Take the Kids

A Dad’s Holiday Survival Guide

Issue 8 - 2018
Words by Damon Syson

Damon Syson, father of Ava, 11, and Georgia, 6, reveals the hard-learned lessons from his decade of family holidays

Issue 8 - 2018
By Damon Syson

Damon Syson, father of Ava, 11, and Georgia, 6, reveals the hard-learned lessons from his decade of family holidays


Choose a destination with a long promenade

Paxos, 2007. Ava was eight months old and her least favourite activity in the world was sleeping. At home, bedtime involved 45 minutes of kneeling by her cot, singing The Wheels on the Bus. The only other option was to push her around in a stroller until she eventually gave up fighting and nodded off. What I hadn’t bargained for was that the promenade at Loggos is barely 10 metres long. Each night I performed the same ritual, trudging back and forth on the bumpy flagstones, with Ava screaming and the Maclaren’s wheels squeaking, passing the same romantic al fresco couples 20 or 30 times. The following year we went to Javea in Spain. Much less picturesque, but the promenade is huge and the paving is superb.



Holidays improve when your children can swim

When Ava was 18 months, we travelled to Puglia, sharing a trullo with childless friends. Ava loved the water. Correction: she loved getting in and out of the water. She would totter towards the side of the pool, causing one of us to jump up in alarm (she flat-out refused to wear arm bands), then demand to be taken into the water, where she would splash about a bit, then decide she wanted to get out. Five minutes later she would totter towards the side of the pool… and repeat. All. Day. Long. Our childless friends were a fat lot of use – they would happily have watched her drown rather than leave their loungers. The next three years weren’t much better. Beach holidays and the nightmare vision of a freak wave carrying Ava off meant that even when she started wearing arm bands, I had no option but to stand sentinel in the sea for hours like a semi-submerged Colossus of Rhodes. My upper body ended up impressively tanned while my legs stayed fish-underbelly white. I rejoiced when she learned to swim at the age of five. Then the whole thing started again with Georgia.



Don’t go on holiday with childless friends

See above.



Trunkis are great, but not ridden at 2am

When Ava was given a Trunki for her third birthday, she couldn’t wait to take it for a spin. In case you’re unfamiliar with this Dragon’s Den success story, the Trunki is a children’s suitcase they can ride on. Heading for Greece that summer, we were forced to take an evening flight, emerging from the baggage hall at 2am, by which point Ava was crazy tired. The exit doors lay at the bottom of a steep incline. Ava’s eyes lit up – she mounted her Trunki and prepared to embark on her maiden luge. “No, Ava,” I warned. “It’s too steep.” She did what any exhausted toddler does at 2am and went into full tantrum mode, refusing to budge until I’d stepped aside. We were too tired to argue. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I sighed. In response, Ava shot off down the slope, rapidly picking up speed. The Trunki wobbled, then flipped, sending her hurtling into a wall. Wipeout. Cue unsightly bruises, hysterical sobbing and tutting passers-by.



Not everyone loves sand

When Georgia turned two, we took her on her first seaside holiday. We packed buckets and spades and set off for the beach, where we imagined her contentedly making sandcastles all day long. Ava had always loved sand, but Georgia stared at this strange yellow stuff like it was made of live snakes. When we tried to put her down, she screamed and curled up her legs. For the rest of the day she sat miserably on a towel like a castaway marooned in shark-infested waters. She came round in the end, but it took three days.



Ava shot off down the slope, rapidly picking up speed. The Trunki wobbled, then flipped, sending her hurtling into a wall



Just because your children are abroad, doesn't mean they’ll start eating exotic cuisine

Your first holiday meal out. You imagine your cosmopolitan offspring gamely trying calamar a la plancha and pimientos de Padrón. Instead, they demand chicken nuggets and chips. You give in. Anything for a quiet life. Tomorrow we’ll start on the adventurous stuff. But the precedent has been set. They now insist on chicken nuggets every day – and sulk if they don’t get their way. Oh well, there’s always next year…



Holidays can ruin friendships

My friends Emma and Mike got on famously with the parents of their daughter’s best friend, so they hatched a plan to share a villa in the south of France. The chasm between the two couples’ parenting styles soon became apparent. Mealtimes, bedtime, screen time – all were bones of contention. And when Emma and Mike’s children spent a joyous afternoon leaping into the sea from rocks, the other couple forbade their kids from following suit (“No, darling, it’s far too dangerous”). By the time they returned to London, the friendship was in tatters.



Bedtime is bedtime

Despite the fact that your children are asleep by 7.30pm at home, on holiday you think they will transform into Mediterranean kids, laughing and playing under the stars as you sip rosé. So you throw caution to the wind and stay on the beach that extra hour to enjoy the sunset. Cut to: child having massive meltdown in restaurant and falling asleep with her head in a pizza.



Most of your holiday conversation will be about ice cream

It’s amazing how much time children can spend discussing ice cream. And the conversation primarily revolves around when they will get their next ice cream. The badgering starts from breakfast onwards, and carries on until you put your foot down: “Listen, just because we’re on holiday, doesn’t mean you can have ice cream every day.”
“But Daddy, you’re having wine every day.”

Ah... OK, you win.




Ice cream time... again



Ava, Georgia and Dad



Holiday fun


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