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….or are we in hell?

Things are pretty miserable for us at the moment. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, a tantruming toddler can successfully ruin anything. For us, he’s making our time here in paradise a living hell.

How would you like to wake up to a face like this? Every day!

Beautiful Thong Nai Pan Yai

We’ve been on Thong Nai Pan Yai for a few days. A beautiful spot on the north-eastern coast of Koh Phangan. It is the perfect beach – a crescent of white sand curving along a bay of warm, shallow, greeny-blue water. It’s quiet, there’s hardly anyone here. No rowdy parties. Just a few mellow beach bars and restaurants on the sand.

View of Our Bungalow from the Water

Our bungalow is a few metres from the beach. It’s small, very small, but perfectly adequate as most people who visit here would barely see the inside of their room if not for sleep.


Unhappy in a Hammock

Reuben’s tantrums continue to make our lives a misery. He now refuses to set foot on the beach or go into the water. He screams and cries until we take him out. I’ve tried forcing him to stay in, ignoring him, but it doesn’t stop. Actually, since we’ve been on Koh Phangan he won’t even leave the bungalow porch unless it’s to go eat.

This is a real problem considering there is NOTHING to do here EXCEPT swim or play on the beach.

Seriously, who has a toddler that HATES the beach?

He loved the beach in Australia and if we went swimming at the local pool we’d be lucky to get him out of there before he went blue. The beaches we’ve been to in Thailand are much nicer and more child-friendly than the ones in Mooloolaba. No waves to contend with, lovely clear, warm water. He’s just not into it. I’ve got no idea why.

Lee hasn’t set foot on the beach either. Only to walk down to the restaurants at the other end of the bay. He’s busy working. Since his AdSense income has taken a serious dive he has decided to learn programming and, on top of his usual projects, he’s spending hours a day taking tutoring online. If we were on a trip that he had planned, say snowboarding in Colorado, I’m sure the programming could wait another month.  Needless to say, this is causing some disagreement between the two of us.

What’s making it worse is all the loved up, childless couples here. They spend all day canoodling with each other  in the ocean and laid out on the sand, sunbathing, snoozing, reading books and listening to music.

I can’t remember when I last read a book. I don’t think my iPod has been charged for at least 18 months.

They’re all slim, tanned and wearing cute bikinis. Now that the senior citizens in the bungalow next door have left, I’m the only person on the entire beach wearing a one-piece. I’m feeling frumpy and old.

The hammock on our porch broke one morning… with me in it. Very embarrasing and not at all good for my beach body self esteem. And now I have a very sore, bruised elbow.

I don’t know how to shake these feelings. I’m jealous of all these other people having a wonderful holiday. My child and (occasionally) my husband are making me miserable.

It seems utterly ridiculous to be unhappy in such a beautiful place. I almost feel guilty for feeling this way.

Things could be a lot worse. I could be stuck in Christchurch, where it’s currently -4 degrees Celsius overnight, enduring another round of magnitude 5.2 aftershocks.

Grumpy Mummy

Maybe the problem is I have such fond memories of my own travels in Thailand. I was an independent, single girl going where I pleased, doing what I pleased. Now I’m feeling constrained by a tantruming toddler (and a husband who’s not acting much better). Is it wrong that I would just like a day on my own? Or an afternoon even?

I don’t know how single travelling parents do it. (You guys are amazing!) At least when Reuben has his afternoon nap I can go out and swim, lie in a hammock and sunbathe. Even if it’s just for an hour.

End of rant.

Leave me a comment and tell me to get over myself! Or sympathize with me and promise things will get better.

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Showing 23 comments
  • Sarah Kinnane

    Sorry to hear that B!! But for sure you are the hottest mama on the beach. Get the leopard print dress on and leave Lee and Reuby for some time by yourself if you can… The dalai lama says you should spend some time alone each day 🙂 And whatever you do don’t compare yourself to other people, that would never make anyone happy!

    how long are you gonna stay on TNPY for? Have you seen anyone there that you know from our last time there?

