If I had to give you my best family memory it would undoubtedly be the 6 months we spent travelling around Oz in 2009. We planned for it a year ahead, got well set up and then enjoyed every minute. Even with some personal financial troubles back home, it still lingers as my fondest memory.
What it’s meant though is that every other trip has been measured alongside it – and it’s hard to stack up. Last year in Ireland was awesome and that is also a great memory, but interestingly I was missing the northern journey that had been part of our life for the last 5 years.
So as we planned this trip it was with an unconscious sense of wanting to replicate some of that enjoyment.
But… Our kids are now 6 years older and much less inspired by the thought of 8 weeks away with mum and dad. Even before we left there were groans of ‘do we have to?…’
On the one hand I was stunned. ‘Yes! You do!… And you ought to be grateful you can!’ is my instinctive response. And on the other hand both Danelle and I remember a time when we no longer thought family holidays would be enjoyable, in fact I don’t remember going on a family holiday after the age of 13 and Danelle has memories of doing it grudgingly.
So it’s been a different experience thus far and there have already been plenty of moments where I have wanted to say ‘Stuff it – lets just go home,’ because grumpy children are about as much fun as hemorrhoids. We won’t be going home though as I think the challenge is to push thru it and figure out how we function now as a family.
Our first week in Exmouth was great, spent with the Wesley family, close friends from way back and good company for all of us, as well as having the cousins in town. So the kids had their fair share of connection – even they did manage to look on the dark side at times. Danelle was able to relax and I was able to surf. In the words of Darryl Kerrigan ‘everyone kicked a goal’.
But still the questions come… Where are we going next? What is there to do there? Who will be there? Answers like ‘a river’, ‘read’ and ‘hopefully no one’ don’t cut it. The kids would rather stay in van parks than free camp, and while we need to do a bit of that, we love the experience of being somewhere remote and isolated – even if those places are harder and harder to find.
We have had some conversations about what we all need on a holiday, but it gets hard to keep thinking of one another when it isn’t going your way. Sam has had the occasional bout of negativity about pretty much everything and Ellie just lets us know she is bored with a loud sigh.
Yes – I could play the dad card and read them the riot act, tell them to get a grip and realise how lucky they are… I could, but I don’t think that’s the answer. A big stick doesn’t result in a happy family – just a family that conforms – for a while.
I’m also aware that I am pretty selfish on holidays and want some of my own needs to be met – needs for silence and solitude and space -which are often at odds with the kids needs. And then there’s Danelle who really needs a good break and who needs to let go of a bit of anxiety. So far so good, but she has felt the strain too.
At first I was just pissed off that my holiday was being ruined by grumpy selfish kids who couldn’t see their own privilege, but I think reality is that we all just see the world a little differently depending on where we are. Who would have thought that in trying to provide them with a great time away I would be frustrating them?…
So the next 6 weeks are a time to figure out how we function better as a family and to agree that we will try to navigate these new waters of teenage years with grace and kindness towards one another, rather than just going our own way.
Next year the kids go back to school and we are forced back into school holiday routines for at least 5 years. I feel ill at the thought of it… But from here on I am guessing it will be holidays with friends in peak times and in busy places and my needs for solitude and quiet will be met in other ways.
My hope though, is that in 10 years time when the kids are adults, they will want to join us occasionally when we go on holidays – that they will like the thought of being around us and will feel able to come and go easily, but I imagine the likelihood of that happening will depend on how the next few years pan out.