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First family trip to Scotland

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First family trip to Scotland

We visited my native Scotland earlier this summer on our first trip with our then 15 month old son. Just as I had wondered how he would react to his first taste of vegetarian haggis back in January, I was eager to see how he’d respond to visiting the land where I grew up. In fact, he started letting out some little happy noises just after we told him that we’d crossed the border into Scotland.

Our son may well have a very different relation to Scotland to the one that I had. I was born in Scotland and lived there until I left to study at Leeds University when I was eighteen. Our son was born here in Wales last year and this may mean that his relationship to Scotland ends up being similar to my own connection with Ireland, the land where both my parents were born. By virtue of my wife being from England, our son would be eligible to play football for Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.

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I had been slightly worried about our son making a bit of a mess at my parents’ house as it is a lot tidier and neater than our own house, in part due to the less frequent presence of food-throwing toddlers. He did have a go at re-arranging most of the contents of the spice shelf in one of the kitchen cupboards and ‘re-organizing’ a bookshelf (see 16 thoughts from my 16th month as a parent and Like father, like son), but thankfully my parents didn’t seem to mind. Indeed, he showed quite a commitment to tidiness by spending quite a bit of time playing with a mop as well as a dustpan and brush.

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It was great fun going on a family trips to places that I’d been to regularly as a child, even when it was only the local play park. I particularly enjoyed our trip to Craigtoun Country Park near St. Andrews, somewhere that had been a real favourite of mine when I was primary school age. I’d been sad to see that it was threatened with closure within the last few years, but thankfully it was saved by a community group that largely took over the running of it.

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The park’s attractions include a boating lake, crazy golf, trampolines, a play park, train rides and lots of space for having picnics and running around. I had worried that it would not live up to my expectations given how much I’d enjoyed it as a child but found that the play park had grown a lot bigger and that the track for the train ride was much longer than it had been. The train rides had been one of my favourite parts of the park as a kid and apparently I once insisted on going on something like eight or nine train rides in a row. Perhaps for this reason, the park now has a different ticketing system which involves buying tickets for a set number of rides (…although there is an unlimited day pass option).

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Our on wasn’t all that bothered about the train ride and almost nodded off to sleep during the circuit of the park. However, he did seem to really enjoy riding on some tricycles in an area where there was a perhaps misplaced sign telling visitors ‘no backflips or somersaults to be attempted’ and managed to restrain his gymnastic inclinations. Back home at my parents’ house, there were plenty of other things to enjoy (…such as being able to relax and being cooked for!). It was also great to see our son playing with some of my favourite toys from my toddler days. These included a set of plastic stacking cups that my parents have now kept for over thirty years.

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It was also great to go on trips with not just my wife and son, but also my parents. There was something special about three generations of our family going places together. These included Kinshaldy Beach, which is on the coast of North East Fife. Although it was a bit blustery, we all managed to have a paddle and build some sandcastles (…as well as take turns trying to prevent our son from eating sand).

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As we’ll soon be moving house, our trip to Scotland has been our only real trip away this summer. This trip home involved visiting many familiar places and these places became all the more special again as they took me back to my own childhood and I loved seeing our son enjoy them too. I’m not sure if he’ll remember his first trip to Scotland in years to come, so I might just have to show him this blog post!

Do you remember taking your kid(s) to places that you visited as a child? Did the places live up to expectations and what did your kid(s) think? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Related posts

Seamus Heaney, Haggis and Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Will our son like haggis?

A Scottish dad’s thoughts about St. Andrew’s Day

Like father, like son

16 thoughts from my 16th month as a parent

I’ve added this post to the following parent blogger link-ups:

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Family on the loose: the art of traveling with kids (Multicultural Kid Blogs book club)

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This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Bloggers book club. Each week, a different blogger will focus on a different chapter of Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book ‘Family on the loose: the art of traveling with kids’. I really enjoyed being part of the first MKB book club in which we read Ana Flores and Roxana Soto’s ‘Bilingual is Bettter’, and especially having the opportunity to interview Ana Flores. If you want to see more information on the book club and how you can get involved, please click here.

