In our household holidays always seem to start badly. I become a monster. I write lists and sub lists. I snap – a lot. I create piles of items ready to be packed at least a week before the date of departure. These piles then get thrown over by the kids and each room becomes a sea of clothes, towels and toiletries for us to trip over. I buy things we don’t need to add to these piles. Wet suit shoes. Children’s goggles. Mini sun cream. I start to sweat more. We pack the suitcases then I squeeze in an extra ten plastic bags of essentials. The contents of the boot overflows both out on the road and onto the heads of the children.
I have realised this is for two reasons. Firstly, I am afraid of change. At home, we have our little routines and our little props that we roll out in desperate measures. I am not good at leaving these behind. Secondly I convince myself that I am entirely responsible for how much fun we will have. I worry that if the children are grumpy or unhappy it is my fault and I must have brought them up terribly.
When we arrive on holiday it takes me around two days to adjust. The first day we unpack and I mentally list everything that the new accommodation lacks compared to home. The second day I decide that in order to cope, I must recreate what we do at home. I try and take control of everything and convince myself that holidays are rubbish. It’s just as hard as at home, but without my comforts.
Gradually I do something important. I breathe. I relax and I realise that actually not being at home is essential. At home one of us would be doing jobs: fixing lights, gardening etc. If we weren’t, we would be feeling guilty that we weren’t. On holiday these jobs are out of reach enabling us to relax and spend time together. The fact that we don’t have the contents of our house is liberating. Who cares if my son wears baggy, flowery trousers for a day because he has run out of clean, boy clothes that fit him?
Lastly and most importantly, we are all here together. Just the four of us. I watch how natural my husband is with the children and how they light up in a different way under his glow. I start to lean on my husband for help and we begin to enjoy good quality, relaxing family time together.
Holidays are so precious. We are lucky to go on one in the first place. Yes we may come back more tired than when we left but they create moments when memories are made and are worth every stress.