are we there yet? (a helicopter holiday)

It’s the time of year when the certifiably insane families hit the road for their annual holidays. We’re no different. In a week’s time we’re heading to the Sunshine Coast. It will be our first holiday since a mini-break during last year’s renovations. Although I must point out that this year we are FLYING – yippeeeeee!

But what were the lessons we learned twelve months ago? Well, Levi took the iconic phrase, ‘Are we there yet?” to another dimension, and I discovered that I have some major over-protectiveness issues. Could it be  that I really am a helicopter parent desperately hiding in a Free-Ranger’s outfit? Please say no – or at least don’t tell @An_Idle_Dad.

Our dream getaway last year included a family apartment at a Gold Coast resort and tickets to a theme park. After our journey a few years ago across the Nullabor in a campervan with two kids and no portable DVD player, we swore that ‘fly-drive’ and ‘five-star’ would be the only way we would holiday in the future.

The competition between airlines boded well for budget flights but we found that, even with the current exorbitant fuel prices, four return airfares still cost more than double what we would pay to drive our own little car. So, we bit the bullet and decided to do the Great Aussie East Coast Family Drive – a pilgrimage that many of us remember from our own childhoods.

Levi is not the most patient of children. He is also not afraid to express himself in whatever fashion he deems necessary, so I was kind of dreading the drive. About twenty minutes in he asked the inevitable, “Are we there yet?” At this stage I still believed in the honest approach. “No, sweetheart,” I explained patiently, “We have a really long way to go. Just try not to think about it and we’ll be there before you know it.”

The following hours were punctuated by a progressively more creative line of questioning:

“Are we almost there?”

“Are we super nearly there?”

“Are we a big bit nearly there or a little bit nearly there?”

“Are we super, duper nearly a big bit there? Or just a super duper little bit nearly almost there?”

“When will we be there? I’m really bored/hungry/tired/feeling whingey and annoying.”

Okay, that last one’s mine but you get the picture.

As luck (?) would have it our trip was also punctuated by a dead battery and a broken gearbox at the halfway point. It was here, in our frustration – and the fear that we had embarked on the holiday from hell – that Luke and I wised up. When we finally reclaimed our car (with a long, long way still to go) Levi almost immediately piped up, “Are we there yet?” Luke and I answered, almost in unison, “NEARLY! Look kids,the Big Banana!” For the remainder of the trip we were always ‘nearly’ there.

And delayed gratification works wonders. Our arrival at our destination was El Dorado-esque with its glittering promise of holiday pleasures and treasures. We visited the theme park; ate out lavishly; bought indulgent mementoes and generally recharged our batteries.

The kids – at six and seven – were the perfect age for holidaying. No nappies, naps or sippy cups required. Late nights were fun and were usually followed by languorous sleep-ins. We had found our little piece of heaven.

But it was on the last day that I recognised a tone I had adopted for the entire holiday. I was aghast when I realised what kind of parent I have, in fact, become. It would seem I am a holiday doomsayer and general party pooper – pointing out hidden dangers to my kids at every opportunity. The following are all direct quotes (from me). Sadly I am not exaggerating for comic effect.

“Don’t go out on the balcony! People DIE when they fall from the eighth floor!”

“Don’t lean up against the lift doors! What if they open and you FALL DOWN THE ELEVATOR SHAFT?”

“Stay with mum and dad at all times! People STEAL children at theme parks!”

“Don’t swim where I can’t see you! You CAN DROWN IN AN INCH OF WATER!”

“Don’t laugh while eating nachos! You’ll CHOKE TO DEATH!”

I was disgusted. I had spent the holiday ranting to my kids about a litany of freakishly rare and macabre occurrences. But I couldn’t help it – in this unfamiliar place my protective impulses went into overdrive.

I had to face the fact that my windswept and interesting days of lying on a beach in Greece – with nothing to worry about except whether I should go bottomless AND topless  – were long gone. Holidays were now gruesome headlines waiting to happen.

Luckily my kids are starting to turn the tables and have perfected the art of ‘pretending to ignore’ – just as I used to do to them when they were in the throes of their toddler tantrums a few short years ago. These days they simply roll their eyes and ask Dad to take them swimming. He’s a little less helicopter, a little more daredevil – exactly what they need.

Family holidays – Heaven or Hell? Or a little bit of both?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “are we there yet? (a helicopter holiday)

  1. Seraphim

    Hilarious post! I read it whilst watching my kids at their swimming lesson. Three times I’ve resisted the urge to shriek at the instructor: “what are you? A total moron? Can’t you see the water is too deep for her/ this activity is not extending his abilities enough/ your bikini isn’t sunsafe?” and I haven’t. But, maybe tomorrow I will.

  2. Much like me 🙂 very much like me 🙂 although we have it down to me:”look can you just not do that” child”why?” me – the look child “oh” in bored tone of one who knows there is something very rare and dangerous about to be talked about at length. Unfortunately this happens from the moment we get into the city till we leave it aswell as holidays…thank goodness for Dads…

  3. Very, very funny. I also go into overdrive protective parent out of my normal environment, but haven’t caught myself making similar statements just yet. My boys are a bit young so my helicopter skills extend more to the playground where I watch eagle-eyed for bullying children (one too many bad slide and play gym experiences to just let it go).

    I’ll let you know what I’ve become in a few years. LOL.

  4. I have no idea what this post is about, as a Dad all I can say is “Got those Greece photos?”

  5. Thea

    I love it! I do it, too. It’s like it’s pre-programmed huh? It just comes out.
    I am still waiting for the holidays with no nappies, naps or sippy cups (mine are 5 & 2). How liberating that must be. 🙂

  6. Most definitely a little bit of both (as in good & bad holidaying with kids). We just returned from a trip to Port Macquarie recently, and you know all those comments you made to your children above? Um, yep. Me too. I have to stop myself sometimes. I have three boys. And, you know, boys just wanna have fun too. 😉

    I’m like Thea. I’m looking forward to holidays without nappies or sipper cups (although, sipper cups have gone I suppose). Shouldn’t be too far off now my youngest is 3. That will be far more enjoyable!

  7. I often think I don’t hover enough and instead feel insanely guilty when something does go wrong and my almost 2-year-old hurts herself, fortunately none of our ‘hurts’ have been quite so dire as those you mentioned!

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