip was hard work. One was getting over chickenpox and the other was just starting it; all I can remember was being exhausted and blurry and though we never actually made a decision to stop visiting, it just sort of disappeared off the agenda of what felt copable-with, especially after our third arrived. Luckily for us, our lovely Czech friends visited the UK in between times, so I guess I sort of didn’t really notice that we’d stopped going there, if that makes sense.
I’m so, so glad that I went, this time. Even after a gap of six and a half years, and having lost all (and I do mean – ALL!) of my basic Czech in the meantime, I still felt immediately at home when we stepped off of the plane, and even more so when we left the city the next day for our friend’s surprise party. A huge part of this was about slipping back into easy friendships – including reconnecting with some folk that we hadn’t seen since our wedding back in 2002 – plenty to catch up on!
But it was also about remembering how much I love the Czech countryside, and even more than that, the fact that the Czechs themselves are so good at enjoying the great outdoors, just as it is. I’m certainly guilty of overlooking that sometimes – when I’m trying to figure out how to entertain the kids, I’m always focussed on things to do, and places to visit, much more than simply just getting outdoors and exploring. When we arrived at Hotel Kouty for the party, the first thing the Husband and I said to each other was ‘wow, the kids would LOVE it here’ – yet there was nothing but a lake, a forest, and a couple of climbing frames. No overpriced ice cream and coffee joints; no ridiculously expensive pedalos, no rides, no amusements, no crazy golf, none of the stuff they clamour for just because it’s there. But we were right – they would have loved it, and we need to remember that a bit more, rather than always be looking for places with ‘stuff to do’.
I was also reminded how refreshing the Czech approach to parenting is, something I had noticed and hoped to emulate before I had kids myself – but, swept away with all the advice and rules and self flagellation that appears from nowhere the minute you pop one out, I had completely forgotten about. While we were over there, most of our friends’ kids (aged between 5 and 12) were away at camp, where they stayed for 12 days or so, doing all sorts of outdoor activities, with no parental contact whatsoever. My initial reaction was – 12 days? How would my kids manage without me for 12 days? They’d miss me terribly! Who would make sure they were taking their asthma puffs, cleaning their teeth properly, wearing respectable pants? However it gradually dawned on me that this was more about me and my anxieties, and the fact that I’d miss them terribly, rather than about how they would actually cope. Which would probably be pretty well, particularly if they were with their siblings and friends, and if it was simply what everyone did every year. I’m not quite ready to send them off to camp just yet, but I am reminded that I should try and distinguish between what is good for them, and what feels comfortable to me, and not get the two things mixed up.
It also dawned on us while we were away that while a trip abroad with kids who were say 6, 4 and 18 months felt like something we didn’t even want to consider, travelling when they are 9, 7 and 4½ is a whole different ball game, and perhaps it’s time to get back on the horse, so to speak! All the more since while we’ve been spawning, so has everyone else, and there are plenty of other children for them to play with while we get to have some quality time with our chums.
So, all in all a successful trip, and one we are hoping to repeat in the not-too-distant future, this time en famille! To Be Continued!