What do you get if you
cross a week away with
the extended family,
squeaking bed springs,
the offer of a morning’s
babysitting and a
secluded beach?

by Kate Wattus

 

Now before you start getting all Responsible Parent on me, we were in a tropical wonderland. The weather was seductively balmy and our skin was turning the colour of ripening berries in the sultry north Queensland sunshine.

And I don’t think I can be blamed for the fact that my ovulation was scheduled to occur at about the same time our flight was touching down in the aforementioned paradise.

Nor did I choose to be sleeping on a mattress with a set of springs inside that would, at the slightest hint of movement, produce a cacophony of incriminating noises just perfect for stopping any action in its tracks.

And so it was on the morning of the third day that we received the offer of some grandparental childcare. I hurriedly packed the sunscreen and snorkels into the only backpack I’d brought along on this trip to Heaven; Miss Three’s Wiggles preschool bag.

“Oh god, I’ll carry it,” I said to my edgy-looking Other Half when he spotted the pack.
Besides, nothing could’ve dampened my mood; not even the fabulously primary-coloured piece of Wiggly merch that was strapped to my back on that deliciously mild morning.

My husband told me about a walking track he’d earlier seen on a map, which snaked its way through the bush and onto a secluded beach. The track would’ve been a nightmare in the hot sun with two tired kids who wanted to do nothing but spend the day splashing in the resort pool.

But for us, it provided the perfect destination for a little whinge-free snorkelling and, ah … together time.

The hike down to the beach was glorious. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d been able to do this on holidays; to stroll hand in hand through the bush in thirty degree sunshine without hearing how hot or how tired somebody was. And the view when we got to the beach, oh boy, was splendid.

To say the water was crystal clear would be predictable. To say its colour was like no shade of blue I’d ever glimpsed before is also a little bland. And to say the beach was deserted smacks of a scene from a tacky romance novel on a 50c rack in a second hand book store.

But I swear, it’s all true. The whole thing was very From Here to Eternity (fortunately minus the camera crew).

Well I’m sure I don’t have to go into details about what happened next. Suffice to say that when a mummy and daddy love each other very much, and they find themselves on an isolated tropical beach without anyone asking them to build sandcastles, and so on and so forth…

“Can you keep a look out for hikers,” I whispered, the Mummsy Me never too far from this oceanscape of romance and desire that only an extended period of child-enforced chastity can induce.
“Promise,” he replied.

And as I turned my head so that my very own Burt Lancaster could gently kiss my neck, that’s when I came face to face with an image capable of bringing proceedings even as grand as this one to a screeching halt.

There, leering at me from the side pocket of Miss Three’s preschool backpack was The Captain himself, complete with feather sword and off-puttingly cheerful grin.

I managed to stop myself from erupting into guffaws of unbecoming laughter. And you may be disturbed, but not altogether surprised, to learn that it wasn’t the Good Captain that interrupted events that morning. Rather, a middle-aged hiker who was polite enough to avert his eyes from the surprising spectacle unfolding just metres away from where the track had delivered him onto the beach.

Ahoy there me hearties, indeed.

“I thought you were watching out for people!” I hissed as I scrambled to arrange my bits and pieces, all the while keeping an eye on Hiking Guy, who was only a stone’s throw away from us, and considerately gazing at an uninteresting boat on the horizon.

In another moment or two we were decent once again, frolicking innocently in the shallows, and with all swimmer bottoms covered by, well, swimmer bottoms.

It got me thinking though, about what a wonderfully resilient lot we parents are. Not only are we able to survive on a number of hours sleep that would, under some articles of the Geneva Convention, be considered torture. We are also able to, ahem, function, in the presence of feather swords; in some cases even conceiving a sibling or two while we’re at it.

On the downhill run? Pah! Let’s see a strapping young thing of eighteen or nineteen perform under those conditions. I’m certain that the mere suggestion of the Cold Spaghetti would have most struggling to point their finger and do the twist; especially on a public beach.

Not that I plan to make a habit of startling unsuspecting hikers in my declining years. But those of us on the wrong side of thirty need to occasionally give credit where credit’s due; and even if I say so myself, this was one of those occasions.

My advice is to grab some babysitting and get down to your nearest beach; although it might be an idea to choose your ‘secluded’ location a little more carefully. And as a treat, try leaving the feather sword at home.

 

© Kate Wattus

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem