Over the past 20 years I have traveled with many families who were looking for a little help on holidays with their kids. Each time I was doing a job, so I was pretty focused on making sure everyone was enjoying themselves and that parents were able to have a break during the stay.
A few years ago, our whole family traveled to the South of France for my sisters wedding. We all stayed in a massive villa so that we could be together. We had the two little nieces with us (then aged 5 and 2 and a half). Before we left we were talking about the holiday and about how we were going to have so much fun together. There was a swimming pool and a beach nearby so we knew they would enjoy it. My sister also brought her fabulous sister in law with her so that she could take care of the kids on the night of the wedding and after the party the following day. We had it all covered, and excitement was high!
For me though, this time I watched the children from a different perspective. There were moments where the little one seemed so confused. She didn’t know which end was up. At bedtime, she would ask “Are we in France?”. It seemed to play on her mind a bit. The older dolly, on a few occasions, said “I remember Dublin” and “I remember our garden/trampoline etc”. It seemed that no matter how much we felt we had prepared them, there was something not quite sitting right with them. It got me thinking about how it must seem to them when we uproot little people and actually take them out of their comfort zones. Day to day routine goes out the window and actually, anything goes. And although they had buckets of fun, kids like to know the lie of the land and what’s happening next.
There were also a few moments when the smallest of the pair simply had meltdowns because she was unsure of herself. Their parents are really good when it comes to discipline and keeping them in check and I would be right on the same page as them. My mum (their granny) would be less so and my dad does his best to tolerate meltdowns but he finds it hard going! My brother is the fun uncle and their aunt who had come to mind them never gets to spend much time with them so they ran rings around her sometimes! In theory this was great – loads of people to watch them. But in reality, there were too many chiefs for our little Indians and they were all over the shop! The five year old was able to articulate how she was feeling so it was easier for her I think. My parents (her grandparents) had a massive bed in their room so she was able to get in and find her little place of comfort. It’s not unusual for her to have sleepovers with the grandparents when we are at home. The smallest one found it more difficult to say how she felt so for her, the little things became a big deal. My sister and brother in law were great at picking up on this and sometimes rather than reprimand, she was scooped up and hugged and cuddled and squeezed with love. They were right. There is a time and a place for everything. My sister couldn’t wait to get them home and put a little shape back in their lives.
I went for a lovely walk with the youngest one along the promenade of Juan les Pins one afternoon. As we wandered along eating icecream she turned to me and said “Just you and me Niamhy”!
I melted. She just needed a break from her “holiday”.
That is not to say that we didn’t have a wonderful week. The tricky moments with the kids were few and far between but they still resonated with me. I’m not sure that the kids will remember their little internal struggles with life on holidays but I thought it was worth mentioning.
We plan these trips and say that we do it for the kids, but actually is it sometimes too much for them to cope with?