Bringing up babies on the Canary Islands

22 March 2016 0 Comments Category: blog, Living in Spain, Matthew Hirtes

Our eldest, Dani, was four when he left home. When he came back to the UK for a flying visit, I still remember the problem at the airport. The problem that required a visit to our nearest police station.

“Officer, my son is being prevented from reentering the country,” I explained. “Why? Has he been involved in trouble at Euro 2004?” were the two questions fired straight back at me.

094  Dani was travelling in the company of his Canarian aunt and grandmother. He had left the UK with them when his youngest brother, Alex, was diagnosed with childhood leukaemia aged just eight months old. This led to a six-month stay in Great Ormond Street Hospital.

When Alex was downgraded to a lower-risk status, we chose to move to my wife’s native Gran Canaria to reunite with Dani. My wife had been working as a French and Spanish teacher at David Beckham’s old school in Chingford and we assumed our kids would one day follow in Golden Balls’ footsteps. Now, we had to think about a Gran Canaria education for them.
Dani had started at the same nursery as his cousin Carlos. Before progressing to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s CEIP Giner de los Ríos. But my wife was keen for him to attend her old school, Colegio Santa Teresa de Jesús and he’s since been joined by Alex and five-year-old Tom.

This is one of the Gran Canaria capital’s highly-regarded religious schools. A colegio concertado, it’s a bit like an old-fashioned British grammar school. However, you have to pay for the privilege when your children enter sixth form, so 15-year-old Dani will be returning to the world of state education next academic year.

016One of the first things I noticed about the Canary Islands was that a family meal is an extended family meal rather than a nuclear one. You don’t have to worry about your kids raising the noise levels at restaurants. Because they’ll be drowned out by the wall of sound at these family-friendly eateries.

That’s an obvious plus as telling your children to be quiet on a meal out in the UK can get quite tiresome. But you might not appreciate the more relaxed attitude to bedtimes over here. I love spending time with my children, but I need some me time of an evening.

When we bringing up Dani in the UK, he’d go to bed around 7:30pm. The Canarians don’t seem to mind kids heading to bed closer to midnight. It’s something I still struggle to get my head around.

Since we relocated to the Canary Islands, I’ve been contacted by British families looking to make the move themselves. I’ve always told them to do it, as they’ll appreciate the better quality of life over here, not to mention climate. Before adding that they should start taking a siesta so that they recover the lost hours of nocturnal rest.