I once overheard someone say that a family on holiday was just an opportunity for the same family to argue in a different place. Although I laughed at the time, those words have stayed with me and I’ve often wondered if they are really true. After all, the whole point of a holiday is to relax and recuperate, to get away from our daily routines and to come back refreshed and ready to face the world again. Yet we’ve all been to places where we’ve heard frustrated parents, whining children - and sometimes we have been those parents or those children - who apparently aren’t appreciating their time away.
With the summer holidays approaching, I have been thinking about it once again, and I wonder if sometimes our expectations of our holidays are what let us down. When I was a child, we went to the same seaside village in Wales every year. I loved playing on the beaches, even when it rained and I wore my wellies and we sat in an igloo made of windbreaks, and would quite happily spend every day doing so. To be taken away from the beach to look at a castle or worse still, around another town, was just a waste of my holiday as far as I was concerned.
Now, as an adult, I like to look at other attractions in an area and my children grumble at missing out on precious sandcastle-building time.
Our ideas of relaxation change as we get older. Some people want nothing more than to lie in the sun with a good book, others want to get out and explore and children are generally drawn to anywhere that involves water and fun. It’s no wonder that families fall out on holidays when all of those needs can’t necessarily be met at the same time, especially as the normal escape routes of bedrooms with familiar toys, gardens or even pubs aren’t there. We feel obliged to stay together as a family in a way that we never would at home.
I don’t know if there is an answer to this other than to compromise more than we might do at home. Holidays offer a good opportunity to listen to what other members of our family actually want. We spend more meal times together in one or two weeks than we might have done in a whole month. We have the chance to listen to what our children have to say, and often they surprise us, being funnier, more insightful and having absorbed far more of the world around them than we assume from the usual “not much” answer we get to the question of what they have done in school. Asking questions and listening to the answers are valuable skills that we are all guilty of not using as much as we should. Let’s use our holidays to practice and we might all come back more refreshed and relaxed than we expect.