If the sign of a good family holiday is that you’re all knackered by the end of it, then Butlins was a surprisingly good holiday (at least, surprising to me).
Having already recorded my initial, positive impressions at the mid-way point of our holiday, and having now been home 24 hours, here are my reflections on what made this a good holiday.
Firstly, it provided me with a timely opportunity to do some father/son bonding with Toby. Having only just stopped breast-feeding, Toby had previously spent the vast majority of his time with his mother. But, armed with bottles of formula and without work impinging on my days, I got to spend lots more time just sitting around with my younger son, communicating with him and just getting to know him a bit better. It’s a small thing, but a really important one for me. (Conversely, Heather got to spend some decent one-on-one time with Zac, something she hadn’t really had the time and space for since Toby’s birth.)
Butlins’ proximity to the beach – literally, across the road from the front gate – was also a big selling point. Zac had loved his previous experiences with beaches, and this was no exception. Whether it was playing in pools of water, wandering out to investigate the sea, or just generally messing around in the sand as kids do, he lapped it up. (Toby, on the other hand, just blinked at the bright sky.)
And when the weather wasn’t so good, there was plenty of stuff for young kids to do indoors too – stage shows (Zac continues to show a preference for Angelina Ballerina over Bob the Builder), swimming, fairground rides and – Zac’s favourite – the amusement arcades. (I found it mildly perturbing that he sussed out how to play the Deal Or No Deal machine within five minutes.)
By the time we set off for home on Friday lunchtime, Zac was so tired he could barely stand up, wandering past the big soft play area he had scrambled up and down so enthusiastically on Monday with little more than a weary glance. I think that counts as a success.
We’re already talking about going back next year, by which time hopefully Toby will be mobile and able to start enjoying some of what this type of holiday has to offer. And his brother will be a year older and able to participate in even more stuff. I’m really hoping Zac will take Toby under his wing and show him the ropes; we’ll certainly give him every opportunity to do so.
So, Butlins gets the big thumbs-up from me. It may be a touch chav-tastic, but it really was a great place for a toddler to spend a few happy and tiring days. And it wasn’t bad for the parents either.
The only problem is that we now all need another holiday just to recover from this one …