Scarcely a holiday brochure these days hasn’t got pictures of happy family holidays with parents and children frolicking around together on a beach, in the water or cycling down some nice leafy countryside path. But is it all what it seems? What about the effort hard working parents put into that summer scene?
This week a report suggests that half of parents dream of going on child-free holidays. That many? Yes, I understand the feeling but I never imagined that year in year out I would be out-voted three to one every time holidays were mentioned. No luxury hotel for me. It was a life on the ocean wave or nothing.
I realised the problems when our first-born came along and I wondered how on earth I could transport the contents of his nursery down a ladder and into a 30 foot boat (there were no marinas near me in those days), not to mention the precious bundle himself. I solved the problem at a stroke – I refused point blank to go on a boating holiday that year.
The following summer the vessel was laid up as it underwent extensive improvements so the problem didn’t arise.
My son was two and a bit when he got his first holiday on the vessel and my abiding shame is the photograph in the family album showing him with a large cut on his face.
This didn’t happen on board but as he sprinted along a rocky beach and went headlong on to his face. My instinct then was to go somewhere sensible like Spain where all the beaches in the brochures were clad in sand for miles. Not a boulder in sight.
I didn’t reckon on the son himself who, the next year, wanted nothing but the boat. I soon realised he had inherited his father’s passion for boats, a passion he in turn had inherited from his ancestors who over the generations had mastered trading ships out of Padstow Harbour in Cornwall. I knew that any dreams of us all in sunny Spain were just that, dreams.
When the second child came along his passion for the sea and boats was clear from he was four months old.
When he wasn’t asleep he demanded to be propped up in his pram, in the cockpit so that he could see out. My nightmare moment with him came in later years when, on one holiday, I couldn’t find him on the larger boat we had bought to accommodate two growing sons.
Fearing he had fallen overboard and verging on a heart attack I charged through the boat like a lion shouting his name, trying to reassure myself he hadn’t inadvertently fallen into the water, particularly as his life jacket was sitting in the cockpit.
He was nowhere to be seen but one last frantic search in his bunk found him reading his favourite Hardy Boys book. He was so engrossed in it he hadn’t heard me callng and wondered what all the fuss was about.
I swore that year they could stay with their grandparents the following summer while I went to the Alps. But I faced the wrath of the three men in my life and that was that. The boat and they won.
When they were old enough they spent their summers at the sailing school in Killyleagh.
Without them on board it was bliss, but it was also lonely.
Forty-seven per cent of the 1,000 parents with children aged 12 and under who took part in the survey said they would happily leave their offspring with a grandparent or child carer to enable them to go on a summer break by themselves.
These days I’m not so fussed about travelling anywhere. Airports, queues, bolshie airport staff, and cramped, noisy, smelly planes put me right off.
Our main holiday is still on the high seas, just the two of us, reminiscing about those `lovely times’ we had when the children were on-board too.