    I hope Reuby comes around to the water and beach… must be so tough for you! You’ll sort it out though I’m sure, your an amazing mum and strong girl, you’ll get through this I’m sure. Try and laugh at the situation if possible… 🙂 Wish I could come and help! xxxxx

    • Bethaney

      Thanks Sarah. Gambarre!!!!

      If the Dalai Lama says so I should be doing it. His advice is usually spot on for me.

      The place where you stayed and the wooden huts on the beach in front have all be bulldozed. Took me a while to work out what was missing. TNPY has definitely gone a bit more upscale. There’s hardly any single people here, mostly just couples, seniors and young families. Same same but different I guess, compared to when we were here last.

  • Ghada

    Oh hugs! A toddler tantrum can ruin just about anything. Luckily they go in phases do hopefully he’ll come right soon. I’ve had similar experiences here I’m NYC where I go all out for Mr 4 year old to do something I think he will love only to be confronted with grumpiness. I wish I had an easy answer for you. Just remind yourself where you are, try and find happiness at weird times of the day when you can pretend you’re single and go for a walk on your own or something that will make you happy.

    • Bethaney

      I seriously hope it’s just a phase!! I can’t imagine living like this for much longer. I have been making an effort to spend some time just relaxing and I think it’s helped me. Reuben is just a ball of fury and frustration that cannot be controlled. He’s on that cusp of knowing what he wants but not being able to explain it fully and not wanting to do anything we tell him… even when the things we’re trying to get him to do are awesome and fun! There’s no telling him anything, he’s not at the point of reason or bribery. We’re basically just placating him to get some peace (like having icecream and chips for dinner) which I’m sure is not going to serve us well in the long run.

      Any idea who long with phase is going to last? How long did it take your boy to shake it off?

  • Cindy Fuhrer

    I have no words of wisdom for you but can offer a cyber hug instead. I can imagine all too clearly what you are describing and fear that I too will be challenged by the same thing in a few weeks times. At Reuben’s age it is particularly difficult, as he grows and becomes more capable things will get easier.

    Some mummy medicine(read: alcohol) and a little pampering will certainly help in the short term though. We will probably miss you on this trip as we won’t be there (thailand) until July but some company with kids his age may help, do you think ?

    • Bethaney

      Thanks for the support Cindy. How old is your youngest? Not quite at the “terrible twos” yet? I’m sure travelling with older siblings would help. A lot of it, I think, is boredom, confinement and frustration coming out.

      I’ve had two massages since I wrote that post and it’s definitely helped calm me somewhat.

      • Cindy Fuhrer

        My youngest is 18 months but showing sign of that T2’s stage early….

        Well if the massages are helping, then the dr would say you should continue treatment until the symptoms resolve. Glad your are feeling even a little brighter today.

        I also want to thank you for your honesty, travel is not the answer to all problems as some would like to report. Good for you on telling it how it is.

  • Reply

    Sending love to you Bethany. The only thing I can think of is to check Reuben for any cuts or anything that could make the salt water irritate him. Other than that I would say just give him lots of love and snuggles and make him feel secure.

    • Bethaney

      Thanks Amy. Excellent advice. It’s definitely working. Reuben responds much better to a time-in (snuggles and quiet talking about what’s going on) than to a cross mommy and a time-out. I’d kind of forgotten this.

  • Martin Pietrzak

    Hand in there. Give Reuben some time to adjust. Our toddler had his moments too. He usually loves the water and beach but at times, he would refuse to do anything. I suppose it was he went on strike and wanted a change of scenery. Does he tell you what he wants to do instead or is his tantrum for a sake of a tantrum? If the letter, jut let him cry it out. It works for us but show him you care to hear him out. Sometimes the smallest issue can be the cause and he maybe able to tell you or at least give you a hint. Stay strong and try to enjoy the island. All the best.

