Travel and absence is supposed to make the heart grow fonder, but not for some siblings…
Travelling with kids is interesting. For the last few years I have been going to Wales in summer half term to attend a festival I work on, often with kids in tow. Over the years, things have happened en route which have made the trip more challenging. One year, only son developed chicken pox en route, for instance, and had to spend much of the time stuck indoors with my mum. Last year daughter one navigated us into a field with Google maps and we ended up having to chase chickens into a shed at 9pm because we had chosen to stay on a farm.
Over the years levels of interest in festival-going have risen and fallen among my children. Daughter two has never been a fan. “I am soooo bored,” she has said on multiple occasions. She prefers to roll down hills and lie in meadows than go to talks about books. This year she had GCSEs as an excuse. Daughter one was working and only son refused to come unless Jeff Kinney [author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid] was there. So it was down to daughter three and me.
Daughter three had organised the accommodation via airbnb. She went for a city location this time round…no danger of chickens. It’s a five-hour journey with traffic. Daughter three had prepared a playlist. A lot of it involved BTS, the Korean pop band she is nuts about, but she had kindly thrown in some Eurovision and George Michael. Cars are great places for conversations with teenagers. They are entirely captive and in exchange for listening to BTS on a loop she was obliged to talk to her mother. She’s a great companion and also a very efficient assistant. She was on email and text checking duty in case any of the people speaking at the festival had last minute problems and was very adept at locating petrol stations, car parks and the like.
Our accommodation was in the basement of a large house and we didn’t get there till very late on the first day, after stopping off at the festival. We were sharing a double bed, but daughter three is still a bit worried about the nits so she put pillows all down the central part of the bed as a ‘nit barrier’. I told daughter three that nits can hop quite far and probably over a pillow. I found her in the furthest corner of the bed in a BTS mask the next morning. Somehow or another she managed to get BTS onto the tv. I negotiated a brief respite to watch the news.
Daughter two texted daughter three. Only son had scrunched up a BTS picture of hers after accusing her of taking some of his pocket money. Far from absence making the heart grow fonder, there was nearly all out war. “I will NEVER forgive him,” wailed daughter three. I rang only son to tell him in no uncertain terms that daughter three was very upset and that he should not jump to conclusions about her taking his money [it was in fact his mother who had taken it to pay for the school dinner, meaning to return it, and promptly completely blanked it from her mind]. I gave him 24 hours to think of how he was going to make it up to daughter three.
Only son doesn’t take these things well so I rang my partner five minutes later. “He is very upset and threatening suicide,” said my partner. I spoke to him and told him I loved and missed him, but that he needed to count to 20 before he took action when he was angry and he still needed to think about how he could make things up to daughter three. I hung up. Daughter three accused me of appeasement and refused to speak to me for the next hour.
We’re back now after three days of festivalling and daughter three says she learned a lot – about climate change, fake news, genetics and feminism. I learned a lot too – mainly about BTS. Daughter three and only son are now in a stand-off situation. Only son has been banned for life from daughter three’s room. There’s still nearly a week of half term to go.