Chapters 1 and 2 of Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s Family on the loose: the art of travelling with kids

The photo below is of me with parents just before we flew from Edinburgh to California in 1982 at the start of a year that we spent living in San Jose. I was a few months short of my third birthday and it was my first big trip overseas. I’ve always really liked travelling and exploring new countries and have been lucky enough to have traveled to quite a lot of different countries here in Europe in the last ten years. In September 2012, my wife and I went to Brittany in France with our baby son for what was our first family holiday. I should perhaps have read Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book before going as the first few chapters have already convinced me that it’ll be really useful when it comes to planning future trips. Their blog, also called Family on the Loose, is a great source of stories, tips and information for anyone with kids who’s interested in travel.

On the way to San Jose

Right from the introduction to Family on the loose, I loved the way the book discussed not just how to travel with kids but also why.  Here is one of the reasons for travelling as a family that I thought sounded particularly inspiring:

‘Travel is also a fabulous way to develop your family’s unique sense of shared values. As you explore other cultures and compare them to home, you will all learn more about yourselves and each other.’ (page 2)

Before getting married and becoming a parent, I had already realised that travel often involved me learning about myself through what I enjoyed most and what I enjoyed less. When I returned to the UK in 2004 after having spent three of the previous four years in France, I constantly found myself thinking about things in my own country in a different light. I look forward to seeing if we, as a family, will go through the sort of process outlined above after a few more trips.

Campsite

The campsite where we stayed on our first family holiday

Among the aspects of travel that I have always enjoyed are the ways that it leads to an exciting range of new sights and experiences which broaden the mind. At the start of the first chapter, the authors conveyed this vividly by beginning with a quotation from Gandhi:

‘I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible’ (page 7)

These words were a prelude for the way that the authors discussed the ways in which to expose kids to foreign cultures and customs (e.g. food, films, crafts) at home before and after going abroad in the second chapter, which was appropriately entitled ‘Sowing seeds of enthusiasm’. The first chapter (Scoping the journey) also pointed towards ways of making kids excited about travelling by seeing it as an activity which should be planned with kids and not just for kids. This sounded like a good way of empowering children and making them aware of the sorts of choices that travelling involves and also the consequences of these choices.

The opening chapter (Scoping the journey) was full of useful pointers for people unused to travelling with kids. These included both general principles and more specific tips on issues such as accommodation, transport and budgeting. The chapter concluded with some helpful timelines for planning trips abroad. I really enjoyed the way that the second chapter (Sowing seeds of enthusiasm) discussed ways of starting the holiday fun before the holiday by fun things like trying out food that is associated with where you are going and doing craft activities that have a link with your destination.

A pear and goat cheese crepe with salted caramel sauce in Brittany (France)

What I thought was particularly good about the authors’ pre-travel tips from chapter two is that they seemed to be geared towards providing kids with a greater understanding of the culture and traditions of where they travel. It seems like a good way of encouraging them to see foreign lands as a lot more than some sort of large exotic theme park, and I think that this is really important. As someone who has taught foreign languages for over ten years, I was delighted to see the authors suggest that it’s a good idea to encourage kids to learn some simple expressions in the language(s) of the places they are going to explore on holiday.

Having read and enjoyed the first two chapters of Family on the loose, I am very keen to see what the rest of the book has in store. Indeed, this almost mirrors the way in which I am already looking forward to more family travels as our son gets older.

I’d love to hear what you think of what I’ve said about Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book, and also travel in general. Here are some questions that you might want to discuss in the comments section below this post or on the Multicultural Kid Blogs Facebook or Google+ threads:

– What do you see as the most important things to do before going on holiday with kids?

– To what extent do you try to involve your kids in planning a trip abroad?

– What aspects of travel do your kids get most excited about?

 

If you’re interested in the topics that I’ve discussed in this blog post, here are three things that you can do:

– Share your ideas in the Multicultural Kid Blogs Google + Community.

– Link up your travel stories on Multicultural Kid Blogs.

– Follow the Travel with Kids Board on Pinterest.

Over the next few weeks, a series of fellow bloggers will be hosting discussions of the subsequent chapters of Family on the loose. Here’s the schedule:

Babies, books and blogging

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2013-12-11 19.17.13I’ve read many books about parenting since learning that my wife and I were going to welcome a new arrival. Indeed, parenting books that are specifically aimed at dads were the subject of my first post on this blog. I’ve also talked about books that have helped me learn how to talk about wind, throwing up and tickling in Welsh.