    • Bethaney

      Thanks for the sympathy Martin. You’re right, it is always a small issue that is the cause of his rage. Usually it’s because he’s not getting exactly what he wants immediately when he wants it. It’s very hard because he is right on that verge of being able to communicate fully but is not quite there. I can see where his frustration is coming from.

  • Lou

    Oh B I sympathise completely! You poor thing… it is SO frustrating and draining dealing with an tantruming-toddler (not to mention the husband!)

    I think for most parents it’s so hard to let go of our BC (before child) ideals/attitudes/ability to do whatever the f%^k we like…. it’s like you kinda have to “mourn” !

    Adjusting is HARD. I long just to go spend a day in a sunny funky Melbourne beer garden, reading the paper and sipping cider. Ahhhh.

    It WILL get better…. just try and ride out this difficult period… maybe entice Reuben closer to the beach with bucket/spade/dump truck… sand play over water play to begin with? Or a beach obstacle course?

    • Bethaney

      I’m sure it is just a phase he’s going through. All the travel and change doesn’t help. He really has been a pig to be around for a lot of the day.

      I knew travelling with a kidlet would be a different ball game. I guess I just expected it to be easier. He travelled so well as a baby.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling with an unruly boy!

  • Tracy

    Oh I’ve so been there! Don’t those carefree childless couples in Thailand drive you insane. I don’t begrudge them their happiness and their travel, but I really wish I too could sit down with a book at a table for 3-4 hours without anyone bothering me. Or go for a swim without two children hanging off me. Or be that carefree in a bikini!

    And I can totally relate to the husband being inside programming. If we were in Colorado on the trip he’d planned he’d be out on the slopes … and I’d probably still have the kids. Hmm that’s not really much different I guess!

    We’ve had some really tough times with our youngest on the road. Days and weeks where she seems always tired, loads of tantrums and not wanting to go out or do anything. I hope things change soon!

    • Bethaney

      I’m glad it’s not just me Tracy! I certainly wouldn’t mind a day in the sun, sipping a cocktail and reading a book by the pool. I think that ship has sailed. It is so nice to have even just an hour to oneself, forget about being a mom etc. I do find myself, about ten minutes into a massage, wondering what Reuben is up to. He seems to behave a lot better for Lee than for me.

  • Jeanne @soultravelers3

    Aww, sorry to hear this Bethany, sending lots of love and peaceful vibes your way.

    LISTEN to your child and know that family travel is TOTALLY different than single or couple travel. Sounds like your baby is telling you he is burned out on the fast travel which is truly hard on everyone, but particularly hard on one his age.

    At that age, any where you are can be a challenge, but if you slow down and make YOURSELF happy, your baby and whole family will be happy. As the saying goes, no one is happy if Mama ain’t happy.

    You MUST find a way to have more quality time for yourself…DAILY! Your husband should take over some of the child care issues so you get a break every day. Don’t do more work on your break…meditate or find some other way to fill yourself, refresh, relax, read, swim, sun…preferably offline.

    Sounds like you also need one on one time with your husband to nurture each other and keep up the romance. Work this around your child’s nap time and early to bed time.

    Keep your focus on the good and don’t compare to others and then judge yourself…waste of time…so refuse to do that futile stuff with your mind.

    The less stressed you are, the less stressed your baby will be. You can’t just pushed them through things like you can an must honor his needs.What is that saying “Youth will be served”? That is what babies and children teach us parents.

    He may also be dealing with a physical problem as well that you have not identified yet. I know someone who got sick for many years by a rare bug they picked up by swimming in a foreign land. It is easy to get parasites and such by eating local foods. Who knows, but that is also something to consider…and maybe look into if it doesn’t change. My child loves to swim but tends to hate salt water.

