Can family holidays with small children ever be fun?

As the Beckhams holidayed in Disneyland, Stacey Duguid was in Center Parcs. Where it rained. And rained. And rained

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By Stacey Duguid on

“How was your holiday?” Such a simple question shouldn't require a rehearsed answer. Nevertheless, here I am rehearsing an answer in front of the mirror the Sunday evening before returning to work. 

It was great to spend two weeks with the kids. Can't say that, my contorted mouth looks demonic.  

Pretty tiring, but so good to be together as a family. The lie shows in my eyes, which are as black as a lake at midnight.  

We really didn't mind the rain; we just got on with it. It was all buckets and spades, fish and chips. My head just span 360 on my neck like Beetlejuice. 

I’m so broken I can barely talk, I've gained weight from heavy drinking, my relationship is in tatters, and I never, ever want to go on "holiday" again. Well, ain't that the truth. 

The "holiday" began in Devon. Taking past mistakes into account – I once flew to Australia with a six-month-old and two-year-old (I've seen the gates of hell), I really thought we'd cracked it this time: a) we weren't going anywhere near a plane carrying enough luggage to warrant a neck brace and b) I had zero expectations. Strung at being unable to read or sunbathe for more than 0.5 seconds? That's a fool's game *slaps forehead*. You live and learn. Anyway, a proper British summer holiday with chips, beaches, boat trips and catching crabs (in buckets, to be clear) is exactly what we needed! Then it started to rain.

And it didn't stop.  

Had I imagined days filled with bright sunshine on caravan holidays in the 1970s? Had my memory faded like the old photos of seaside donkey rides collected in endless photo albums at my mum's house?  

With rain, came tantrums. And, like the rain, they didn't stop.

An almighty kerfuffle kicked off when I audaciously handed out a gingerbread man biscuit with a slightly chipped leg. I cut a cheese sandwich into a triangle as opposed to a square, a microscopic amount of yoghurt touched a strawberry and a broken Hula Hoop was the final straw that broke my will to live. “That's it. We're leaving!” I announced 24 hours into the "holiday", or the “expensive relocation, but shit” as my friend describes it. Imprisoned by rain by in a tiny cottage-jail, there was only one thing for it: the local soft play. 

I lay on the floor, my arse sore from bumping down slides built for five year-old bums and prayed for Noah's Ark to take me to Ibiza

Fully loaded with Dettol wipes and snacks, we spent three days among primary-coloured padded walls and flinging ourselves down slides. I say we – my boyfriend had his iPhone permanently open on Sky Sports and I genuinely thought I might kill him when he mouthed, “Thank God we've booked Center Parcs next week.” Was he serious? I lay on the floor, my arse sore from bumping down slides built for five year-old bums and prayed for Noah's Ark to take me to Ibiza.

We left Devon after four days instead of seven, regrouped, washed a mountain of clothes, then headed off to Center Parcs in Woburn, where there's a Strada, a Starbucks, a Café Rouge, a ton of activities and an indoor pool that's so packed with inflatables and slides, there's no room left to actually swim. It's soft-play heaven (every restaurant has one), which bought us alone time, albeit for only 30 minutes, which is time to drink at least one glass of wine. 

Stacey Duguid on her summer 'holiday'

“How was your holiday?” asks a colleague, as I shuffle towards my desk on Monday morning. I consider my answer. “Well, you know, kind of mad.” Alone for the first time in two weeks, no child about to drown beneath a ginormous inflatable ring, nobody screaming, “MUMMY, MARTH'S GOT A PEA STUCK UP HER NOSE”, I slump into an office chair instead of a ball pit. “I feel mad,” I say to nobody at all, as I sip my strong flat white. Oh well, there's always next year.

Picture: Splash News

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