There are numerous ways for a family to enjoy their holidays: long haul versus short haul, package versus bespoke, vacation versus “stay-cation”. This year, however, my little family has invented a whole new way of experiencing our summer break – “the Separ-cation”. No, don’t worry, we haven’t decided that our union has come to an end, we have just decided to take one child each and head off to diametrically opposite ends of the island.
So, as I write this I am in a rather plush four star hotel in Scotland visiting my Scottish relatives with my Mum and my darling daughter Meri (who is fast asleep in her cot a few feet away), whilst my wife has taken our son Arun off to see her parents on the South Coast some five hundred miles distant. This is a novel experience for us as a family and so I thought I would take the time to scribble a few observations down so that others contemplating a similar holiday strategy might benefit from the wisdom of my experience.
Whilst you may think that after 12 desperate years of marriage I would be gasping to get away from the old battle-axe (just checking to see whether my wife actually reads this blog…), it has in all honesty been a mixed experience.
There are advantages. It means that I get to spend a lot of quality time with Meri. All the parenting manuals tell you that you need to carve out lots of time with the kids but not just as a part of the tribe. Each child needs one on one time with each parent. Well, over the last few days Meri has certainly had plenty of QT with her Old Man. It has been great to spend time with her without worrying about the other one which to be honest I don’t do enough of.
Secondly, I get to spend quality time with my wider family (grandmother, aunts, uncle and cousins). We can catch up in a way that is difficult when some of the relationships are as “in-laws”. Now, don’t get me wrong, Clare and I get on very well with our in-laws but sometimes it’s nice not to have to think about it all too much.
Lastly, I am firmly of the opinion that a little distance never hurt a relationship. Some of my friends live life in the pockets of their partner. Clare and I have always been pretty independent and have to a larger extent than most, done our own thing. We’ve never had a problem with it and indeed, I think it is healthy.
There are disadvantages though. I desperately miss Arun. So much of my day as a stay-at-home Dad is punctuated by his routine and character that he is an irreplaceable presence in my life. The day does feel empty without him. It would also be nice to see the in-laws. We do get on pretty well and everyone here is missing Clare and Arun as well.
Mostly though, it also feels odd, not doing things as a family. As I walked along the sunlit shores of a loch today with my Aunt sharing an ice-cream with Meri, I enjoyed the moment. However, a part of me knew it would have been a lot more fun if the rest of my family had been there to enjoy it with me. Our shared and happy memories are the bedrock that family life is built on. Those happy reminiscences about the time Arun went paddling or Meri charmed the waitress in the hotel will only be half as strong as they could have been and that is a shame.
So, on balance, whilst a separation vacation does have its merits it isn’t necessarily one that I would recommend. The fact is I like both of my kids too much to leave either one of them behind and, just in case my wife does read this, I miss the old battle-axe too.