Every year my husband’s family all get together for a Christmas meal in a pub or restaurant, to celebrate Christmas and have a catch up. As my husband’s family are from Manchester that meant that we were going to be going on a road trip. We had originally planned to go up just for the day, after all December is an expensive month and having to fork out for a hotel was less than ideal. However, we were persuaded to stay over so James could spend some more time with his Grandad and Aunty Helen.
The journey up to Manchester went well. James was great and even allowed us to listen to the radio rather than nursery rhymes. He happily chatted to himself and watched the cars and lorries go by on the motorway. He didn’t sleep which left us wondering how he would behave during the meal. A lot of my husbands family we only see once a year, so we didn’t want them getting a bad impression of James. We also knew that having been sat still in the car for 2 1/2 hours James would be desperate to run around, which didn’t fill us with much optimism that he would be able to then sit still at a table.
We arrived at the pub and James quickly found an area to run around in, get excited and give his Aunty Helen a big hug. The last time she saw James he was still very clingy to me and didn’t want any affection from anyone else. Over the last few months he has become very affectionate with most people, and frequently hugs different mums and grandparents at toddler groups. This definitely worked in Aunty Helen’s favour as James didn’t hesitate to hug her.
It wasn’t long before we were seated. I could see James was looking tired so I quickly got out some toys in the hope of waking him up a bit. At the moment we are having great success with entertaining James in restaurants with toys rather than my phone. I think it’s just that we have found the toys he is currently happy to play with at the table, so it probably won’t last long. We are using some wooden shapes and some Melissa and Doug magnetic animals. I know, they don’t sound like anything exciting but these toys have been doing a great job at keeping James entertained. He likes to stack the shapes, say the names of them and sometimes count them. Yes we have a son that knows words like hexagon and rhombus but won’t say mummy.
I could see James was hungry so I got out some raisins and melty puffs for him to eat until his starter arrived. The starter we had pre-selected for him was garlic bread. He had no interest in it and wouldn’t touch it. He has eaten garlic bread before, so we thought he might at least give it a go, but no, not today. We had more hope for the main course as it was chicken covered in breadcrumbs. It arrived at the table and I cut it up into bite sized pieces so James could feed himself. I think sometimes he is wary of actually picking the chicken up himself in case it is too hot. I’ve noticed that when eating out he has taken to wanting me to pick the food up and put it in his hands so he can then put it in his mouth. Needless to say he ate most of the chicken, and even decided that Aunty Helen would be the one to put the chicken into his hands. We opted for ice cream for James’ dessert, but he decided he wasn’t going to touch it. 1 out of 3 courses wasn’t too bad for James, and the good thing about him not always eating all of his food is that we get to eat his leftovers.
By the end of the meal James was starting to get bored and restless. He had behaved so well throughout that we really weren’t surprised that he wanted to run around. My husband and I took it in turns to walk around the pub with him to try and keep him happy. However, it wasn’t long before we were finding this very boring, and the novelty was wearing off for James. We decided we needed to make a move, and come up with how we were going to entertain a two year old in the rain for the rest of the afternoon. Not being from Manchester myself I had absolutely no idea, so this one was down to my husband to come up with something. He came up with a great idea – the Trafford Centre. I love the Trafford Centre and we have spent many hours there pre-James, mainly shopping, but also eating and going to the cinema.
James fell asleep on the way to the Trafford Centre, which was perfect so we made our journey a bit longer by just driving around the motorway and going a more scenic route. As we arrived I longed for the chance to go shopping, but I knew that would be unrealistic. Instead we put the reins on James; I have a fear of losing him in busy places and we told ourselves we were there to let James run around, and that’s exactly what he did. He loved looking at the fountains and didn’t want to leave them. My husband suggested we took James to one of his old favourite places there – the amusement arcade. James was drawn to the lights of the machines, but what he loved most was watching the bumper cars. This trip to the Trafford Centre was boring. Watching bumper cars is not my idea of fun, but James was loving it.
James ended up going to bed not too much later than he does at home, and we kept his routine the same. Dave’s sister and her boyfriend were also staying in the Doubtletree by Hilton Hotel – Manchester with us, and she kindly offered to babysit for us so we could go and have a drink in the hotel bar. Despite us being exhausted and my husband having a horrible cold we jumped at the chance. We eagerly waited for James to fall asleep, so we could sneak out of the room without waking him up. We didn’t stay out for long as we were actually looking forward to getting into bed and watching some Netflix, but getting a break from James was definitely appreciated. We also managed to sneak back in the room and for Aunty Helen to sneak out without waking James up.
James usually sleeps through the night, but on this occasion he decided not to and woke up at around 2am. We are not used to night wake ups any more. It sounded like he woke up scared as he was in a different room. We had a family room so he was in the lounge area separate to the bedroom. I went into see him and he seemed like he wanted to play but at the same time wouldn’t calm down. My old trick was always to let him watch a Clangers episode and that would calm him down. However, James hasn’t watched the Clangers for ages and he just kept pushing my phone away as I put it on. Instead I put on one of the YouTube videos he likes about colours and shapes and that soon chilled him out. I didn’t want him to watch too much of it so I ended up turning it off after about 5 – 10 minutes and then he just lay on me, and I really enjoyed the cuddles we were having. I could see he was starting to fall asleep so put him back in the travel cot. He cried and I knew we would have to wait a while for him to calm down again, but I have learnt that he soon self settles after a while. One thing I did notice was that he is getting far too big for the travel cot. His head and feet were both touching the ends, which leaves us with a dilemma of what to do when staying in hotels in the future. We don’t want to put him in a bed yet, but at the same time the travel cot we borrow from my sister is just too small for him.
James woke up at 6:30, which is earlier than usual but he was content and happily chatting to himself, so I took the opportunity to go in the shower and get myself ready. At home as soon as James gets up he wants his breakfast, so in hotels we give him a bowl of dry Shreddies to eat until we are ready to go down to breakfast. He ate all of his Weetabix and his wooden shapes kept him occupied for all of us to be able to eat ourselves.
My husband suggested that we all visit the Science and Industry Museum, thinking that there would be lots of interactive things to amuse James. He was right, James seemed to really enjoy himself. He even started saying “What’s that?” for the first time. I am not entirely sure he knew what it meant or if he was just copying me, but I have been using “What’s that?” a lot more since we got home and he does seem to understand the question. The highlight for James was the building with the trains in and he seemed in awe of them. The museum was a great way to spend a morning and it was also free entry. We agreed that if we lived nearer Manchester that would be where we would be taking James on rainy days.
For some stupid reason, my husband decided that we would all go and eat lunch a barbecue restaurant called Reds, which I was delighted with as I am a vegetarian. I ate fries, and James ate a bag of melty puffs after refusing to eat anything we had ordered him. My husband on the other hand really enjoyed his meal, so at least one of us did. By the end James was getting restless so I made a quick exit and walked around the Christmas market until everyone else was ready.
We decided that it would be good to let James have a run around before the drive home, so as we are all National Trust members we headed to Dunham Massey We ended up taking the scenic route there after my inability to give directions using Google Maps, but it meant James could sleep for a bit longer in the car. He didn’t however appreciate being woken up when we arrived, which meant he wasn’t in the best of moods and wanted me to carry him until he cheered up. I was really impressed by Dunham Massey and would have loved to have spent longer there, but we had to begin the journey home. The journey down the M6 which seems to have more of it set at 50mph than 70mph, with the amount of roadworks. It wasn’t the most enjoyable journey, partly because we were having to listen to nursery rhymes to keep James from kicking off, but overall with snacks and his music he was fairly happy.