Prior to my illness, my son’s father and I had a good relationship. Money was very tight but on the two occasions I managed to save up enough pennies for a caravan holiday and trip to Pembrokeshire, I invited Rory’s father to join us. Firstly, for Rory to see that just because we didn’t all live together, we were still a family and could do things together. Secondly, I didn’t want his father to miss out on seeing our remarkable little boy enjoying himself. And thirdly, not only did I want to share these precious moments with someone, I also wanted to share the responsibility. I still find having sole responsibility of a little life incredibly daunting and overwhelming!
Unfortunately during my Cancer treatment, our parental relationship took a huge nose dive so any adventures I wanted to take Rory on, would just be the two of us.
Fast forward 2 years, we were coming to the end of the summer holidays and my baby was about to start full time school! Our summer had been filled with exciting adventures but I felt I needed to take him on one last little one before such a big change for both of us.
We had been to Butlins a couple of times before, but always with my Sister and Nieces, not to mention the adult only weekends I have also been to in my youth!! Butlins isn’t for everyone! But when you have a limited budget it ticks all of the boxes!
I was a little apprehensive as we had always had an apartment type of accommodation previously where there was a living space and a kitchen. I was only able to book a room this time. But I was so excited! A weekend of quality time with my boy. Going swimming, seeing shows, staying up late, going to the funfair!
Rory doesn’t eat very much at the best of times so I had to consider all of the non perishable food items I could take with us. His staple diet for 3 years has been peanut butter wraps! They come everywhere with us! As do a mountain of snacks!
So, we finally arrive for our weekend of fun and head to the car park following check in. Hardly anywhere to park and my stress levels are beginning to rise but we manage to get a space a little further out than I had liked. After a long walk to the baggage trolley park, there were no trolley’s! Now this is when I start to go a little bit crazy in my head and fight the urge to have a complete meltdown. I try to travel light but we had clothes and shoes for all weather, toys, food, toiletries, all the essential items for a weekend away, plus a few more!! Being in Budget accommodation meant that we would have a bit of a trek to our room anyway. This is when I feel sorry for my little boy as he is the only person that can help me. Not only is he carrying a backpack and a Mr Tumble bag, he has to leave half of his toys in the car only to be laden down with our coats and essential items. I was the ultimate bag lady, balancing anything I could wherever I could.
I’ve never been a good map reader so our room took a little bit longer to find. My hands were literally about to fall off but Rory spotted our number and in we went. “We’ve got curtains mummy” squealed my excited little boy!!!! “And a toilet, and a TV, and a kettle”. I’m not sure what he was expecting!! But we were both happy to be in our little room. Well Rory was in and out as he has a little obsession with door entry key cards!
So after a quick change it was time for dinner. I remembered that there was a pub with outside play area that would be just perfect. It was not perfect! The whole of Butlins had the same idea and the queue for food and drinks was out of the door. All Rory wanted to do was go out and play but he had to stay with me whilst I ordered and that did not go down too well. My Kevin and Perry son came to life “this is soooo unfair”! He was absolutely right, it wasn’t fair. This is when single parenting is hard. If there was another adult, one could have taken Rory off happily whilst the other stayed in the queue. Instead both Rory and I were getting stressed and to top it all off he needed the toilet! Wine in hand, Rory playing happily, food not eaten because it was awful but happiness restored, thank goodness! Our first night ended with us snuggled up in the most uncomfortable beds with a midnight feast watching TV!
By mid afternoon the following day, I was ready to pack up and go home. This was supposed to be such a special time and all that was happening was that Rory and I kept getting upset. Was I putting too much pressure on us to have a ‘good time’? We decided to start all over again and I finally started to relax! One thing that I have instilled in Rory is that no matter where we are, before he goes off, we must always have a meeting place. I only have one pair of eyes and as much as I try, they cannot be on him every second of every day. I have to blink! Rory usually chooses the place because if it has come from him, he is more likely to remember it! Well this was definitely put into practice when we attended one of the early evening shows in a packed out room.
The amount of people in a very dimly lit room made me panic. Were there any other single parents there worrying about their child being kidnapped? There were no chairs for us. And Rory was very distracted by all of the plastic light toys and bubble machines on sale. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to stay but Rory asked if he could go and sit on the floor in front of the stage with ALL of the other children. Major panic!!! We found a clearing space by a couple of steps which was going to be our meeting place. I made him do a couple of trial runs of going to the stage and coming back immediately so that he could get his bearings. I bought him a plastic light thing as there was less children with them than not which would narrow down my search for Rory if need be! Rory is such a cool cucumber. He had a great time. Occasionally gave me a thumbs up and knew exactly where I was! A was a bundle of nerves!!!
The next evening was a different matter! We got to the show in plenty of time. We had brilliant seats and I sat back watching Rory make friends and play games whilst I had another glass of wine!
Because it was a budget break away, we decided to eat cheaply. For the last 2 mornings, we walked the 20 minutes to the closest supermarket and had 2 breakfasts and drinks for under £5! On our last evening we went to pizza hut! I absolutely loved sitting in the restaurant with my boy. He ordered what he wanted off the menu and was super polite. He was beside himself with happiness when it was time to help himself to the Ice Cream Factory! Rory still enjoys a cup of hot milk in the evening so I took his cup out with us, bought a small carton of milk from the shop and heated up in the microwave at one of the baby food warming stations. These might sound like little things to anyone else but Rory has never been a big eater and would go all day with only a yoghurt and peanut butter wrap. At Butlins, he ate what he wanted when he wanted. And we stocked up on snacks from the supermarket. He did so well.
Rory and I go to many places and have lots of adventures. This was the first one where I had taken him to somewhere so busy by myself. We did have a great time though, eventually! I’m sure we will go back as it has got everything that a busy little boy needs! So who’s coming with us? Because I’m not going on my own!!!!
“Butlins please remember there are many different types of families who use your facilities. Please take into consideration the plight of single parent families when parking, emptying the car and finding their way to accommodation when there are no trolleys available. I only had one child with me, how on earth would anyone with more children, especially younger ones manage?”