Updated: Aug 7
I’ve been away for a ‘Holiday.’ When I say the word ‘holiday’ it conjures up images of me relaxed on a sunbed sipping on a cocktail in oversized sunglasses flicking through a glossy magazine.
But a ‘holiday’ with three kids is nothing like that.
The only glossy mag I got my hands on was the safety leaflet on the ferry. I read it twice, back and front, then I just stared at it hoping no one would ask me a question. Staring at leaflets is a good way of getting out of boring parenting chores. I pretend to be engrossed to avoid 'Mumming'
My peace doesn’t last,
Just as I get to the good bit about putting the life jacket on my child first, I get poked in my ribs.
‘I need a wee’
I look at my husband with a kind of ‘isn’t it your turn’ face only to be met with a ‘you know it’s your turn’ scowl. He’s right of course, it is my turn. But I’d rather just sit and stare at a crappy drawing of a person floating in a rubber ring than wipe a bum, But, I get on with it. I grab my daughters hand and drag her to the public toilets where she touches every surface on entry and then opens the sanitary bin and puts her fingers inside the little slot.
‘Don’t touch that!’ I shout
‘It’s dirty! Everything is dirty! Don’t touch anything!’
We have to wash hands, once before a wee, once after and once for luck. It takes about 10 minutes. Minutes I could have spent doing nothing.
Because that’s what a holiday used to be about..... Being able to do absolutely nothing.
I can hear the needle scratching off the record.
Doing nothing is no longer an option.
When I book a trip, I’m full of anticipation and imagine my kids making dens out of drift wood and dozing in hammocks. I dream about us mingling with the locals and sipping from coconuts. But in reality a holiday nowadays is just like being at home, just with a few more injuries, more fizzy drinks than usual and way more family disputes.
I’m silly because even though I know it’s not possible.... I still want my sun lounger moment. I’m still reaching for a pleasure that will never materialise, setting myself up for disappointment. I should ditch the dream and settle for 1 minute reading a safety manual. I should know by now what a Holiday is.
A holidays is me shouting more than usual. It means ‘same shit, different location’ or, ‘More difficult shit, in a more difficult location’.
The word holiday shouldn’t exist for parents. It’s a word that makes us feel like we are going somewhere to chill, somewhere to unwind. It's a fallacy! A con made up by airlines and resorts!
There needs to be a new word, dulliday, or kidsarewithyou24/7aday perhaps? A word that we use instead of holiday, one that reminds us what were in for, so we know to never leave the house again.
On ‘Holiday’ my children are nearby all the time, they are either in my ear asking for snacks, showing me shells or getting me to remove a splinter. There is no respite, they are close, prodding me for attention when I’m still daydreaming about that sun bed. Even though they’re happy, I’m in a mood because my preconceived idea of what my holiday should be is being disturbed by their incessant demands.
Also, I’m a bit grumpy ‘cause I’m stressed. There are new-fangled dangers on holiday. Sharks, potholes, weird men that hang around in bushes, jellyfish, rips, angry dogs, cliffs, poison ivy and millions of other potential death traps. Then there’s the ear infections, colds, toe stubs and tiny bits of coral stuck in soft souls of feet, they always get sick on holiday, it’s the law. I spend my time like that little frog on the 80’s computer game ‘Frogger’ Trying to get through the days without being injured. Leaping from one log to the next with my three children in my arms, hoping to survive until tea-time.
2 years ago, when I was still binge drinking, I would have drowned out the annoyance of being away. I would have drank through the whines of sunburnt children and sipped on a margarita as they weaved amongst bar stools. I would have been propped up every night ordering 2 for 1’s as the sun went down, drinking the children away until bedtime.
My holidays were spent trying to cure the hangover before the next heavy session, days pulling my sheets over my head as my children begged me to go to the beach. But I enjoyed these times because I always, no matter how shitty I was feeling, or how long the day was, had something to look forward to.....drinking. I always had drinking. Any kid friendly, activity filled days or tears and arguments melted away because cold beers and fancy cocktails were waiting for me at the bar.
I'd love to say that since giving up drinking that holidays are better, that I skip through the sand dunes in a floaty kaftan holding a bucket and spade and that I spend quality time bonding with my little angels. But sadly, that’s not the case. I find the never-ending child minding and the lack of a release (vodka) or a reward (Chardonnay) intense.
Not drinking on holiday is hard.
At night I'm tested But during the day... I’m there. I’m not hiding in my room with the aircon on full of self-hatred. I’m there. I’m able. I’m part of the day. I’m there, with them, cheering them on as they race on the beach, to wrap them in towels, to warm them up when their teeth chatter and to make them packed lunches, to buy a shell bracelet at the shop and I’m there when they complain about being bored.
My husband and I have to complete our motherly duties on holiday just like we do at home. Sun cream is on, plasters cover bleeding toes, ice packs are held on heads, swimming costumes are hung out in the sun, earplugs are removed, bum cracks are cleared of sand, chips are picked up from the floor, ice-cream is ordered by the gallon and after a hectic dinner, PJ’s are on and they’re tucked up in bed in soft hotel bedsheets.
No wind down.
At times like this, giving up drinking feels like a very unwise thing to do.
I kiss the kids and whisper goodnight. I go outside and sit at the table with my husband.
‘I feel like drinking when we’re away’ I say
‘I feel like I need a drink to wind down. Don’t worry, I’m not going to have one, but I find I’m thinking about it more’
He makes me a cup of cinnamon tea and we sit outside the room playing Uno. Drunk people wander past heading to the bar and the stars twinkle above our heads. I distract myself, doing so gives me time. I play the tape forward in my head and as I sit with my husband and I deliberate the consequences.
‘What if I did drink?’
‘Just a cheeky holiday wine?’ I say.
‘When have you ever, ever had just one glass of wine? He says,
He knows me and after a minute of consideration I realise that actually, I know me too.
I know me very well. The more sober I am the closer I am to my own truth. There is no cheeky wine. There is only 7 cheeky wines and a naughty bottle of gin. Then a hangover with a big dollop of fear.
I know me.
So, this holiday, even though I’m feeling highly strung, annoyed with kids, tired and in need of a crutch... I decide to choose days over nights.
I opt for happy days instead of messy nights. I focus on the light and avoid being dragged into the darkness.
I sit with my husband and watch as laughing revellers stumble back to rooms. I feel jealous of their demeaners, all slouched and wobbly as a room key drops to the floor. They fall through the entry way giggling. I can’t help wanting to feel like that. It’s so confusing sometimes.
And then I hear him,
I go in and give him his snuggy and he smiles before lying down.
I stand looking at him asleep inside the little porter cot hoping he won’t wake up too early, knowing that he will.
I finish my game of Uno and read my book in bed before falling asleep and 9pm.
Holidays used to be about the drinking. And now, even though at times I need to bury my head in the sand and ugly cry, holidays are about them, about being available.... for them.
The old me would have thought this version of me was as dull as dishwater. But she was a loon, a booze fuelled party animal with no responsibilities and some very questionable rashes, so I don’t listen to her. I get up and make raisin toast for my family and get on with my day. Tears, stubbed toes and all.
After the occasional moments of doubt,
Days win. Every time.