I also did a post where I responded to a newspaper’s list of 50 supposed baby essentials, and this led to some interesting discussion about the most and least useful things to get when you have kids. John S. Green, who blogs at Papa Green Bean, suggested that a library card should have been on the list of essentials, especially as it can make it possible to borrow both books and music.

I was thinking about these comments recently as our son now has his own library card at our local library, which also entitles him to use several other local libraries. Not only that, but also received a free bilingual book about animals in Welsh and English when he joined our local council-run library. Our son has actually been going to libraries since he was three weeks old, notably because one of our local libraries was the venue for a parent and child Welsh course that my wife went to with him and has written about on her blog Mindful Mam.

For me, the fact that libraries are about more than just shelves of books sums of their value as focal points for communities. It is for this reason that I feel that it’s a real shame that public sector spending cuts in the UK since the last election have resulted in many libraries closing. Our local libraries make available books, CDs, DVDs, the internet and books that can be read on e-readers.

My wife has often said that reading books on an e-reader is great when breastfeeding. It’s amazing how light a device that can store thousands of books can be. This is a good thing as it minimizes the negative consequences of accidentally dropping an e-book reader whilst holding a baby, not that I’d know of course… 🙂

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Our son’s arrival has at times influenced my own reading choices, and not just because I’ve read quite a lot of books about parenting. In the run up to his birth, and since then, I have read quite a few about Wales and Welsh culture. We live in North Wales, and I moved here in 2007 due to work. After getting the job for which  was applying I rang all the Welsh people I knew at the time. It only took about five minutes and two phone calls.

I’ve thankfully got to know a few more Welsh people since then and have also been busy learning Welsh, a language that I now use as part of my daily life both at work and when talking to my son. As I mentioned a while ago in a post that I wrote shortly after the death of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, my mixture of Scottish and Irish roots sometimes leaves me a bit confused about my own sense of identity and I’m not sure what our son will make of the fact that he’ll be eligible to represent Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at football.

Since I talk to my son in Welsh, I’m going to have fun discovering new kids’ books in Welsh at the same time as him. Even if this means that I won’t be reading exactly the same books to him as did when I was growing up, I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’re lucky to have a really good local book shop that stocks a wide range of titles in both Welsh and English.

As a multilingual parent, one aspect of running this blog that I have really enjoyed is that it’s allowed me to connect with other bloggers in a wide variety of different places who are raising their children using more than one language, and also parents who are raising their children to appreciate a variety of different cultures. One group that has made this possible is Multicultural Kid Blogs, who bring together a fantastic range of bloggers and coordinate a great variety of different activities.

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Going back to the theme of books, Multicultural Kid Blogs have run an online book club where bloggers such as myself recently read Ana Flores and Roxana Soto’s book Bilingual is Better and discussed it on our blogs. Each week, a different blogger would write a post about a specific chapter in order to start the discussion. Here’s a link to the posts about each chapter. As you will see, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to host a question and answer session with Ana Flores on this blog.

In the new year, I’m looking forward to the second installment of the Multicultural Kid Blogs Book Club. This time round, we will be reading Family on the Loose: the Art of Travelling with Kids by Bill Richards and Ashley Steel. So far, my wife and I have been on just the one overseas trip with our son since he was born in April. We went to France in September, and I talked about this in a blog post entitled Our First Family Holiday.

I hope that September’s trip to Brittany will be the first of many that we undertake as a family, and I really look forward to reading more about the experiences of others who have been traveling with kids for a lot longer than we have. If you are interested in finding out more about the Multicultural Kid Blogs Book Club and how to get involved, just click on this link to see the schedule.

As our son grows up, I hope that he will develop a love of both travel and reading, and discover how both can broaden the mind and be a source of excitement and wonder.

What do you think of this post? What books were special to you as a child and what books are special to you and your children no? Feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it. Here’s the pin: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/428827195740258340/

Here are some parent blog link ups that this post is part of – check them out to see some great posts about all sorts of different aspects of parenting:

 

 

 

Our first family holiday

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Campsite

The campsite

We’re just back from our first family holiday. Somewhat appropriately given my focus on Scottish, Irish and Welsh culture in my last post, we went to a Celtic region of France, namely Brittany. Beforehand, I was somewhat apprehensive about the prospect of flying with a five month old baby. However, I was reassured by posts by fellow parent bloggers on this topic such as this one from the Dad Down Under site. In general, I’m often a bit nervous about flying myself but found my son’s purple elephant toy a comforting sort of stress ball while he was asleep.

