Magazine article The Spectator

Shame about the Kids

Magazine article The Spectator

Shame about the Kids

Article excerpt

Family holidays

THE video finally flickers to life and a shot of my father-in-law's nose is followed by a tiled terrace, steps down to a turquoise swimming pool and green fields beyond. In the distance, blue-grey hills meet bright blue sky. This was the vista from our holiday villa in Majorca last year. We stayed in the north of the island between Pollensa, tucked into the base of the mountains, and the walled town of Alcudia. Alcudia's beach is long, sandy and bustling with families; the beach at Porta Pollensa is most memorable for the view of the marina full of fabulous yachts. Further afield, after precipitous drives across mountains, we were often rewarded with those perfect moments when you turn a corner and discover blue sea, sheer cliffs and a small shimmer of pale sand and another one of those fabulous yachts.

It should have been absolutely idyllic. In years to come it will be; we will look back at the photos and remember this holiday as a blissful, sunny family experience. We will forget that we did as many household chores as we do at home - shopping, cooking, washing up, changing nappies and having disciplinary skirmishes with our son. The happy family holiday is a myth. For parents, the holiday part is entirely destroyed by the children and all the work that entails, uprooted and repotted for a week or two somewhere away from the amenities of home.

In the last two years we've been away twice with other couples and, most recently, with my husband's family. I have now concluded that hell may not be other people but it could well be their children, and I'm sure that our son was not always a source of delight to our companions. The same reservations apply to other people's parents - even my husband's. Being with them is like going to work: it's interesting, even stimulating for a few days, but by the end of the week you just want to get off home and get drunk.

Some parents have cottoned on to how grim it all is. I mentioned the idea once to my mother, in a fug of guilt about favouring one family over the other, and was surprised to see her blanch and start stammering about personal space.

The only ones who enjoy it at all are the children. As a young girl, I adored our family holidays. My mother says that on one miserable 1970s camping holiday in the New Forest, blighted by constant and torrential rain, she and Dad decided halfway through that we were going home. Inexplicably, my younger brother and I were devastated, and begged them (successfully) to reconsider. …

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