Travelling with kids is dangerous. And it’s not only the risk of bleeding ears from the whingeing.
It should come with a warning: Don’t try this away from home. Especially if you’re O.C.A. – Of a Certain Age.
Last week, I took seven-year-old Grace on a mother-daughter trip to Fiji. The magnificent Malolo Island Resort has just reopened after being damaged by Cyclone Evan last December. We were frolicking in the pool (well, as much as a 46-year-old woman can frolic, I guess) when the challenge came.
“Mum, can you do a backwards somersault?” Grace asked, cocking her braided head. “Sure!” I announced confidently.
Inexplicably I ended up in a backbend, face scraping the bottom of the pool as I tried to come up for air.
“Wow,” another kid exclaimed. “Are you a gymnast?””No,” I replied, clutching my neck, “Just having a mid-life crisis”. It seems my circus trick exacerbated an old head-banging injury.
“Yep, we get a lot of this,” the young physiotherapist sighed. “When you get older, your spinal discs degenerate. You can’t do the things you used to be able to do.”
That would explain the laughter from poolside.
Every other parent around my age had been there before.
Even my boss, Sun-Herald Traveller editor Angie Kelly: “Yes, I have a similar cartwheel-on-sand story that didn’t end well.”
While the average age of all mothers in Australia is 30, the proportion of those having their first child over the age of 35 is about one-in-five.
But one of my school buddies, Ann-Maree Thompson, says her husband is the one who always comes a cropper.
“Jason grated off most of his left calf in a street luge [ sled] accident in Rotorua,” she remembers. “It’s ruined his catwalk career,” she says.
Sydneysider Sanchia Pegley threw her neck out playing “electric piggy” (I am still trying to work out what that is) in the pool with her kids. However, nothing beats the tale told by Adam Mussolum, marketing manager at World Expeditions, who’d just returned from a trekking trip to India.
“My youngest jumps on his pushy and says, ‘Come and get me, dad!’ So I jump on the six-year-old’s bike, knees up around my ears, until I get the wobbles,” he says. “Put a foot down, ran over it, snap! Radical fracture of tibia.
“Now I’m full of titanium and screws,” he says.
Last year, 51-year-old Robert Fairhead showed his son how to do a jump on his Razor scooter, lost control and smashed onto the concrete: “And that’s why we wear a helmet, son!”
“When families go on holidays, it’s easy for parents to forget they’re not as bendy, bouncy and stretchy as they once were because exuberance replaces a reality check,” says Yvette Vignando, publisher of parenting site happychild.com.au.
Angie has different advice.
Laughing, she says, “Have babies when you’re supposed to, and not at 40, like me!”
As they say, you’re only young once.