There are many extra day-to-day considerations to factor in when you have a larger than typical family. One such is finding parking spaces large enough to accommodate the mum-mobile it’s necessary to drive if I want to transport all my troops.
Another is shopping trolleys which are never large enough to hold the household’s weekly shop. A second shopping trolley, however, requires a second shopping trolley navigator for which there is never a willing volunteer in this house. And so I must designate the position to whichever one I feel least likely to clip my heels incessantly as we traipse up and down the supermarket aisles. It’s never an honour duly appreciated, but I’ve learned over the years how to zone out to the wails of protests that follow.
The most recent consideration, and the one I’m beginning to despair of, is finding a holiday that can accommodate my numbers without requiring a remortgaging of the family home.
We’ve only ever been abroad twice for this very reason. The first was a resounding success and the children still reminisce about it regularly, from the excitement of their very first flights, to mid-morning treats, every memory is positive and relived.
The second time, not so much so.
We returned to the same location, but this time it was under new management. The staff at the facility’s restaurant could not prepare enough food at the same time to facilitate the nine of us eating together, and regular Jeremy-Kyle-show-style altercations happened outside the adjoining apartment each night, making it a very uncomfortable setting for families.
We weren’t sorry to leave. But we were sorry that our twice-in-a-lifetime holiday experience yielded much poorer memories.
Himself would love to venture abroad again this year, though the figures are still tear inducing. I don’t mind if we holiday at home, but after a challenging year in chez Hogan, I’d just really like if we could get a break somewhere as a family. But it’s not proving easy.
Though I’m used to people being surprised at our numbers, I wasn’t quite prepared for the recoiling in horror at the end of the phone when innocent inquiries were made about the options available to us.
“No, no way can we accommodate those numbers”, one woman exclaimed before my husband had the chance to finish his sentence.
“We’d need to book you into three separate rooms”, another replied as we explored a different option. The prospect made it financially unfeasible.
So far, obstacle after obstacle has appeared in our way, and the effort is not only extremely time consuming, it’s almost enough to put us off altogether.
And if that doesn’t, it seems the price certainly will.
I’ve seen the conversation come up every year about whether or not it’s acceptable to take children out of school to go on holidays. And I’ve seen those who have often been highly criticised for it. While we may not be subject to fines for doing so, unlike our UK neighbours, there’s still an undercurrent of disapproval from some who believe it’s unfair on the children and unfair on the teachers.
What seems unfair is the huge difference in the price of holidays inside and outside of term-time.
Often that difference is enough to be the deciding factor between missing a week or two of school, or having no holiday at all.
I’m pretty strict about school attendance. One child has argued he’d need to have a limb hanging off before he’d be allowed to miss it. I figure it depends on which limb it is and whether or not steri-strips can do the job.
But if the opportunity to take a family holiday during term time arose, I wouldn’t think twice about it. “Travel broadens the mind”, I’ve heard often used as justification to do so. I’m not sure staying in a family complex, with a pool and eating ice cream for breakfast falls under that heading, but I don’t really care. If they learn something from it all the better, but going because time together as a family is important, is reason enough, I reckon.
Family time should be valued. It’s core and central to our happiness and it’s under enough pressure all year round.
If teaching my children that taking a break, enjoying new experiences and minding themselves and those they love is something to prioritise, then that’s education enough for me.