My husband, three children and I were lucky enough to spend two weeks recently in Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands. It was a magical place, a tiny speck in the South Pacific where the pace of life was slow, the air was warm and the water an aquamarine blue so beautiful it didn’t seem possible.
We had never been on a holiday that included all five of us so the anticipation was palpable. We had spent months researching everything we could about Rarotonga, preparing the kids for the flight and imagining what it would be like. The countdown began at 100 days to go and every day we all grew more excited.
Finally the big day arrived and once we had cleared customs I felt the weight of my everyday responsibilities slip off my shoulders. I felt free and unreservedly happy. I knew that for two weeks the biggest decision I would have to make was where to swim that day or where to eat dinner that night!
The abandonment of the everyday is the key to a wonderful holiday – being able to forget about bills, cooking, cleaning, studying, working and routines is a blessing beyond value. It allows frazzled parents to be in the same room as their kids and not have anything else to do but just be with them. Priceless...
Of course, our kids did not magically turn into perfect people while on holiday (despite my lofty expectations, they are only human after all). They still had fights and occasionally they were grumpy and cheeky. It was the change in our attitude that made all the difference. Things that would normally set us off at home were like water off a duck’s back on holiday. We just let things go or suggested a visit to Charlie’s for a milkshake and all was forgotten. I didn’t raise my voice once, I was so relaxed. The children started asking where their real mother was, so unrecognisable was I to them in this altered state!
On holidays you are so in tune with the little moments that their magic is savoured ten times more than at home. You have nothing to distract you, you are simply present. On my birthday we went on a lagoon cruise and the crew invited our kids to play drums with them. I was sitting there with my little guy on my lap, holding hands with my husband, watching the girls drumming. The sun was shining, the water crystal clear, the crew singing traditional songs and I felt tears of happiness sting my eyes. I literally wept with joy. Timing your holiday to coincide with your birthday is a bonus – just saying!
Holidays allow you to create family memories that will be the ones you talk about in years to come. There are catch-phrases and songs that will always remind you of those special days. Our three-year- old would randomly shout out, “This is awesome” as we were driving around the island or feeding hundreds of fish in the lagoon. After hearing my husband mock sing, “These are the moments”, Caleb would channel his inner Barry White and sing it too, always at an appropriate moment. There was crab hunting by torchlight, coconut throwing competitions and new friends made around the pool.
Holidays can also be a time of wonderful surprises. My husband had organised for us to renew our wedding vows and I had no idea until it happened. To have our children witness this precious moment is hopefully something they will always remember and cherish as much as we will. What a gift my husband not only gave me, but our kids as well. In one magical afternoon he showed them that marriage is worth nurturing, that parents loving each other, even after 17 years of marriage, is the benchmark. Our holiday gave us the time to really appreciate each other and say the things we don’t say as often as we should.
On holiday, away from the pressure and busyness of life, we can be the best version of ourselves. We can re-energise and prepare ourselves for life back in the real world. We can tell each other how important we are in both words and actions. We can experience different cultures and ways of being. We can learn. We can savour life, appreciate beauty and remember what it was like to be a child. In doing so, we reconnect and remind each other how special it is to be a member of a family with our own unique experiences and stories. We can build memories and family bonds are strengthened – all due to that precious commodity called time.
I think holidays are an investment in your family. We could have used the money to pay off some of the mortgage or to prop up our sadly-lacking superannuation accounts. We chose instead to explore a small part of our big world and to revel in the fact that we are alive and together. The experiences we had are more valuable than money in the bank. They will always be part of us and always be treasured.
Since being home, despite being driven headfirst back into the daily grind, I have noticed a subtle shift in attitude. I am trying hard to hang on to that chilled-out person I was in Rarotonga. The whole family seems to really like her! We have, of course, immediately started talking about the next holiday, which may well be years away. In the meantime we have those wonderful memories to sustain us!