Choosing Days Over Nights – Always

By Victoria Vanstone – Host of the Sober Awkward podcast and Author of ‘A Thousand Wasted Sundays’ Coming Feb ’24.

 

I’ve been away for a ‘Holiday.’ When I say the word ‘holiday’ it conjures up images of me relaxed on a sunbed sipping on a cocktail in oversized sunglasses flicking through a glossy magazine.

 

But a ‘holiday’ with three kids is nothing like that.

 

The only glossy mag I got my hands on was the safety leaflet on the ferry. I read it twice, back and front, then I just stared at it hoping no one would ask me a question. Staring at leaflets is a good way of getting out of boring parenting chores. I pretend to be engrossed to avoid ‘Mumming’

 

My peace doesn’t last,

 

Just as I get to the good bit about putting the life jacket on my child first, I get poked in my ribs.

 

‘I need a wee’

 

I look at my husband with a kind of ‘isn’t it your turn’ face only to be met with a ‘you know it’s your turn’ scowl. He’s right of course, it is my turn. But I’d rather just sit and stare at a crappy drawing of a person floating in a rubber ring than wipe a bum, But, I get on with it. I grab my daughters hand and drag her to the public toilets where she touches every surface on entry and then opens the sanitary bin and puts her fingers inside the little slot.

 

‘Don’t touch that!’ I shout

 

‘Why mummy?’

 

‘It’s dirty! Everything is dirty! Don’t touch anything!’

 

We have to wash hands, once before a wee, once after and once for luck. It takes about 10 minutes. Minutes I could have spent doing nothing.

 

Holiday nothing.

 

Because that’s what a holiday used to be about….. Being able to do absolutely nothing.

 

I can hear the needle scratching off the record.

 

Wrong!

 

Doing nothing is no longer an option.

 

When I book a trip, I’m full of anticipation and imagine my kids making dens out of drift wood and dozing in hammocks. I dream about us mingling with the locals and sipping from coconuts. But in reality a holiday nowadays is just like being at home, just with a few more injuries, more fizzy drinks than usual and way more family disputes.

 

I’m silly because even though I know it’s not possible…. I still want my sun lounger moment. I’m still reaching for a pleasure that will never materialise, setting myself up for disappointment. I should ditch the dream and settle for 1 minute reading a safety manual. I should know by now what a Holiday is.

 

A holidays is me shouting more than usual. It means ‘same shit, different location’ or, ‘More difficult shit, in a more difficult location’.

 

The word holiday shouldn’t exist for parents. It’s a word that makes us feel like we are going somewhere to chill, somewhere to unwind. It’s a fallacy! A con made up by airlines and resorts!

 

There needs to be a new word, dulliday, or kidsarewithyou24/7aday perhaps? A word that we use instead of holiday, one that reminds us what were in for, so we know to never leave the house again.

 

On ‘Holiday’ my children are nearby all the time, they are either in my ear asking for snacks, showing me shells or getting me to remove a splinter. There is no respite, they are close, prodding me for attention when I’m still daydreaming about that sun bed. Even though they’re happy, I’m in a mood because my preconceived idea of what my holiday should be is being disturbed by their incessant demands.

 

Also, I’m a bit grumpy ‘cause I’m stressed. There are new-fangled dangers on holiday. Sharks, potholes, weird men that hang around in bushes, jellyfish, rips, angry dogs, cliffs, poison ivy and millions of other potential death traps. Then there’s the ear infections, colds, toe stubs and tiny bits of coral stuck in soft souls of feet, they always get sick on holiday, it’s the law. I spend my time like that little frog on the 80’s computer game ‘Frogger’ Trying to get through the days without being injured. Leaping from one log to the next with my three children in my arms, hoping to survive until tea-time.

 

5 years ago, when I was still binge drinking, I would have drowned out the annoyance of being away. I would have drank through the whines of sunburnt children and sipped on a margarita as they weaved amongst bar stools. I would have been propped up every night ordering 2 for 1’s as the sun went down, drinking the children away until bedtime.

 

My holidays were spent trying to cure the hangover before the next heavy session, days pulling my sheets over my head as my children begged me to go to the beach. But I enjoyed these times because I always, no matter how shitty I was feeling, or how long the day was, had something to look forward to…..drinking. I always had drinking. Any kid friendly, activity filled days or tears and arguments melted away because cold beers and fancy cocktails were waiting for me at the bar.

 

I’d love to say that since giving up drinking that holidays are better, that I skip through the sand dunes in a floaty kaftan holding a bucket and spade and that I spend quality time bonding with my little angels. But sadly, that’s not the case. I find the never-ending child minding and the lack of a release (vodka) or a reward (Chardonnay) very intense.

 

Not drinking on holiday is hard.

 

At night I’m tested But during the day, I’m there, I’m with them. I’m not hiding in my room with the air-con on, full of self-hatred. I’m able. I’m part of the day. I’m with them, cheering as they race on the beach, to wrap them in towels and to warm them up when their teeth chatter.

 

I parent.

 

My husband and I have to complete our duties on holiday just like we do at home. Sun cream is on, plasters cover bleeding toes, ice packs are held on heads, swimming costumes are hung out in the sun, earplugs are removed, bum cracks are cleared of sand, chips are picked up from the floor, ice-cream is ordered by the gallon and after a hectic dinner, PJ’s are on and they’re tucked up in bed in soft hotel bedsheets.

 

Then what?

 

Nothing.

 

No reward.

 

No wind down.

 

Nothing.

 

At times like this, giving up drinking feels like a very unwise thing to do.

 

I kiss the kids and whisper goodnight. I go outside and sit at the table with my husband.

 

‘I feel like drinking when we’re away’ I say

 

‘I feel like I need something to wind down. Don’t worry, I’m not going to have one, but I find I’m thinking about it more’

 

He makes me a cup of cinnamon tea and we sit outside the room playing Uno. Drunk people wander past heading to the bar and the stars twinkle above our heads. I distract myself for a while and it gives me time. I play the tape forward in my head and as I sit with my husband and I deliberate the consequences.

 

‘What if I did drink?’

 

‘Just a cheeky holiday wine?’ I say.

 

‘When have you ever, ever had just one glass of wine? He says,

 

True.

 

Never.

 

He knows me and after a minute of consideration I realise that actually,

 

I know me too.