As a the final part of our three part summer holiday to various places within Belgium we went to De Haan for 3 nights. We stayed in a cosy flat in the middle of town that was decorated with a maritime theme which I feel we helped to enhance by bringing in large amounts of sand from the beach in our shoes.
It wasn’t the most relaxing holiday as on the last day our car got towed away (we didn’t realise there was a brocante on in the public car park where we were parked that morning) and our youngest didn’t sleep very well, but we did get some sunshine and it is a lovely beach at De Haan.
Our elder daughter insisted on listening to Scratch Garden ‘We’re going to the beach!’ on repeat on the drive there, and all throughout the holiday she was ‘singing’ it – look it up on Spotify it is hilarious (the first time, not the the 100th time).
Due to covid travel restrictions we weren’t able to leave Belgium until recently and so we’ve ended up doing a tour of Belgium in pandemic holidays in somewhat extreme weather:-10 degrees Celsius in February, snow at Easter in April and so, so much rain in the summer. We’ve had fun exploring Belgium though and it’s meant keeping our flight free pledge has been very easy!
Our daughters are SO different! The younger one is so happy and cheerful and makes me feel like an excellent parent- since she could say them at 18 months old she started dropping please and thank you into conversation without prompting, and at random points in the day she will ask for a cuddle or a hug which is utterly adorable. She’s only just turned two and while she does obviously have tantrums you can reason with her and (if she’s not in a state of over-tiredness or too hangry even to eat) she will take it on board and calm down. The elder one on the other hand has had incomprehensible tantrums and rages since she was born. I drew these cartoons of her when I thought what we were going through was a universal parenting experience, and it was only as our second child was getting older and I could compare the two that I realised there might be something a bit different going on.
Reading ‘The highly sensitive child’ by Elaine N. Aron Ph. D. and ‘Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids’ by Bonnie Harris both really helped me with understanding our elder daughter and with connecting to her better, which in turn has helped to ward off some of the worse tantrums that she used to have and stopped me from my previous ‘5 MINUTES OFF TV UNLESS YOU….. default mode of parenting with her. I highly recommend them both!
I’m still in the phase with my daughters that they believe everything I say, so when I tell them there will be no (private) cars when they grow up they think it’s true and not just something I really, really hope happens very soon.
We live in Brussels and have two daughters, one who is 6 and in her last year of ‘maternelle’ or nursery school, and one is now 2 who is normally at creche (daycare) 4 days a week.
In Belgium they re-opened creches as of May 2020 and nursery school age children were allowed back to school at the beginning of June 2020. Apart from an extra week of holiday during the November half term and week of virtual school before the Easter holidays in April 2021 they have otherwise nationally kept them open (with ‘bubbles’ operating so that each class of children mixes with a limited number of other classes during break time and mealtimes), but locally at the creche/school level if two cases or more of covid are detected within the same bubble, that bubble would need to be closed for a 10-14 day quarantine.
Up until March 2020 when the Alpha strain of Covid started to really take off in Belgium we were incredibly lucky that neither the creche nor Sarah’s school had to shut down either of the girls ‘bubbles’ (and obviously also very lucky that none of us actually got Covid), so I just had to deal with the usual time off creche during the winter with the younger one when she got ill, but during March the sh*t really hit the fan..
Things got a bit better after this period, and we made it to the summer holidays without any other school/creche closures (our younger daughter had another bout of illness and had to be off for a week and half), but it has put me off applying for any other jobs. I still feel like I need to be on standby for when (not if) something else goes wrong, and even now over 2 months later I don’t feel like I’ve quite recharged my batteries from all the non-stop childcare.
My second daughter arrived 11 days early- luckily a couple of days after the Tour de France cycling competition passed near our house otherwise with all the road closures I’m not sure how we would have made it to the hospital!
I had an epidural for my second labour whereas I had a natural birth with no painkillers whatsoever for my first labour (cartoon story below) and I think on balance my second labour was better. It took me a day to stop feeling queasy and to bond with our second daughter after the epidural (finally getting to drink real coffee again definitely helped!), but whilst I bonded instantly with my first daughter and physically I felt better after the labour much quicker, mentally once the post-labour endorphin high had worn off I felt traumatized by how painful the experience was and didn’t get over her birth for YEARS.