x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

On the move with children, you find out who your friends are

On holiday, it's easy to lose friends when they're subjected to a soggy bundle that needs constant changing or a toddler who keeps upsetting drinks at the lunch table.

It's when you're travelling with kids that you find out who your friends really are. A recent attempt to sort through the dozens of photographs of trips we've taken with assorted friends in Thailand, since Calvin was a baby, brought me to this conclusion. I've discovered that it's easy to lose friends when they're subjected to a soggy bundle that needs constant changing or a toddler who keeps upsetting drinks at the lunch table. Said friends simply drop out of your life, sometimes surfacing for a quick hello, sometimes never to return.

But times, they are changing. Calvin's nine now. Travel-savvy and a lot like a walking world encyclopedia, he is quite popular among my friends. In fact, a girlfriend and I are planning a 10-day break in Bangkok with Calvin in tow. When I first proposed taking him along, she responded with - and I am not lying - "it'll be fun".

Her enthusiasm is a far cry from the summer holiday in Phuket with friends from work when Calvin was two. We saw them briefly at breakfast each morning and then on the last day, only because we were travelling together.

Or the time we drove down with a friend and her daughter to Pattaya's Underwater World, only to be told, in front of the sting-rays and sharks and a hundred people, that her three-year-old was bigger and smarter than our three-year-old and that we were awful parents, really.

But the holiday that stands out in my mind is the short weekend spent with a couple of friends in Bang Saen, a small seaside town an hour's drive from Bangkok. Calvin was a year old, and Friend No 1 got cross with him quite a few times during the trip - among other things, I distinctly remember him chucking a piece of watermelon at her and dumping a bucket of gloopy mud on her new beach sandals. Friend No 2, who we didn't see as often as we used to before Calvin was born, was his usual quiet self, frequently disappearing on cigarette breaks or for a swim in the sea.

Then, on the car ride home, disaster struck: Calvin choked on a biscuit and threw up. We couldn't stop because we were in the middle of a busy highway. Friend No 1, in the front seat beside my husband, began to gasp, then rolled down the window and stuck her head out, muttering non-stop. Meanwhile, Friend No 2, sitting in the back with me and who, I'm certain, was dying for a cigarette and to get away from us all - possibly forever - helped me wipe down Calvin and the safety seat, and then made my crying child - and me - smile.

For some reason, it is the only holiday we don't have photographs of, but I don't mind this too much because I can recall it as if it happened yesterday. Importantly, though, that 48-hour trip taught me a lesson in deciding who makes the best travel companion when you're taking your child along - and who takes top spot on my emergency contacts list.

ciyer@thenational.ae