We were staying at a campsite just outside the village of Le Bono in Morbihan, about five miles south of Auray. Travelling in September rather than July or August not just fitted well with our own summer plans, but also meant that renting a caravan at the site was considerably cheaper than in July and August. The fact that the campsite was fairly quiet also helped to create a nice relaxed feel.

Le Bono

Le Bono

Nice and relaxed was not, however, exactly the way I felt when I was faced with the challenge of putting up the travel cot that the campsite owner had kindly lent us. Unfortunately there weren’t any instructions with the cot and putting it up felt like a sadistically difficult mental agility task from The Krypton Factor (apologies to anyone who doesn’t recall this 1980s UK game show).

However, thanks to the WiFi that was available at the campsite reception I was able to watch a forty second video on YouTube of a man showing how to put up an almost identical cot. As myself and my wife must have spent about 20 minutes trying to do the same by that point, I did feel deeply jealous and think that he was a right show off for getting the job done in 40 seconds. After reading the comments under the video, I managed to work out what I’d been doing wrong (the cardinal sin of pulling down the base of the cot before securing all four sides for anyone faced with a similar challenge).

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Market in Larmor-Baden

I was delighted to be back in Brittany as I remember getting to know the area as a teenager following a school trip in 1998 and after spending two months working at a campsite in La Trinité-sur-mer the following year. I’d always had a sort of fondness for Brittany due its Celtic identity. Coming from Scotland, I feel a natural affinity with any area that produces traditional biscuits that are similar to shortbread. In addition, some of the coastline and countryside reminded me of parts of Ireland that I’d visited on family holidays when I was growing up.

Things are a bit different now. For a start, I’m now in my 30s, got married last year and become a father in April of this year. In addition, I’ve spent the last six years living in Wales and now speak Welsh fluently. I began noticed similarities with Wales when it came to place names and various words in Breton as well as debates to do with the status and promotion of the Breton language.

Our son, who is currently five months, probably wasn’t thinking about this too much but certainly seemed to have a good time. During the holiday, he started to blow raspberries, make a lot more different noises and continued his fairly recent habit of sticking his tongue out at people as well as smiling at them. People generally smiled and laughed back, which he liked, especially on a few boat trips and on the plane.

Île d'Arz

Île d’Arz

Being on holiday for the first time since our son’s birth in April perhaps meant that we took things easier than we might have done a year ago and did things at a bit more of a leisurely pace. However, this certainly didn’t stop us getting out and about to visit a lot of sights in the area near where were staying. We did quite a bit of walking, going to markets and particularly enjoyed visiting a small island called Ile d’Arz. It was great to visit other towns and villages such as Larmor-Baden, Vannes and Auray as well as driving down the Quiberon peninsula.

The food was good too. As a vegetarian, options can sometimes feel a bit limited in France and I don’t often manage to sample different regional cuisines to anywhere near the same extent as meat eaters. However, Brittany is renowned for its crêpes and galettes (traditional pancakes) and many of those that feature of menus are vegetarian or can be easily modified to be made vegetarian. It was particularly good fun sampling new types of crêpes, such as ones that combined goats cheese and the local delicacy of salted caramel butter. On one occasion, I had a crêpe that combined pear, goats cheese, a scoop of gingerbread ice cream and a green salad sprinkled with pine nuts and chopped figs.

Luncht at a crêperie in Portivy, near Quiberon

Despite being too young to eat proper food, our son seemed to be getting more curious about food. Although only one of the cafes or restaurants we visited had nappy changing facilities, they all seemed to be otherwise very baby friendly. On one occasion, our son pushed a fork onto the floor within seconds of our arrival and the restaurant owner laughed and instantly fetched a replacement. On another, he started picking up a red paper place mat and waving it in the air much to the amusement of the waitress.

Looking back, it’s hard to pick out a favourite place, day or moment of our holiday. The best thing for me was just having eight relaxing and fun days that I spent with my son and my wife. I love my job but spending just over a week with my son and wife all day every day isn’t something that I’ve been able to do since my paternity leave just after our son’s birth in April.

France remains a special place to me and I’m sure it always will. I lived there for three years and visit fairly regularly both through work and on holiday. In addition to being the first place we went to on a family holiday, it’s also where my wife and I went on our first holiday together as a couple. I hope our son will grow to like the country as much as I do and enjoy travel and exploring other places as much as his mum and dad do.

