21st Century Man: Baz Ashmawy on the perils of family hols
Going on a family holiday can be more like a military operation than a relaxing break in the sun...
Before you have children you "ooh" and "ahhh" at young families on holidays and imagine it being this really fun, fulfilling, family experience. That's an absurdly optimistic opinion that could only be conjured up by someone who's single or broody.
If you really wanted to have a holiday, the last people you would take is your family because that means they're not real holidays - relaxing, reading, slurping cocktails in the sun. You need to quash these romantic images along with your hopes of Ireland ever repeating Italia 90, and instead learn how to just survive this new kind of trip. Our family consists of six children varying in age from baby to teens. So as a man with experience, take it from me - this is how you survive your "lovely" summer holiday.
Forget notions of joint holidays with friends
In theory, why not hook up with your pal Barry and his family? You get on great, it might be fun and it's someone to have sangria with. Wrong! Dragging someone into the vulnerable and revealing mess that is your family is always a bad idea. Dealing with your own children is barely doable. Dealing with someone else's screaming monsters and moody wife is not. Allow them to live in ignorant bliss, thinking your family are fantastic. Ssh, I won't tell.
Book your seats
Whatever the cost, pre-book seats on the flight up the front. Don't let your family be herded to the back of the fight where they can chew through headrests, urinate on each other and generally act like a stag party. Madness, vomiting and general hysteria are contagious to children. I travel with six kids who, like a Transformer, have the capability to morph together and create a 'Optimus Migraine'. Instead, opt to sit up front and destroy someone else's flight.
Come to terms with who your children are
Holidays allow you to see your children against a dull backdrop of so-called 'normal' kids. My four-year-old opts to play hide and seek with her imaginary friends. This can be a bit socially 'odd', but as long as her new friends don't want their own room or cost me more money at dinner, I'm happy to go along with it. Some incredibly stuck up couple were mildly taking the piss out of her one day, but when she explained she was chatting with 'Sally' who's an angel (she meant fairy), they swiftly upped and left, seemingly freaked out by her apparent ability to communicate with winged, ethereal beings. They never spoke to us again, which was great because they were a**holes. Embrace your children's individuality. It's a good thing.
Don't drop your defences
While on holidays there may be rare moments of peace when your baby sleeps. Your children may even stop saying "I'm bored" for a minute. I've even heard of cases where the kids go to a water park with some other foolish family and their kids, but I've yet to experience this. While collapsing on a sun lounger, remember, this is your most vulnerable moment. It's the exact time where you'll put your flip flop right in it. If your wife, delighted to be free to notice other adults, makes any comment regarding her bikini body, for example, don't engage. A lot of women, especially ones with young children who've forgotten to wash baby sick off their shoulder can be at their most insecure on holidays. Always remember the non-committal shrug slash noise. I find practising it 10 times in the mirror keeps it fresh. And it's not just women who may be low on self-esteem by the way - ladies, it doesn't hurt if you perfect the technique too.
Nothing is more disheartening than watching your family stare with tilted heads like dead people into an illuminated screen while the sun shines outside. I'm aware that iPads can be fantastic babysitting devices, but a ban is wise - and not just for the kids. Spending time together or separately just doing things can be an amazingly nice experience. And look, there's plenty of time to brag on Twitter and upload pictures of sunsets when you get back. The filters will wait.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent