Four couples. Eight kids aged under 5. One villa. Only if you’re a parent or a masochist does that sound anything like a holiday. Yet this was the scenario I found myself in last week in Corfu. Believe it or not, it was actually enjoyable too. A daily cycle of beach, pool, drink, eat, repeat. With a few toddler tantrums and petty squabbles (just the kids, honestly) thrown in for good measure.

Of course, it hasn’t always been this way. Before Dylan (our eldest son) arrived, one of the few times my wife and I genuinely switched off was during a summer holiday.  Yet since the onset of parenthood, I’ve become accustomed to these weeks becoming rather different. Kind of a combination of family fun, the same old shit in a slightly more challenging location and the desperate trading of ‘relaxation’ time without the kids between Laura and me.

This kind of thing:

“Nathan, put your hat on please.”

“Dylan, some people don’t like having cold sea water poured on them.”

“Nathan, put your hat on.”

“Dylan, the poolside is not the place for a ‘jungle wee’. No, nor is that plant pot.”

“Laura, have you seen the Factor 15?”

“Nathan, stop eating the Factor 15. And for the love of God put your hat on.”

In other words, holidays now tend to come in two distinct parts.

Part One: the day time, a largely chaotic few hours spent either: building, re-building and re-re-building sandcastles for immediate destruction; staring into rock pools while my son pretends to have seen a ‘golden crab’; and trying not to leave every restaurant with a lifetime ban. This period also usually involves staring enviously at anyone who doesn’t have to begin each day by wrestling a screaming child into sun tan lotion or treat the evening meal like a sprint finish.  And that’s not even taking into account the flights at either end.

Then Part Two: the magic moment when the kids have gone to bed, the sun is setting and the adults can finally beginning necking the beer, wine and snacks they’ve been unsuccessfully trying to sneak in throughout Part One.

Our mistake was not realising sooner that simply taking our previous recipe for a nice holiday and adding two kids to the mix doesn’t work. The solution instead (at least as far as I can tell) is to do exactly what we did last week. Hellish as “one villa, eight adults, eight kids” sounds on the surface, having a place to call home where the kids can run, swim and shout freely and where the adults can drink beer and take their chances with the BBQ together in the evening is just the ticket.

Yes, it’s not quite a couple’s retreat in the Maldives. But I have to admit there’s plenty of room for fun too. You only have to ask our friends whose four year old son walked in on their private ‘holiday romance’ last week to realise that…


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