    I’d just drop everything online etc and take time to cuddle, rest, eat good food for a while, play as a family and refocus on what would make the whole family happy. Cuddling, rocking, weeping together, expressing frustrations, focus on loving, nurturing and family can bring amazing healing to all. Time to fill up your cups with more loving!

    Nobody can run on empty …and a baby, toddler or even tween will let you know that in no uncertain terms. Listen!

    Hugs and good luck! Hope this helps!!

    • Bethaney

      This is fantastic advice. I can’t thank you enough. It helped me realise all the things I wasn’t doing which were probably contributing to Reuben’s distress and definitely making me feel negative and horrible.

      Happy mommy = happy baby.

      I think we’re starting to get back on track. We’re not 100% there yet but we’re moving in the right direction. The important thing is that we’re doing what we love and we’re all together. I keep forgetting that. I need to remind myself how fortunate I am to have a lifestyle such as this.

  • Lisa Wood

    Oh Bethaney,
    I so hear you! Hey your son needs children to play with…with my boys he would have plenty to chose from 🙂
    We are in the Mackay area and I am over it all!
    Hubby is working night shifts (12 hour shifts!), kids are back in School and I am trying to keep it altogether. I SO want to move on but we are here…for a period of at least six months 🙁
    I want to go to Thailand, or somewhere, anywhere where it is cheaper for us all to “Live” and experience life instead of “existing”
    Paradise looks better than our paradise…would you love to try “House Swap” for a day?
    Chin up – it will get better xx

    • Bethaney

      Lisa, I feel your pain. I feel the same way when I’m stuck in one place for too long. We’re still waiting for our house to sell so have to send the second half of the year (at least) back in NZ. I’m not looking forward to it at all.

      I feel guilty for moaning when we’re in such an incredible place. It’s not the location, it’s the situation. I guess I’d be moaning too if I were in your position. It must be even tougher in a motorhome with nowhere to escape from one another.

      Thailand is paradise. You could have a wonderful life here. So much of the focus is on having fun, smiling, being relaxed and eating nice food. Something to look forward to and get you through the next six months! Do some vicarious travelling looking at places to stay etc.

  • Mira Schuett

    Hi Bethaney,

    Hugs! And a virtual glass of wine!

    I can so relate, as we are kind of going through the same thing right now. Hudson and I are totally over the beach. Karl on the other hand wants to spend all his time there, and I promised him he could so I can not even whine about that. I miss being able to take Hudson to a park and let him play on swings and such. And I miss a more temperate climate ;( This heat makes my kid so whiny!

    We’ve rented a motorbike and Hudson and I cruise around on that, sometimes just for fun. He loves just being on it, but we’ve discovered a few neat places around town so the last few days have been a whole lot more bearable.

    Perhaps Rueben would enjoy a boat ride? Can you rent a bicycle and cruise around on that? It’s amazing what a little breeze and a change of scenery can do for a young kid.


    • Bethaney

      Oh Mira! I’m so glad it’s NOT just me! And that you “came clean” in your post about things being so tough for you. I’m glad you found a solution to your problem though. It looks like the bike is a hit and you’ve got a few options for days out.

      We are desperately missing trips to the park/playground too. We were so spoiled during out last two months in Australia. Every day it was swings and slides for Reuby and lattes for me.

      We’re moving down to Penang soon to take a break from the beach. It’ll be nice to stay somewhere with more amenities. Thailand is great but it is really hard for active toddlers who need green space to run.

  • Izy Berry

    Oh no, sorry to hear your handsome little man is giving you grief. Have you read the book “Before your kids drive you crazy, read this”? It’s by Nigel Latta, a New Zealand author and it’s really funny. Maybe you could find some time to relive your youth and be a hot babe reading on the beach while your hubba takes care of the bubba. It’s a good book, really hilarious and has an interesting way of looking at your mini person.

    • Bethaney

      Thanks Izy. I’ll look for it when we get back to NZ. Sounds like the perfect book for me. Should have read it BEFORE I was driven crazy, I guess.

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