"Have you had a good holiday?" Drake asked, gazing out across our sprawling garden at the forested shorelines and tranquil bays of the Gulf of Finland (thank you Airbnb).
"Not bad at all," I replied, as I simultaneously picked up a discarded pasta twirl from the floor, and righted Duckling, who was back bending his way out his high chair for the third time in as many minutes.
I wasn't lying. It hasn't been a bad holiday, by any stretch of the imagination. Both of the houses we've stayed in, in Helsinki, and here, out in the sticks, have been utterly incredible. Both are owned by architects and are lived for most of the year, so they're fully kitted out with all the mod cons you need for day to day living (though the current one is still lacking a potato peeler godammit). The Finns we've talked to have been reserved yet friendly, and sweetly surprised that we've chosen their beautiful country for a holiday. Duckling has been behaving brilliantly, the food and drink have been plentiful and delicious and the friends we're with have cooked, cleaned and been very understanding of us having a kid in tow (once I'd got over my slight first day offence at being told that they couldn't hack the slow pace of wandering a city with a child, and would be spending the afternoon on their own. Blunt, but at least honest).
But I am TIRED. It is a cliché, but holidaying with small children is basically the same old shit in a different place. Nappies, mealtimes, bath times, bedtimes, constant negotiation of transitions and removal of dangerous objects, endless playing with cars and Duplo, tidying up the destruction... It all still has to happen. Except it has to happen in less familiar surroundings, with more hazards, where all you desperately want to do is sit in a lounger, have a nice chat with your friends and soak up the silence and the view. Not chase after your two year old who is trying to throw himself down the steps to the beach again. Or help himself to yet another fistful of complimentary chocolates. Or beat up the bathroom door with an ornate horsehead walking stick. Or poke breadsticks into the Bang and Olufsen speakers when you've categorically said, seventeen times, that this is NOT acceptable behaviour.
The hardest bit is the inability to say any of this, because you're on holiday in a beautiful place with lovely people and to say you're not relishing every single moment sounds so damn sour and ungrateful. There have of course been some totally great bits, both with Duckling ("ooh, wow! Noisy!" He exclaimed as I showed him how to pop seaweed) and our friends (who knew 34 and 11 months was not too old to learn the full dance sequence to "All the Single Ladies"?). I just feel the beauty and the luxury of this place is wasted on me - old, tired, frumpy, grumpy and perpetually distracted as I am. It has not been relaxing in the sense I once knew, and it bothers me that I am still dismayed by this, two years into motherhood. If I'm not used to it by now, am I ever going to be?
Probably not, is the answer, but at least it will make our first holiday sans enfants that bit more enjoyable when it does eventually come around. Except I'm sure I'll probably miss my darling(s) massively, and mope the whole trip. I am a really difficult lady to please.