Time takes longer once you’ve had kids. B.C. (before children), adventurous holidays were a few months or perhaps a year away if lots of saving, planning or training was required. P.C., our outlook has stretched out to five years ahead or more.
“Once they’re five we’ll go snowboarding again.”
“If we start saving now, then when they’re about 7 we’ll do our dream hiking / camping family USA road trip.”
“Once they’re teenagers we will get them into proper multi-day hiking. They’ll thank us for it when they’re older.”
“Once she can swim I’ll take her sailing.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to do the travelling bits we missed before retirement?” (Trekking in Patagonia and the Himalayas particularly difficult omissions)
In a recent newspaper adventure travel feature, British explorer, Ben Fogle, was quoted saying “I want my children to understand there’s more to life than a sun lounger”. I do too, Ben, yet still we appear to be packing up for our annual sun holiday in a couple of days. It’s been a five year world tour of beaches, ice cream and play parks, utterly distinct from the travel bug itineraries of holidays B.C.
We did try, and we even had some early successes. Before I went back to work after baby no. 1 we had two weeks in Chamonix in the Alps, making use of a family-friendly ski company’s summer offering. We had a great time, particularly on the days Little H was in childcare. Was it worth it? Yes, but she was a baby. She couldn’t fix us with tear-filled eyes, pleading to stay with us and pulling every heart string with the realisation she was being dumped in nursery on holiday. Childcare just doesn’t seem right once they see through the over-excited parental gushing about face paints or baking and show you they know you’re just palming them off.
So why have we let travel bugs lie dormant for so long? Realism. The fact is, holidays with kids are more enjoyable if the kids are at the centre of it more time than they’re not. At least, that’s how it works for us and our kids – I’m sure other kids are way more amenable. Dragging ours on expensive, difficult, adult-centric holidays with higher risks and fewer options to manage them just hasn’t appealed. The flights are longer, the travel more arduous, the attractions less able to be enjoyed and all in all, the experience doesn’t seem worth it. For once my ‘hang the hassle, let’s have the experience’ attitude fails me. Why not save ourselves the disappointment and accept that a few years of holidays where not much happens will be ok. It might even be a form of fun. At the very least, the weather will almost definitely be better and sharing the load is a welcome change, even if it can sometimes feel like my domestic job is just the same with fewer facilities.
We’re nearly at the first milestones in our years of wistful longing anyway. Little H’s interest in places, people and history is increasing as school opens her eyes and her attention span improves, along with her stamina and willingness to try new or difficult things (sometimes). Littlest H is only two seasons away from five, when he can try more than an hour a day of skiing. Our local sailing club will take kids from six, so I can start to re-find that passion myself through my daughter’s discovery next summer (Yay, Swallows & Amazons here we come!). We take them out regularly for walks, albeit day hikes or backpacking are still a bit ambitious. Next year Littlest H will ride his bike properly so we can have longer family outings or contemplate bikes on holiday. It will all get better here on in, I know.
I’ve been reading various blogs about amazing families travelling all over the place with kids – Keeping up with the Holsbys was one, Travelladywithbaby another. Reading Ben Fogle’s first list of adventure ideas was inspiring, as well as feeling smug about the ones I’ve been lucky enough to experience in life already. But I must admit, I’m still looking forward to two weeks in a converted French farm with other families we can hopefully get to know, easy access to pool, beach, a play area and cheesy family attractions. I have my pile of books I will no doubt return with mostly unread, but the hope is there. The weather will be better than here, “Your turn” will be our stock phrase and each of us will take the opportunities we can to relax, sleep and enjoy each other’s and the kids’ company, good and bad. No, it won’t become an inspirational memory for the kids, but there’s time for that. Right now, it’s time to pack the car with sun paraphernalia and get in the zone for early morning sun lounger towel throwing. We can’t have anyone else getting gold medal at that, can we.