To go solo with the five in the West or to hot-tail it back to Dublin. This is the question. I’m a maximiser. I don’t want their holiday to end. If I can do it, then I should, I reason.
‘Don’t push until something breaks’ he warns. ‘By trying too hard you can do yourself and them a disservice’ or some such wise counsel to which I pay no heed. Until I’m standing at the front door secretly hoping his car won’t start and he’ll have to stay on with us. And then I see his taillights disappearing in the mist around the bend and I’m calling in my head for him hang on a second, I’ll just nab my bag and come too. The old telepathy doesn’t seem to work so well any more.
Safety is the main niggle. Keeping five safe on holidays without back-up. Keeping them safe at home is challenging enough. But there are people around for the unfortunate incidents. Relatives to muck in for the trips to A&E. I watch marque five playing football with a little friend from India here. The friend runs for the ball and slips landing on his arm. His dad goes to him as I rummage in my bag for a plaster. The dad smiles at me and says ‘I think it is broken’. I laugh. Good one. Pretend it’s worse than it is. Reverse psychology. ‘I really do think it is broken’ he says, still with the smile. Calm. He’s being calm, not playing humorous psychological tricks. And the child is calm too. Not a tear in sight. I wish I could be like that. Calm in the face of their injuries. Perhaps there’s a course in it. Which I’d fail. I take the deep breaths and tell them they are fine and smile reassuringly but they don’t buy it. A few weeks ago I was taking them out to the park. They begged to bring scooters/bikes. Marque 5 had his new little birthday bike which up until now had only been peddled around the back garden. I made him change before we left – from shorts and t-shirt to long sleeves and jeans. Stave of the minor grazes. We parked, removed the scooters/bikes and I instructed them to walk down the hill while I locked the car. Before I had the chance to turn the key I watched, as if in slow motion, marque 5 catapult over the handle bars and land on his head. I ran down to him, seeing his face was badly grazed, and he was crying and I was telling him he was fine. Until marque 2 said ‘what about his head, under his hair there, look’ and I picked up his fringe to an enormous pulsating bleeding bruised egg lump. And that was it. Pseudo calm out the window. The terror of damage to the lovely head. I grabbed him, hugged him, ran with him back to the car. Perhaps I hollered at the others to hurry and gather the vehicles. Perhaps a few tears escaped.
‘Are you cross with me?’ the little dote piped up from his seat, as he knew he hadn’t done as I’d instructed.
‘I just wanted to catch up with the others’ he explained.
‘No, I’m cross with myself’ I told him.
‘I should’ve made you wait until I had locked the car. I should’ve had a helmet on you. Your POOR little HEAD’. Perhaps a little sob escaped.
‘Mum, I think you’re making him nervous’ the ever calm in an emergency marque 2 piped up. I used to be like him. Before all the kids and the terror of something going badly wrong.
‘It’s alright, you’ve just got a bump and we’ll take you to the hospital to get it fixed, isn’t that right mum?’
Yes, yes, if you say so marque 2, that’s exactly what we shall do. And the phone calls began and the back up was there and all was well in the end.
His little friend’s arm was indeed broken – in two places. Trying to kick a ball one second and off to Galway City University hospital – over an hour away – the next. We’ve done that trip ourselves a few times – one parent with sick/injured and one with the others. If the need arises while going solo, it’d be all the kids and me in A&E. A scary thought.
They settle into the week with just me fine. The constant rain for the first two days means that we don’t have to push ourselves at all. We can but slob about and meander around town. Their expectations dwindle without the hope of escape to the beach. They all seem perfectly relaxed. The fact that it is a glorious heat wave in Dublin perturbs them not a jot. Me – certainly. Pictures of sun baked home as we shelter from the rain irks me but I don’t let on. We all wait patiently for it to do the courteous thing and arrive here too. Which three days in it’s refusing to do. Oh well. Tomorrow then. Fingers crossed. So far, so good. A bit of adult company wouldn’t go amiss – but hey. They are safe and happy and that’s enough for me. Kind of…
Day four the heat wave visits and at evening high-tide kids and adult holidaymakers appear from all angles – tele tubby style – across the beautiful headland to the best jumping-diving point. There’s infectious banter and camaraderie. Teenagers teaching kids how to dive. Kids leaping and belly flopping, laughing and screaming. Mothers taking deep and then deeper breaths. Crossing fingers. Throwing little prayers to the wind about the safety of necks and backs and keeping the seals and the jellyfish at bay, in that order. Swearing blind to remember their own togs and catapult in tomorrow if the weather holds to share in this turquoise clear Irish Atlantic madness.
It’s a little dizzying keeping track of them all on the rocks and in the sea. I’m constantly counting. They are easy to spot – the only ones not in wet suits. We’ve decided against the whole wet suit thing, reasoning that we never had them and managed just fine. Also, once introduced to the we think they’d never, ever swim without them. As it stands they have great fun in their togs and shivering in towels and changing back into their clothes, before doing it all over again. It seems natural.
‘Where’s marque 3’ I ask marque 2 who always knows where everyone is. Marque 3 is out of sight. We swing around, scanning, and then see him clambering towards us.
‘I slipped off the rocks and hurt my back’ he says and I’m staring at his leg as he turns around to show me his back. The back is grazed but looks ok. When he turns around towards me again it’s obvious that his leg is not. He hasn’t noticed the cascading blood and I have a chance to gather myself before pointing it out.
‘Your leg could do with a bit of attention though’ I say, thinking Galway hospital attention, as he looks down and gets a shock. Luckily I am in the presence of a lovely calm woman – another mother we’ve got to know over the years – and she casts a comforting glance at it and I know from her that it’s not as bad as it looks. I syphon off some of her calmness for myself. She offers to mind marque 5 while I run across the headland to the car. I have a freshly stocked first aid kit, which is most unlike me, in the glove compartment. A cast off from the camping trip. Marque 4 overtakes me running and asks me to throw him the keys. He seizes the kit, locks the car and then runs back past me over the hill waving the kit above his head. When I reach the rocks, marque 2 & 3 are huddled together and marque 1 – with a St John’s ambulance course under his belt – has the first aid up and running. Six disinfectant wipes later I can see that while there are three deep puncture wounds, with a little disconcerting white tissue exposed, we will not be heading off to Galway. Phew. Dogs circle around us and try to make off with the bloodied wipes and marque 3 is laughing again.
There’s a little niggle in my head that won’t go away though. If he’d been wearing a wet suit, this would not have happened. In the name of safety it’s time, perhaps, to revisit that discussion.
All told, it’s good to have stayed and I do it all again the next week for the hell of it. We’re in the groove now, relaxed days knocking around town and evening-time dips. He rejoins us for the bank holiday weekend, upping the scope of the activities and fun, and by Monday evening the question will arise again – should we stay or should we go now.