In the McLean household we make a point of sharing dinner times because, whether the kids like it or not, my wife and I insist on a family meal at least four times per week. Not all shared meals are a success but more often than not - after the initial complaints about the food in front of them - our kids forget themselves and find themselves happily chatting and laughing with us uncool grown-ups. Of course, as soon as they have finished their meals both children disappear back to their respective rooms and online worlds and, as they depart, I shout a cheery “see you at the next meal” which is invariably met by an exasperated ”Daaaadd!” from Teenage Daughter.
So, if a shared meal can be fun, albeit briefly, imagine how exciting it must be to go dog sledding or white water rafting with your kids.
My children are very, very fortunate to have a dad who set up a family activity holiday company. They don’t realise it of course but there are not a lot of children who get to search for the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland or swim with dolphins off the Azores. This is the kind of thing that we do as a family every year and it is the kind of thing that we chat about animatedly at dinner for months afterwards.
And so the meal time discussion goes from the everyday mundane…..
Dad: “How was school?”
Teenage Daughter and Ten Year Old Son in unison: “Alright”
Dad: “What did you do?”
Teenage Daughter and Ten Year Old Son in unison: “Stuff” (It’s always ‘stuff!’)
……to tales of derring-do on the rivers of Europe and the winter landscapes of Northern Scandinavia.
“Dad, remember when I beat you at sledging in Luosto.” boasts Ten Year Old Son
“Yeah, but Mum and me won the doubles race.” Counters Teenage Daughter
For me, that is what a family holiday is all about, shared experiences and memories that will live long in the collective family memory. Otherwise, what are you left with at the end of each day?
Parent: “What did you do at Kids’ Club?”
Offspring: “Stuff!” (It’s always ‘stuff!’)
Parent: “What are you doing tomorrow at Kids’ Club?”
Offspring: “More stuff.”
Parent: “Hmmmm, interesting, thanks for the detail.”
One parent returned from an Activities Abroad holiday a few years ago and wrote,
“It was like getting to know the kids again.”
And, remarkably, it’s not just the parents who enjoy the family interaction.
Whisper it quietly, but our proudest boast is that we have actually seen teenage boys chatting happily with their parents on our holidays. Admittedly, we can’t find one that will admit to such a teenage faux pas but it does happen and it is shared family experiences that make it happen.
Here at Activities Abroad, we will never feature Kids’ Clubs. That is my promise.
Childhood is all too fleeting and, time spent with our children is too precious. Let’s face it, before we know it, our kids will have left home and, if mine are anything like I was at that time of life, I am unlikely to have much contact with them for many years apart from dirty clothing drops and food parcel collections. Hence, I’m gathering as many memories as I possibly can before my fledglings leave the nest and these are the kind of memories that can’t be created by sending my children on a completely different holiday even if it is in the same destination.
So, to sum up, my advice to all parents is to "stuff" the Kids’ Clubs and enjoy a proper family holiday. Believe me, you'll all be laughing about how Dad fell out of his kayak for months afterwards. In my experience that is what Dad's are for.......ridiculing, and it makes all the family laugh together.
Well, almost all.......
"Stop being such an old grump Dad, it was the funniest thing ever!"