Big Sis has always been really independent.
She might want me there, but she doesn’t always need me; at least not with the same intensity of her younger sister, who had terrible separation anxiety as a baby and would scream blue murder every time I left the room.
Like me, Big Sis enjoys her own company, so she’s usually happy to let her younger sibling to eat into her ‘share’ of my time. But there are times when I can see she does fancy a cuddle, but – because Lil Sis is used to having free reign – she can’t get near me.
I try to always look out for those times when Big Sis needs a little extra mum-time, but I’m conscious that she sometimes feel squeezed out by her more emotionally-demanding sister. She’s also starting secondary school later this year, and I know the desire to feel more ‘grown up’ will make those cuddles even less forthcoming.
So I decided it was time to redress the balance, and get some more one-on-one time before she ghosted me, in that way pre-teens are prone to do.
Like me, Big Sis is a born traveller who relishes new places and experiences, so I came up with an idea to give us some proper quality time before life and adolescence starts pulling us apart – a mummy-daughter weekend away, just the two of us.
When I told Big Sis about my plans she was really excited: ‘Just us?’ she squealed. ‘Really?’
I wanted it to be somewhere we could easily reach via our local train line, so after checking out route map I decided on Royal Leamington Spa, the Warwickshire town that became famous in the 19th century for its healing spa waters. While the town no longer has public baths, it has a charming café culture, beautiful gardens and plenty of elegant Regency style architecture to admire.
In a roundabout way, Big Sis had already been here before – OH and I had actually spent a relaxing weekend in the town when I was pregnant, so it seemed even more fitting that this was our destination.
Big Sis LOVES swimming, so I booked us overnight in the WARWICKSHIRE HOTEL AND COUNTRY CLUB, in the nearby village of Leek Wooton, which included a swimming pool for guests.
We arrived at the hotel on a chilly morning early in December. Opening the door, we were excited to see a bright, modern room with two comfy beds, and a stylish ensuite.
We’d stayed together in hotels before, but never just the two of us, so Big Sis was thrilled to have me all to herself. She picked her bed, and set up the side table with her phone charger, a David Walliams book and her favourite Beanie Boo from home.
We wanted to make the most of our time, so we quickly changed and caught a taxi into town for a very special afternoon tea at WHITTLES restaurant. Just a few minutes walk from the Regency Shopping Parade, this public tea room is located in the Grade II Listed 19th-century Victorian Binswood Hall, which – I was amazed to find out – is actually a super-swish retirement village.
After admiring the beautiful shared areas (and taking a few quick pics), Big Sis and I made our way upstairs to the mezzanine floor, where the Whittles tearoom is located.
The staff welcomed us with big smiles, and led us to our table. I literally gasped when we turned the corner and saw the most stunning floor-to-ceiling arched windows, filling the room with golden winter light. ‘This is so pretty!’ Big Sis breathed.
We ordered the traditional afternoon tea and had a lovely catch up while we waited for our food to arrive – what she was doing at school and who fancied who (yes, even at 10!). It was just nice to natter about nothing in particular, with no interruptions from work or chores or siblings.
The tray was set down in front of us, heaving with goodies – from scones with jam and cream, to finger sandwiches, to perfectly formed little cakes.
We sipped Darjeeling tea from mismatched vintage tea cups, and felt very grown up and sophisticated.
Afterwards, we took a walk through the town centre and did a bit of shopping, before heading back to the Warwickshire Hotel and Country Club for a swim before the pool closed. We finished our day by pushing the twin beds together, ordering room service pizza and burgers and watching a cheesy movie on the telly.
The perfect start to our mummy-daughter weekend.
• this was a self-funded press trip