Every parent knows that young children and a holiday doesn’t add up to a walk in the park. Although, ironically, you do tend to find yourself spending a lot of time walking in parks.
I’M on holiday this week. But before you start getting jealous, there are two things I should probably point out.
One. Our holiday is in Lancashire, not Lanzarote. Two. Our children are coming with us.
Now that may sound harsh, and I honestly don’t mean it to. I love my children and genuinely look forward to spending time with them.
But every parent knows that young children and a holiday doesn’t add up to a walk in the park (although, ironically, you do tend to find yourself spending a lot of time walking in parks).
As a couple, holidays are relaxing things that provide food for the soul. They offer welcome respite from the rigours of work. They’re a chance to reconnect with your other half away from the busy bubble of everyday life.
Holidays with kids are nothing like that.
Sure, the glossy brochures will have you believe that they whisk you away to a magical place where your son doesn’t do leaks in his pants and your daughter wears exactly what you ask her to without a half-hour argument and several tearful outbursts (mostly yours), but they’re lying.
Family holidays are not built for relaxation. And you’d be a fool to think they are.
It’s funny looking back now, but I can still remember how excited I was the first time we took our twins, now four, away on a break.
“Yeah,” shrugged another weary new dad who had just chalked up the exact same milestone. “Holidays with kids are kind of like every other day. Just in a different place.”
And what do you know? He was right.
There is no magic wand that transports you to a place of peace and harmony where order reigns, no one raises their voice and tantrums never happen.
Whatever your holidays were like before, the same rules don’t apply.
While couples take to Facebook to post smug pre-holiday pictures of themselves enjoying a cocktail at the airport, my wife and I prefer to keep our arguments over whether the children really need three changes of clothes per day and if there is a genuine need for me to able to see out of the car’s rear window to ourselves.
Well, ourselves and every neighbour within shouting distance, anyway.
The brilliant US comic Louis CK has a joke about going on holiday with your wife and kids. Except it’s not really a joke at all.
He talks through the endless preparations that go into getting everything packed and ready.
Then describes putting it all in the car, strapping his kids into their seats and closing his wife’s door.
“Then I walk around the car to my door,” he says. “And that’s my holiday.”
And he’s right.
What’s more, family holidays have a habit of taking you to places you would never imagine going, doing things you’d never dream of doing.
Last year we had a week camping in Scotland. At night I slept in socks, jogging bottoms, T-shirt, top, jumper, fleece and woolly hat. My son, on the other hand, slept in his pyjamas – because children feel cold to the same degree that Simon Cowell can feel his face after a fresh bout of botox.
In the morning I attempted to cook breakfast for us on a tiny, temperamental camping stove, pausing at regular intervals to wipe away the midges that kept settling on the bacon.
This week we’re going to a place with a selection of eateries. The tapas is tempting, the upmarket restaurant looks perfect for an intimate fine dining experience.
But no. We’ll be eating in a place where we’re promised visits from people in costumes as we eat onion rings. Still, at some point I know that my son or daughter (hopefully even both) will flash me a smile of genuine wonder and excitement and all the stress will be worth it.
I also know that in the blink of an eye they won’t want to come on family holidays any more. And I might, possibly, even miss them.
Is Cameron’s mea cupla too late?
SO David Cameron says he could have handled the Panama Papers tax row better. In other news, I’m unlikely to win the lottery and Leeds United won’t be Premier League champions any time soon.
Talk about stating the obvious. Has the PM only just realised that he made a complete horlicks of the whole thing?
That should have been obvious as soon as the media didn’t take no for an answer when he told them his tax affairs and daddy’s offshore accounts were none of their business.
You’ve got to wonder at Cameron’s judgement sometimes. This is the man, remember, who appointed Andy Coulson as his director of communications, only to have to apologise when the phone hacking scandal erupted and Coulson wound up behind bars.
But I’d also query the role of the media people who are advising the Prime Minister now. If I were one of his press aides I’d have been instructing him in no uncertain terms to tell the public everything at the earliest opportunity.
There was no way they or the media were going to swallow the claim it was a “private matter” – not when Iceland’s PM had just resigned over the same issue.
The drip feeding of information just made it look as though Cameron was being evasive and woefully out of touch with popular opinion.
Time will tell whether it’s fatally undermined his premiership or is just another bump in the road.
Even the library’s gone all hi-tech
YOU know you’ve reached middle age when technology no longer feels like your friend – more like it’s ganging up on you.
I took my kids to the library at the weekend and got them to carry the books they wanted to the desk. Only for the nice librarian to turn to some space age gizmo next to us and start feeding them into its mouth.
It was all very impressive but I was a bit ashamed that I didn’t even know these things existed. But then with the Government cuts biting and library staff being laid off I guess it makes sense.
Still, I’m not sure I like the fact the new system prints the date your books are due back on an easy-to-lose bit of paper rather than getting a stamp in the front as in days of yore.
It goes some way to explaining how we had managed to rack up some pretty hefty late fees.
Which also explained why my wife asked me to go rather than turn up and cop for the £17 fine herself.