The Truth About Family Holidays
Father-of-two Steve Cummins’s frank thoughts about the realities of holidaying with your children
The brilliant American comedian Louis CK beautifully describes what it's like for him packing up the car with wife, kids and baggage before setting off on holiday – with all the packing and repacking, last minute trips back into the house for forgotten belongings and final trips to the loo. Finally, all this done, he closes the door and walks around to get in the driver's side, “That walk,” he says, “is my holiday”.
A different type of holiday
Now it's not all bad, but holidays with children are as far from the heady holidaying days of your youth as well ... everything you used to do in your youth.
When my eldest was six-months-old and my youngest was all but a far-off dream, we went on a quick four-day break to Spain. (remember the Celtic Tiger when we did stuff like that?). What my wife and I didn't realise until that first holiday was something that everyone who's ever taken a small child to a hot country knows all too well.
It's that at seven o'clock every evening your holiday simply stops. Now, you're stuck in a hotel room while in the corner in a dubious hotel cot, there's a red faced, over-heated poop machine. The only joy you get – is from going out on to the balcony every now and again and throwing stuff down on the heads of young, childless couples.
Then, in the airport on the way home you make a vow; the same vow made by myriad parents before you. You swear that never again will you bring a small child abroad. Not until they're older. Not until they can stay awake past nine and don't need constant attention. So you do what so many others have done before you. You have your holidays in Ireland; in an Irish hotel where they can't legally kick you out of the bar and there's probably a singsong or cabaret going on.
You fill your kids up with Fanta and crisps and watch them spin around in circles until they eventually fall asleep under the table. Then your holiday begins. It's the perfect solution. Well, maybe not perfect.
Ireland is a beautiful country and would be an amazing holiday destination if only it had a retractable roof. I've seen so many defiant parents walking their children along a beach, heads bowed and in full anoraks as they're bashed by gale force winds and that particular sideways rain you only seem to get in Ireland; issuing plaintive cries of, “We're on holiday and we're making the most of it.”
Wolfing down ice cream, defying brain freeze in your haste to finish it, but not as with most countries because it'll melt, but because the wind might blow it out to sea. And waking up one morning to find the beach has been claimed by jellyfish like some aquatic version of sun lounger hogs.
A rare day of perfection
But then you get that one perfect day. The weather is idyllic, the beach half empty. The kids invent some game, which doesn't involve you for once. You get to lie out, slowly bake and finally finish that book you've had for the last three summers. Then afterwards, taking your tired, happy and wonderfully sun-kissed family for salty chips before heading back to the hotel or holiday home.
For once, the kids fall asleep in seconds and you and your beloved get time alone to share a glass of wine and a cuddle. That's what holidays are about. They're about spending time with the people you love most in the world and in that moment, even if you could, you wouldn't change places with your young holidaying self for anything. Except lie ins; God, I miss those.
Tell us about your family vacations in the comments below.