The over-the-hedge chat round our way has turned to summer holidays, and a neighbour of mine was telling me the other day that she is giddy with excitement at the thought of some time away with her family.
“We’re going back to the same hotel as last year,” she confided, “because it has the most brilliant kids’ club that keeps the wee ones tied up all day.
“It means we can spend the whole day chilling out on the beach getting nice and brown without the kids bothering us.”
Now, far be it from me to pass judgment on the way families go about their business, but I have to say I had to bite my lip when I heard that, because if I’d said what I thought the amiable atmosphere of the neighbourhood might have perished.
Packing your kids off to professional babysitters on holiday so that you can spend less time with them than you do when they’re at school 'til 3pm is not my idea of quality family time.
In fact, I think it’s shamefully selfish, short-sighted and cruel. I would guess it could be what Jordan does when she heads for the sun with her infants — I’ve certainly seen her refuse to go paddling with them because she’s waiting for her nails to dry.
It’s pretty obvious to anyone with happy childhood memories of good holidays that a family which shares, rather than divvies up, those sun-filled, stress-free vacation hours, is more likely to form strong bonds and produce secure, well-balanced kids.
Spending time together in the uniquely optimistic mood that a holiday generates doesn’t just bring a family closer when they’re doing it — it creates crucial memories that help construct a foundation of intimacy, affection and comradeship within the family as the younger ones grow up and eventually have children of their own.
What’s interesting about the holiday memories which last through to adulthood is that the quality is rarely connected to the location.
Although we did go abroad when I entered teenagedom, my favourite memories are from before that, when I was much younger and we were staying in a poky little house in St Andrews.
I remember long days at the beach, eating gravelly ham sandwiches and burying my dad in the sand, evenings spent hunting the rock pools for crabs, and the thrill of staying up late to go for ice cream — after 8 o’clock! — at the local corner shop.
Had I been dumped at 10am every day and forced to indulge in ‘fun activities’ with strangers, I suspect my holiday memories would have withered years ago, a small slither of resentment their only legacy.
YoungPoll recently carried out a nationwide survey of children between the ages of six and 15 about what they valued most on holiday.
After ‘playing on the beach’, ‘spending time with mum and dad’ was voted the second best thing about going away, far above playing with computers or even visiting a theme park.
Nearly 70% of children said they’d rather spend time with their family on holiday than their celebrity idol, so while the appeal of popular favourites like Cheryl Cole, Ant and Dec and Wayne Rooney isn’t lost on them, the attraction of one-on-one time with mum and dad in these ever-busy days is clearly highly coveted.
Oh, and how many survey respondents wanted to spend time in a kids’ club? Less than 10%. Quelle surprise.