Last year, when high on the emotion of our prodigal return to the UK, I agreed to go on a week’s holiday with my brother, and his family, and my parents. Self Catering. In Devon. All together. One big happy family!
We have just returned from this ‘holiday’ happily in one piece and even more remarkably we are all still speaking to each other. How did we manage this amazing feat? Well, let me tell you…
You will always be your parents children
Recognise from the beginning that even though you are no longer a kid, your parents will still treat you like one. You will be told to get up, get dressed and finish your veggies. You will also be asked if ‘you’ve had enough’ wine.
Your sibling’s children will be TOTALLY different to your own
If you are seeking the answer to the ancient Nature or Nurture question all you have to do is go on an extended family holiday. You will soon realise that genetics counts for surprisingly little. Your little nieces and nephews will be completely and utterly different to your own children. They will have very little in common, and yet they will try and make the best of the situation as even they understand that family is family and there’s not an awful lot you can do about it.
Your sibling’s parental style is completely different to yours
Despite being brought up in the same family, with the same parents, and having shared childhood experiences, you and your sibling will have totally different ways of parenting your own offspring. You will have totally different standards (in cleanliness, in discipline…) and the rules for TV watching, iPad using and outdoor pursuits will be in complete opposition to each other.
You will not understand your sibling’s spouse
Your brother’s wife or your sister’s husband will be a completely different breed to you. Usually, family gatherings are confined to the space of half a dozen hours, a good couple of which are spent at the dinner table sharing a special occasion and during this time you can usually all rub along and even leave the event actually meaning the words “we must do this again soon some time”. When you have a week together, you will realise that you have absolutely nothing in common with the spouse and that they have a totally different outlook on practically everything to you.
Go with the flow
To maintain peace and goodwill to all, it is absolutely, totally, emphatically, essential to Let it Go, go with the flow and suspend reality for the week. You can winge and complain to your heart’s content once you get into the car on the way home. For the rest of the week, bite your tongue and let things go. Be laid back easy. Ok, you don’t normally let Jonny play cricket in the house whilst eating biscuits, but seriously, for one week only; Let. It. Go.
Take plenty of wine
To enable you to complete the process of going with the flow, it is essential to take plenty of wine with you. In fact, if at all possible take a hip flask to help ease the trauma of little Maisie’s meltdown over not being allowed a second ice cream. However, do expect this to prompt the ‘don’t you think you’ve had enough’ question from your own parents as they look on disapprovingly as you pour your third, large, glass.
Have your own adventures
In the same way that you can go months without seeing your sibling, you are able to have your own holiday adventures. You are not stuck together with Uni Bond for the week, indeed it would do you all good to have a little time out every couple of days or so. The kids might wonder why their cuz isn’t coming with you but as soon as you close that car door they will vent about how weird Bobby and Nancy are and how unfair it is that they always choose what TV programmes to watch. Having an adventure of your own also allows you to make your own family memories which can be shared, with renewed enthusiasm over dinner in the evening.
Take lots of photos
J recently asked Steve “Why does Mummy take photos of boring stuff all the time?” I always take photos, and yes some of these are really boring (always love a good teapot shot…), but I love being able to take a snapshot in time. I especially love being able to carry my memories around with me so I take a lot of photos on my phone. I love scrolling through when waiting for T to complete her dance class. So this one is a no-brainer for me. Taking photos makes you pause in activities, it allows you to appreciate the moment. Taking photos allow you to recall moments that would otherwise go dusty in your mind’s eye (in that way I am future proofing my memory). Taking photos also lets you teach your children that what they do can have consequences; Mummy might put them on her blog, or on Instagram, or on her Facebook page. So when they get to be teenagers and fancy snapping a topless (or bottomless) shot and posting it on social media – they might think twice thanks to that photo of them running along the beach with shells protecting their privates that Mummy posted to Facebook when they were 6* and that has haunted them ever since.
*I have never done this, honestly.
Spread the cost
My siblings and I are on massively different budgets and so it does take a bit of consideration from all to balance the books. Pay for the holiday in advance, then it won’t be hanging over you when you actually go. If you buy food that everyone enjoys, then accept that everyone should cover the cost. It won’t always even itself out, there is always that one person who is quickest to the bar, to the cashpoint, to the checkout, but get a system in place at the beginning to share the costs of the bulk of bills. But don’t get anal about it, sometimes you might pay for an extra ice cream but hey, you’re on holiday. Let it go.
Agree a plan – and stick to it
The thing that is most likely to cause arguments, apart from a debate on Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn, is changing plans. Decide at the beginning of the holiday a plan of attack, places to visit all together or separately, the nights to do a BBQ, the days to go to the beach etc. Then stick to it. There is nothing more irritating than making a plan and then having it changed, at the last minute with no consultation. In many ways an extended family holiday becomes similar to a work project, think how annoying it is when all members of the team agree a course of action and then the boss steps in and changes everything with little, or no, consultation with everyone else.
Finally, take plenty of wine
Ooops, did I say that already?