Is NOT a Holiday!
I love my children. And my husband. More than I ever realised I could love anyone or anything. But lock me in a small enclosed space for eight days with three kids and a husband, and I will quickly be able to give you a fairly long list as to what I dislike about each and every one of them.
This article is not for those sanctimonious mums who spend their entire lives professing how perfect their little angels are. How they go to sleep each night on the stroke of seven, eat their greens and prefer fruit to sweets. No. This article is for all those mums who have that day where they want to scream I hate you all at the top of their lungs and not get judged for it. This is for you… because I understand it now.
A little backstory. I have two adorable children and a stepson who we try to see as often as our schedules permit. We managed to get 6 years into their little lives before taking our first family holiday together. Now please don’t read that wrong. That does not mean that I did not have a holiday in six years of parenting. Quite the opposite. My husband and I have used his many ‘work trips’ and family weddings to take advantage of more than a few holidays in the last year. Egypt. Tel Aviv. Malta. However, thanks to the help of family and friends, we have managed to escape the grips of parenthood for a few days at a time to enjoy some much needed alone time.
Last year however, we decided it was about time we took the kids with us. They are old enough now to amuse themselves on a plane without us worrying about them screaming the whole way. Old enough to put to bed at a reasonable hour so we can still enjoy some time on our own in the evenings, and they are mature enough to actually enjoy a holiday and remember some of these (expensive) memories.
So where did we pick for our very first family va-cay? Disneyland Paris of course. Not the one in Orlando, because we were not sure if they would enjoy it, be scared of the rides, or moan at all the walking. So we decided not to waste money on nine-hour flights all the way to the other side of the world for them to hate every second of it. With my youngest still too small to go on most of the rides, we figured we would test out Disneyland Paris first. With only 2 parks to contend, surely it would be cheaper than Orlando?
Oh, how wrong I would be.
We also thought it would be more relaxing. Eight days, two parks and a hopper pass. Surely that would be enough time to do everything slowly and still have time left over to enjoy the sites of Paris. Right?
I was so excited. I had been to Orlando as a kid, my husband and all three kids were oblivious as to what was coming… I, however, knew how magical the place is… so I was the biggest kid of all getting on that plane. I am neurotic when it comes to travelling. My anxiety takes over and I never find it a relaxing experience. But, 8 days with the kids in one of the most magical places in the world, I was determined to make it a memorable holiday.
My lovely (and surprisingly organised) husband had booked a ‘villa’ on a holiday park for us to stay in. We both figured this would be better than staying in a DisneyPark Hotel. The price made no difference, in fact paying for the ‘villa’ was not at all cheaper than staying in one of the official hotels, BUT, the ‘villa’ had separate rooms, a kitchen, a living room and a terrace. Which, in our minds, meant that at the end of the day, the kids could go off to bed and we could have some time on our own.
Staying in a hotel would mean we would all be trapped in a small family room, living on top of each other and suitcases. When the lights went out for the kids, they would go out for us too. That was not what we had planned. Wine, starlight and a pack of cards on the terrace at the end of a long day with three kids… that’s what we had planned!
Are you seeing a pattern here?
Our ‘villa‘ turned out to be a static caravan… not a log cabin as promised, or a ‘villa’ as they had described in the brochure.
Trading standards would have a field day with these guys.
The first ‘villa’ we were given was a two bed… no joke. A TWO bed for 5 people. Which would mean my two girls in one room, me and hubby in the other and my step son on a pull out bed that also happened to be the sofa in the ‘livingroom/kitchen/terrace’. Yep, that was not gonna work. Two steps inside our ‘log cabin’ (that we had promised our adorable girls) and hubby walked straight back out the door.
After much negotiation, we were upgraded. To a three bed. Marginally better, but still a static caravan, with a kitchen come living room that was smaller than my downstairs toilet, no oven (good luck cooking a healthy meal for 5 each day on a gas hob!) and a toilet that was so small that my 6’2″ husband had to leave the door OPEN when he sat down (and tell us all to vacate the caravan) so that he could actually SIT on the toilet with his knees hanging out the door.
Now – each ‘holiday’ I had taken with my husband the previous year had involved us being relaxed, happy, sleeping in a large luxurious bed, waking in the morning to cooked breakfasts and blissful views. This ‘holiday’ was turning out to be the total opposite. I was stressed. Let’s face it, dealing with a grumpy husband whilst trying to keep three kids happy is not the easiest of tasks.
Holidays should not include the following:
*Refereeing Children’s fights
These are all things that parents deal with on a day to day basis. This is not a holiday, this is life in a different location!
Holidays should include:
*Cocktails on the beach
*Sleeping in til mid-day
*Lots of ‘snuggle time’
*Absolutely no stress
and MOST importantly…
It quickly dawned on me that all I needed to do was change my own perception of this trip. This was not a ‘holiday’. It was not going to be relaxing, or restful. There would be no luxury. This was a family trip.
The moment I started to understand that, my whole outlook on the trip changed. I resigned myself to the fact that the pretty black top I had packed ‘just in case’ we go out somewhere nice for dinner would not see the light of day. The kitten heels and cute outfits were packed at the bottom of the suitcase and there they would stay.
I unpacked the bare essentials of makeup. Left my hairdryer and straighteners in the case and pulled out my shorts and flats (not trainers… I don’t ‘do’ trainers… not even at Disney!).
As I walked out onto the terrace of the caravan (that rattled with each step anyone took – no way in hell husband would be getting any action this week!) I spotted the three kids playing in the grass building a campfire.
“This is the best log cabin ever!” – said my beautiful four year old. Bless her. The memories she will have when she is older are of a log cabin, because that’s what we told her she would be getting. This was an adventure for them. It was fun.
As my husband winced at the overly starched scratchy sheets and polyester blankets, I smiled.
“I don’t care. This isn’t a holiday for us. It’s a fun trip for the kids”.
We sucked it up and dealt with the chipped and cracked crockery, lack of space and noisy neighbours. Because this was not a holiday. It never is when you have kids. It’s not supposed to be relaxing. It’s a time to make memories, and memories are loud, bright and full of laughter and sometimes even a lot of sugar-induced screaming.
When we got back to the land of the living, each of our family and friends asked the same question.
“Are you all nice and refreshed after your holiday?”
No – no we are not. But that’s okay. Because it wasn’t a holiday. We were exhausted. The kids had barely slept in 8 days, they had eaten their entire body weight in sugar and carbs – and do you know what – that’s okay!
OUR holiday comes afterward. We get home, unpack the suitcases, get the kids back into a proper routine – then hubby whisks me off for a Spa Break. THAT is a holiday. THAT is refreshing.