On the mommy train
Strange what you find yourself doing when you have a child, contemplates Susan.
Funny what you find yourself doing when you’ve got kids. Just this morning I found myself crammed into the small carriage of a brightly coloured train chugging through Canal Walk shopping centre. With me, was Finn and a glum little girl whose parents had abandoned her to ride on her own. While Finn clung to me miserably as we edged past Dischem and Mr Price, the little girl stood peering out of the carriage window searching for her parents. I tried to get Finn to peer with her but he was having none of that. The loud chugging past the packs of beaming shoppers was enough to confuse and overwhelm poor Finn. As the diminutive train ground to a halt outside the cardboard station, and the little girl hurled herself at her proudly waiting parents, I had to admit I’d had, by far, the most fun. (Of course, it’s not always like this. The time I stood by and watched Finn empty a large pot plant of sand with a wooden peg was definitely not something I enjoyed nearly as much as he.)

The reason I’d been so stuck on getting Finn on the train in the first place was that on a recent holiday to Sedgefield, Roxi and I had been set on going on the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe – something Roxi, in particular, had fond childhood memories of. However, on arrival at our beautiful holiday destination we discovered that the Choo Tjoe now only ran from George to Mossel Bay due to the great floods of 2006.

The reason we were even in Sedgefield was also due to something I hadn’t imagined myself doing pre child: going on holiday with my parents.

It’s been a long time since my parents took me on holiday, and I have to admit I was rather apprehensive. One of my more vivid memories of holidaying with the folks was sulking at the back of an excruciatingly long car drive through Kruger National Park while my parents sang to the tune of Peter Rabbit: ‘We’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, and we live at the foot of a big Fir tree; Mommy and Daddy how could they be sweeter and happy little Gareth boy [my brother], Whoops! and Susan.’ I presume that sulking was something I did more often than they would have liked.

The holiday began with all of us madly researching where we should take Finn. He is my parent’s first grandchild and they were as enthusiastic as Roxi and I to lay on The Holiday of a Lifetime. We all excitedly agreed that our first outing would be to Monkeyland outside of Plettenberg bay, because what small boy wouldn’t want to see forestfulls of monkeys?

And we were right. Finn loved Monkeyland. So much so that, perched in a hiker on Roxi’s back, he proceeded to chatter noisily as a small group of 12 of us was led through the forest by a bored looking guide. ‘There! THERE!’ Finn kept pointing causing all of us to swing round expectantly only to find him pointing at a twig or small stone on the forest floor. ‘Whadat? WHADAT?!’ he’d ask loudly pointing at nearly everything in his path, including some of the other members of our group. Sometimes he’d just do a running commentary of his surroundings ‘Stone, twee, fower, skwiwwel, bunkey, bunkey, bird, twee, twee, twee, TORTOISE, bunkey, stone, BEEG TORTOISE.’ Not quite what the other visitors had hoped for, I’m sure, but I’d like to think Finn was monkey-ish enough for them to be mostly forgiving (except, perhaps, the large man with peculiar hair who Finn pointed at asking ‘WhaDAT?’ at least twice).

The family holiday was a great success and I will forever cherish the memory of both my parents eagerly drumming on the dining room table at suppertime in a kind of frenzied family drumming circle… because that’s what you do with kids around.

What's your favourite family outing memory?

Read more by Susan Newham

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