Fresh from the slopes and fresh out of hope on this whole parenting lark, Sophie White spills on how family holiday is basically an oxymoron
"The first mistake was even thinking that this holiday would be anything less than an unmitigated disaster."
I am having this thought standing in the restaurant of our Alpine hotel as my four-year-old is hitting the demonic stage of a tantrum – ya know, the bit where they're hissing in ancient Aramaic. The other diners are looking at me clearly all thinking the same thing.
"Why are you doing this to us? Why have you brought him here?"
Do they have a point?
Firstly, before launching into a moaning rant about holidays with young children, I obviously must check my privilege – yes, I am very lucky to be in a position to bring my child on holidays.
Maybe, I'd just like HIM to know this too.
There's a lot of pressure on us these days to curate a perfect existence for the online galleries of our lives and these impossible standards have leaked out into every corner of our day-to-day, including how we're raising the spawn. I see a friend hosting a cupcake-decorating party for her 8-year-old and I immediately feel bad for not bestowing such magical moments on my own child. In my defence, any time I do cobble together the will to do some 'crafting' or other memory-making activity, he has that child-knack for sh*tting all over it. This part, I at least am adult enough to recognise, is my own damn fault for having ridiculous expectations of a child in the first place.
So am I learning?
Absolutely not. See below for all the ridiculous expectations I brought like carry-on luggage with me on our latest holiday.
Expectation: That the holiday would resemble a holiday
Reality: The holiday resembles being trapped in an alternate universe hell-scape where every day is actually 42 hours long and there's no TV.
Expectation: I've been parenting long enough, I know how to "work" the child when on holidays.
Reality: Oh no, FOOL. The long gaps between holidays means that you are essentially taking a brand new child away on holidays EVERY TIME. All the lessons that you learnt the hard way on that campsite in Italy last year are basically irrelevant now. That was then and this is a new fresh hell. (I'm really selling the family holiday idea here, aren't I).
Expectation: We'll be making some extraordinary, amazing, super special childhood memories for him.
Reality: We will be making memories of my face contorted in rage approximately every 8 minutes as I remember that I am paying roughly €180 a DAY to be here which is exponentially more than I pay to simply exist at home in a far less volatile atmosphere. Also even more galling, seeing as he's only four my son does not appear to remotely appreciate the back-breaking effort I'm pouring into crafting these beautiful memories. By day three, I apparently became completely unhinged and my husband heard a barely audible snarl emitting from me when the child was complaining about the "snow being wet". It sounded like: "You'll make a f*cking snow angel if you ever want to come on holidays again".
Sidebar: By day four lunchtime alcohol was a medicinal imperative.
Expectation: Sharing a room will be like a fun family sleepover.
Reality: Sharing a room with a four year old means that come 7.30pm every night the husband and I are lying in darkness, wondering how, yet again, we managed to screw up bedtime so badly. No matter what we attempted regarding the dinner-bedtime configuration, we could not win. Bring him to dinner with us and things would soon descend into a tantrum of epic proportions (see the opening paragraph), attempt to get him to bed before our dinner and after 90 minutes of stories and pleading and cajoling and invariably we would end up eating dinner in shifts, swapping after each course.
Expectation: He'll be so happy to be brought skiing.
Reality: He is four, Sophie COP ON. He doesn't give a sh*t about anything that isn't Paw Patrol.
So on a redemptive note, the family ski trip was memorable. Perhaps not in the most positive ways but I guess these are the memories that take on a rose glow with the passage of time, the memories that we'll look back on and smile. It's hard to picture in the moment how the four-year-old throwing chicken nuggets at me while a nearby 'happy' family (I'm presuming happy, all I know is no one at their table was throwing food or quietly weeping while drinking wine at lunch) looked shocked, but I guess it will happen. These memories gradually transform into the highlights reel of our lives.
Often parents of older children will helpfully point out the bittersweet fact that a day will come when our mercurial little four-year-olds won't even want to be near us any more so on future holidays I will try to hug this knowledge (and my adorable tiny tyrant) close.