So what kind of summer holiday do you want? I always think it’s important to know, and to make sure your children know too. I used to say to my kids when they were small: ‘Shall we have one of those fun-filled happy friendly summers, and not one of those miserable fighty shouty ones?’ and they would enthusiastically agree with my vision. Then they would just need a quick reminder if they forgot it mid-way through August (or earlier…). Always great to create a shared vision and point out the options I think, because otherwise children don’t know about this choice we have, or that they are a part of creating what we all want.
It’s important for parents to get their needs met as much as possible over the summer holidays because if we don’t we’ll end up taking it out on our children somehow, and it helps to let them know what those needs are so they don’t have to second guess.
By this I don’t mean like the parents I once saw in an on-site caravan camp bar in Prestatyn, obviously. They were sitting drinking in a miserable dark bar that looked a bit like a disused aircraft hanger with karaoke facilities when I popped in at 11 in the (gloriously sunny) morning, and they were still there when I returned after a fun packed day on the beach at about 5. The kids were drinking coke and eating crisps listlessly in the morning and had descended into screaming tantrums on the floor amongst the discarded empty crisp packets and coke cans by the afternoon. On the one sunny day of that summer!!
Not making any judgement here about those parents’ chosen method of relaxing on holiday, but that was never going to work. It violated the basic principle of holiday parenting, which I like to think of as Least Effort, Most Return. That entails some creative engineering of situation and environment which enables you to slyly spend the whole day doing what you want without your children even noticing, because they are too busy getting on with doing what they want. Campsites are always good for that.
Of course you do things for your children too, to enjoy together – I would never have experienced the joys of aquariums, zoos and theme parks without my kids, for which I thank them, but I notice that I’m not tempted to revisit these places now that I don’t have to…
My aim every summer has always been to spend as much time as possible outdoors, swimming in the sea and doing nothing, and the engineering of circumstances which has enabled me to do that have changed as the children have grown. The good news for those of you with very young children is that it gets easier and easier because children are traditionalists and like to do things the same way every year, which is why it’s important to start off with doing things that you genuinely enjoy. Except of course if it’s something that obviously won’t work, like sitting all day drinking in a darkened bar in Prestatyn.