Last time we went away, we stayed in a holiday home rather than a hotel. We could enjoy meals, deal with bedtimes, and juggle meltdowns without worrying about the other guests. Our little mini-break was our induction to parenting during a hotel stay. To be honest, I was a bit more nervous about it because of thin walls and the risk of a wailing baby. Can hotels throw you out if your baby screams all night? In my head they can. It turns out The Duchess was a dream baby, and I should have been worried about what I will now call “the judgmental observer.”
We arrived at Barcelo Torquay Imperial Hotel mid-afternoon after a smooth drive down. Panoramic views of the bay welcomed us from our 4th floor suite and after taking in the view, we decided to head down to the indoor pool to test out The Duchess’ newly acquired swimming skills. The Native got to swim with her for the first time, something he’s been waiting to do with her since she started lessons. She happily floated along in a makeshift float we had constructed from a pool noodle and plastic ring, feeling like she was Queen of Torquay.
The two of us alternated swimming responsibility as the other went to enjoy the hot tub. While I sat in the hot tub, a woman, who seemed to have an aversion to shaving her armpits, and who was perfectly civil, but not at all warm, joined me. I think it was my first experience of a judgmental observer:
Armpits: That your baby?
A: Do you think the pool is too cold for her? (Read: The pool is too cold for her.)
Me: It’s about the same temperature as the pool where she takes swim lessons.
A: How old is she?
Me: Just over 4 months.
A: Bit young. My grandkids started taking lessons when they were 6 months old.
Me: She is one of the oldest babies in her class. The youngest started when she was 3 weeks old.
A: (Look of shock and disapproval)
Me: Well, I better go and see how she’s doing (Read: Since you seem to know my baby better than I do, I clearly need to go and cry in the corner about what a bad mother I am.)
Thank GOODNESS my mother and mother-in-law aren’t like that. Geez!
Later that evening we took her to a TexMex restaurant. I can rarely find Mexican restaurants in the UK, you know with the lack of a Mexican border and all. Plus, it had an American flag on the storefront and a tacky Statue of Liberty inside. Score!
Going out to eat on a weekday night isn’t very common here as it is much more expensive than going out for a meal in the States. So when we arrived, it was nearly a silent venue, except for the terrible Spanish(-ish) pop music playing over the sound system.
You know that moment where people are trying not to look surprised or startled, but they are. The four women at the over-staffed bar all had it. You could see the thought of “What are they doing with a baby at our restaurant at 8pm?” passing over their faces. I expect this isn’t that surprising in America, a country with streets lined with cheap restaurants that are full of families.
But we were on a mini-break and we were going to enjoy it. Although there were subsequent surprised looks shot to us by others who arrived at the restaurant later, we loved our meal out and would do it again with The Duchess in tow.
And how did my Mummy feelings fare from my encounter with Armpits and the restaurant staff? They arrived back home completely guilt-free. Bring on the next mini-break!