I’m at Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, and I’m in Smug Parent mode.
I always get like this on those rare occasions when my kids are behaving like angels while everyone else’s are wrecking the place. Despite the fact that we’ve only been on site for an hour and they’re practically bursting with excitement about us all being on holiday in such an incredible place, Sebastian and Evie are acting like proper little grown-ups.
We’re in the play area next to the supermarket, and I’m watching two boys of Bast’s age trying to push each other off the slide while my little hero helps his tiny sister onto the wooden climbing frame. I glance over at the parents of the boys – who aren’t really paying attention to them – and I shake my head, sadly: this is why kids act up, a lack of attention.
My wife has gone into the mini supermarket to get us some supplies, but here I am: not drinking, not propped up at the sports bar, not distractedly ogling women (well, okay): just being a bloody good dad.
As I’m making judgments on every other parent at the resort, two small girls with blonde ringlets yell ‘Charge!’ and run into each other, both thinking the other one is going to move. As they land on their bottoms and burst out crying, Bast runs over to them and helps one to her feet. Then he runs back to the climbing frame to check on his little sister.
I start to stride up and down, deliberately calling out to him and giving him the thumbs up so that other parents know who his dad is. Nobody seem to be paying attention, so I walk over to Bast, lean down and ruffle his hair.
“You’re a good boy, Basty.”
He looks up.
“Dad, those two little girls ran into each other.”
“I know, Bast. They were playing chicken: it’s a very silly game.”
“Which one was the chicken?”
I laugh, and shake my head. “No, chicken is not like that. It’s….well, I guess it’s a bit like the jousting we saw at Leeds Castle, except that one person moves at the last second. It’s…just something kids do.”
“I don’t know, Bast….because some children do really silly things? That’s why mummy and I are very lucky that you and Evie are such good little smurfs!”
Almost on cue, Evie runs up to us. “Daddy, I’m hungry.”
“Me too. Shall we go find mum and see what she’s got for lunch?”
Off we go to the mini supermarket, and I reflect on how well organised Center Parcs are for providing those little trolleys for the smurfs: I know it’s a devious way of making sure they sell extra stuff the parents don’t really want, but it’s still….you know……a cute idea.
While I look at the magazines, Basty is quietly showing Evie how to steer her trolley so they don’t run into each other, and the two of them move apart. It’s really quite busy in the mini supermarket, as lots of people have arrived and are flowing in one great sea towards the checkouts.
I visibly smirk as two kids old enough to know better start fighting over a bottle of chocolate milk. I even lock eyes with the father and give him a sympathetic look, but the big guy is staring past me in horror and pointing.
I turn just as it happens.
Bast and Evie have gone to either end of the aisle, and charged at each other.
They run the trolleys together with such a gut wrenching smash that Evie goes over the handlebar and ends up inside Sebastian’s trolley, screaming ‘daddddddddy!’ and crying her eyes out while Bast gallops around the devastation, shouting. “I win! I win!” As he spins, he knocks four cans of baked beans onto the floor and a thickset man in a tracksuit steps on one and has to grab the side of the cabinet to stay upright.
I bolt towards Evie, but in my hurry to get to her I shoulder-barge a grandmother who drops her walking stick which I then trip over. By the time I get to Evie, she is covered in her own snot and being patted down by two of the irresponsible parents who were ignoring their kids at the play area. I swear they give me disapproving looks as I leave the supermarket, carrying one screaming smurf in my arms and dragging the other one by the arm of his jacket.
When I get outside, my wife is waiting for me with her arms folded.
“I told you to watch them,” she says.