“A holiday’s not really a holiday any more when you’ve got kids,” a friend of mine once said. “It’s just being exhausted and stressed in a different place.”
There is (sadly) some truth in these words – gone, certainly, are the days when your two weeks away involved a sunlounger, assorted cocktails and blissful peace without a single “MUUUUMMMM!” to be heard. Relaxation is off the agenda when you have small children in close proximity to water; I spent many summers tensed and alert, braced for the possibility of a near drowning incident until mine could all swim well.
Still, there is something about holidaying with children that reawakens your own inner child, particularly on the beach. Screaming on a body board through the surf, building sand barricades against the incoming tide, holding hands and jumping over waves, sploshing about in rock pools… all childhood pleasures I’d forgotten about until I experienced them with my own kids. (And guess what? Still loads of fun, years later.)
Of course, there are drawbacks too. Car journeys with bored, bickering passengers prone to vomiting or announcing they need a wee just as you join the motorway: not fun. Ditto queuing anywhere hot. See also the brain-ache suffered by trying to remember sun cream, sunhats and other essential paraphernalia on every outing.
But if there’s one thing I especially love about holidays with children it’s seeing a new place through their eyes. A hill is not just a grassy mound, it’s something to roll down, shrieking. A ruined castle is way more interesting if you are looking out for ghosts. As for the delight experienced when encountering unusual wildlife – a sea turtle in Greece, seals in Cornwall, wild boar piglets in France…. the excitement is infectious.
Have a great summer, whatever you’re up to. And remember, if it all gets too much, you’ll be home again in a fortnight.