There is something to be said for having low expectations when it comes to family holidays with young children. After all, when you are going self catering – which we are – it is always simply same shit, different location. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or hasn’t tried it.
So, it pays for me to remind myself, on the eve of our forthcoming holiday, that the next week is going to be a million miles away from anything I would have classed as a holiday before having a family. In fact, if someone had told my pre-kid self exactly what my ‘fun’ summer holiday with children would look like in future, I would probably have laughed in their faces and told them I’d rather stay at home.
We are all set to embark upon British Summer holiday ‘fun’. The car is packed high and the expectations are low, perhaps at their lowest ebb ever.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that this holiday is going to be the worst yet or even that I’m not looking forward to it. I really am and the kids are beyond excited. I’m just saying that I am feeling pleasingly realistic this time.
It might be that I am simply an old hand with disappointing holidays now but this year really does seem to have the perfect recipe to be disappointing on a grand scale. And I am breezily walking into it with eyes wide open.
Perhaps the primary reason that I am refusing to expect great things this time is the recent and pretty disasterous weekend we had in July (see Relaxing Weekend Away?), which served as a timely reminder of the reality of holidays with kids.
But that isn’t the only thing that is keeping my expectations in check this year. We’ve always holidayed in the UK since having kids but we usually go somewhere with a few extra facilities to keep everyone entertained. A play barn or a shared swimming pool. Anything to keep the little blighters busy. This year we made the decision – which now seems completely insane, by the way – to save a couple of hundred quid and go for a standard cottage. No frills. Just the five of us in a house in a quiet Somerset village. What were we thinking?!
Then there is the good old British weather. The five day forecast shows black clouds and rain every day. I’m not a sun worshipper and I’m not asking for a heatwave but a few rain-free days might have been nice. At least there are plenty of caves in Cheddar that we can spend our many rainy days hiding out in.
The final nail in the expectations coffin came last night. Baby T has a raging temperature and is ill and miserable. He was up crying half the night and when he wasn’t crying he was in bed with me, fidgeting, snoring and kicking me in the ribs, with my husband banished to the sofa. Nice timing, eh? T is drugged up to the max and spent the majority of the day watching Hey Duggee from my lap or wandering around listlessly and moaning.
So, I’ve packed extra Calpol and we are all set to leave tomorrow morning, to travel through an apparent monsoon for several hours.
OK, I know it all sounds pretty bleak but I’m not feeling down about it at all. I actually think these pathetic expectations are going to work to my advantage. You see, I’m ready for it to be really hard work. I’m expecting to be up half the night, to be sharing a bed with a squirmy, ill toddler and to be up at the crack of dawn in a house I don’t know, trying to keep him happy and quiet while everyone else sleeps. I know the kids are going to get bored in the no frills cottage and moan about the rain. I’m even fully expecting my exhausted husband to go into a grump over it all.
But I am not down about it. I’m stupidly chipper. If I assume all of the above is going to happen, the good moments will be a bonus. There is a lot to be said for low expectations because they are almost certain to be exceeded. Going into it being blindly positive, with everything that is stacked up against us, would be setting myself up for a fall. Much better to aim low and be pleasantly surprised, I reckon.
I love our family holidays and I honestly believe that memories made on holiday are rivalled by no other. What we have to do is expect the crap, deal with it with a smile (where possible) and then look forward to the little gems thrown into the mix – the moments we will remember through the exhaustion. Sometimes the disasters are the things you remember best, and look back on with a real belly laugh.
Wish me luck. I expect bits of it will be bloody awful. But I have packed plenty of wine which is sure to help, and I think I’ve also packed exactly the right attitude this time.
It’s gonna be shit. We’re gonna love it.