What did you think of this article? What do you remember from your first holiday after becoming a parent? If you’d like to share your thoughts on this post,  please feel free to do so via the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen.

 

I’ve added this post to the following parent blogger link-ups:

Best4Future Wednesdays

My First Football Season as a Dad

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Following in my footsteps, our son has already displayed an interest in following the latest football scores…

I always look forward to the new football season and another year of following Bangor City in the Welsh Premier League. Since moving to North Wales, I’ve become a season ticket holder and active member of the Supporters’ Association. The new season that begins on Saturday will be the first since the birth of our son in April.

Even before he was born, my wife ordered a custom-made Bangor City baby grow via the internet that fits three to six month olds. As our son recently turned four months old just as the season is about to begin, this seems to have been a perfect choice! Even when our son was only a few weeks old, reading posts by other bloggers about things like taking their son to their first baseball match made me kind of excited about things to come.

I think that it’s important to add that if we’d had a girl rather than a boy, I’d have been just as keen to take them to football matches. For me, this is about sharing interests with one’s kids and encouraging them to take an interest in sport – both as something to watch and something to play.

If our son and any subsequent children decide that football isn’t their thing, it’s not going to be a disappointment to me, well at least not unless they end up joining the already large group of relatives on my side of the family who for some reason prefer rugby to proper football (…a clear sign of a mis-spent youth I feel!).

My own dad seems to prefer both cricket and rugby to football, but that didn’t stop him from taking me to a lot of football matches when I was growing up. This at times involved some quite long journeys across Scotland and demonstrated a sort of devoted and selfless parenting that I will have to work hard to emulate myself.

For me, learning about football has also been about learning about other countries as it has frequently overlapped with my interests in travel and languages. Indeed, donde puedo comprar un billete para el partido de futbol? is one of the phrases of my less than impressive Spanish vocabulaly that most easily rolls off my tongue.

I regularly watched football matches during the three years I spent living in France, my six years as a student in Leeds and this has continued since I moved to Wales in 2007. Getting to know a new area has at times been synonymous with getting to know some of the local football teams.

I have been lucky to attend football matches in a wide variety of other locations in Europe on my travels, including Barcelona, Malaga, Berlin, Helsinki and Rome. I’ve always enjoyed seeing how attending a match differs from one country to another and will never forget being part of an international group of French learners who won a fortnight-long trip to France for the 1998 World Cup.

Sport and national identity seem to be linked in both my professional and family life. I work as a university lecturer in French and have recently been doing some research about national identity and football in France. On a family level, I’ve thought about the fact that the places of birth of myself, my wife and our parents mean that our son would be eligible to play football for Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

As some have suggested, our son may not turn out to be particularly good at football. In that case he’ll have to make do with the occasional call-up to the Scotland or Northern Ireland squad (…apologies to  friends, family and readers from these parts!). Ultimately, I’m not bothered how good our son is at sport. As Michael Cusden suggested in a recent post on his blog Like a Dad, seeing one’s child having fun and trying to support them in doing so is much more important.  I hope that as a parent I will manage to strike a balance between encouraging our son to enjoy sport rather than become the sort of overly vocal football dad that was described in a BBC News article last year.

Since becoming a dad, and even before, I’ve realised that my relationship with football has started to change. During the month leading up to my wife’s due date, I stopped going to away matches as I didn’t fancy embarking on a frantic dash home following news that our child was about to put in an appearance. In addition, my wife wasn’t all that impressed when I told her a true story I’d heard about a man who went out to a big football match just as his wife was starting labour and took her into hospital after he’d got back from the game.

For Bangor City, the new season kicks off with a game away to Newtown that would probably involve a five hour round trip from where I live. Despite the fact that it’s a place where myself and fellow Bangor City fans have always received a warm welcome from the locals, I won’t be there. As I work full-time during the week, this means spending quite a bit of time in my office rather than at home. For this reason, time with my wife and son at the weekends and evenings during the week is particularly valuable to me.

I don’t really think that missing a few football matches means that I am sacrificing something and I’m sure that a lot of dads (and mums) who are passionate about football and other sports would say the same.

 

Did your attitude to sport change after becoming a parent? If so, or if you’d like to share your thoughts on this post, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen.

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