We had our first night away without the kids last week. Hotel, dinner and a few drinks.
We’d also penciled in a bit of ‘mummy and daddy time’ if you catch my drift. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you must be getting less of it than me. Nowadays we have to schedule sex in with at least three full working days notice and a complete veto allowed at any time from either party.
We kissed the boys goodbye for the entire morning. I felt excited but sad, like when you find yourself in McDonalds for the second day on the trot.
I think they wanted to say, ‘You two go on and have fun. You deserve it after all you’ve done for us.’ But one blew a raspberry and the other chewed at the sock that was still on his foot. They clearly gave a grand total of zero shits about us leaving.
We made a list longer than the Yellow Pages for the grandparents – what to do, how and when to do it. How much to use, which way to wipe and where to put it afterwards.
We loaded up the car in five minutes. FIVE MINUTES! At this stage, if leaving the house goes from concept to reality in less than an hour then you’ve definitely forgotten something. Maybe one of the kids.
We waved to the boys and they ignored us. To be fair, one looked like he was trying to squeeze a poo out.
We drove off into the sunset but both felt weird. We glanced at each other with a nervous smile, like we were doing something wrong. Something illegal. We remarked how it felt like we’d DEFINITELY forgotten something but in truth we both felt empty. Looking in the rear view mirror and not seeing our two little boys was horrible.
But we knew they’d be okay. They were in safe hands.
Or were they? My parents brought me up well enough but that was years ago and the game has changed since then. Back in the 80’s you could just throw your kids a shard of glass and a coathanger to play with while you went down the mine for twelve hours. It was a simpler time to 2016 - my dad can’t work a mobile phone and my mum initially thought the iPad was a sanitary product.
I was nervous and could feel the sharp edge of panic starting to poke me. By the time we passed the next junction all my worries had been put through the ‘Worst Case Scenario’ filter in my mind and I was now imagining scenarios more ludicrous than Donald Trump’s inclusion on the cover of ‘Hairstyle Monthly’.
“Hi, Dad. It’s me.”
“Oh hiya, son. What’s up?”
“Nothing really, just wanted to check everything was okay?”
“You’ve only been gone 2 minutes.”
“A lot can happen in 2 minutes, Dad.”
“Good point. You were conceived in less.”
“Oh Jesus, Dad. Do you really have to?”
“I did that night, son.”
“For god’s sake, Dad. The kids - is everything okay?”
“Yes. Of course it is.”
We checked into the hotel and went straight to the room. I made the mistake of testing the mattress. My wife tried to step in but her flailing arms couldn’t quite reach me.
“DON’T LIE DOWN!”
It was too late. My back hit the top of the duvet and everything went into slow motion. My legs bounced down onto the bed runner and I sank like an iPod Nano into a bowl of soup.
I began what started out as a blink, but my eyes decided to clock-off and not open again, suddenly heavy and stubborn like an old garage door. My head span and the world shut down. Through the fog of sleep whirling around me I could just make out a distant noise.
The feeling was delicious.
I was jolted out of my slumber by my wife grabbing me round the shoulders and yelling in my face:
"Don’t you FUCKING DARE fall asleep!”
I felt like I’d been fished out of a coma via CPR. I needed a drink.
We headed down to the bar and ordered lunch and a pint of Guiness each. We weren’t planning to drink much but it was nice to have a pint during the day. We polished off our food and ordered another pint of the black stuff.
I was beginning to relax.
As we got ready for dinner it took me back to our old holidays before the kids came along. Of course, back then my pants used to fit. Even my undies felt tight and the buttons on my shirt were so taut I feared the waiter may lose an eye if I reached for my wallet.
I was careful not to sit on the bed this time. That beautiful bastard would sucker me in again, I knew it.
At dinner the wine and conversation was flowing as we covered the following topics:
1. The kids
2. How much we miss the kids
3. Trying to figure out what we talked about before the kids
Were they okay? We hadn’t had an update for a while. I tested my phone for signal, then texted myself to check I was still receiving. All fine but no update. I was more anxious than a besotted teenager waiting for a reply from their latest flame.
Another ten minutes went by as I glugged back my wine and stared at my phone. This wasn’t relaxing in the slightest. I figured by now they were probably embarking on a Skittles and Red Bull-fuelled rampage, swinging from the light fittings like Gremlins. I gave my mum a call.
My old friend panic returned (he’d never really left if truth be told) so I rang the house phone. It got to the seventh ring and I was about to hang up when my mum answered.
“Mum! It’s me! Is everything okay? WHY CAN I HEAR CRYING IN THE BACKGROUND?”
“Because some tosser just phoned the house phone and woke everyone up, that’s why.”
I never considered myself an uptight kind of person but this was a brand new situation for me. I apologized, she assured me they were okay and we went for a celebratory cocktail.
We capped the night off with a whiskey at the bar that I didn’t want or enjoy. Make no mistake, we were now shitfaced. Not party drunk either; we were put-me-in-a-taxi-and-don't-worry-I'll-find-my-other-shoe-tomorrow pissed and ready for bed. One by-product of parenthood that nobody tells you about is that your alcohol tolerance level sinks lower than a skater boy’s trousers.
On the way back to the room we half-heartedly talked about the previously scheduled sex with all the enthusiasm of a pair of football fans trudging through the snow just because they had season tickets.
In the end I went for a ‘quick poo’ that took longer than anticipated and when I emerged from the bathroom she’d fallen asleep. I lay on that beautiful mattress and passed out, dreaming about my glorious lie-in.
At 6.20am I jumped up like a soldier who’s been conditioned for battle. Realising where we were I went back to sleep until 7am when the relaxing breakfast in bed arrived an hour early and woke us up by knocking on the door like a fucking bailiff.
We packed our stuff as our heads banged. I felt like shit.
I considered ringing to see if the boys were okay but decided they’d probably be fine. Much more pressing was how I was going to get through the day with a hangover the size of Cornwall.
In fact, all I could think about on the way home was how we needed to do this again, soon. And next time be sure not to drink like a single man in his 20’s when you’re an exhausted dad of twins in his late-30’s...
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