The conversation used to go something like this:
Me: I’m going to [Insert Place[
Functional Twenty-something: Nice! Who with?
Me, bashfully: Oh, just my parents – ( ‘the people to whom I owe my existence, who I love hanging out with more than pretty much anyone’ I add… in my head)
Functional Twenty-something: Oh. Well, I’m sure you’ll still have fun though. [Insert Place]!
Me: Yeah. I guess so.
After a short, awkward silence in which my social shortcomings are thus implicitly acknowledged, I will swiftly proceed to ask about how they’re doing. The ensuing few hours would be spent berating myself about the fact that, aged 26 years old, I flipping love family holidays.
‘It’s because you’re single, Clare,’ I’d berate myself sternly. ‘Single, economically ruinous – and highly immature.’ Were I an adult, like Functional Twenty-something, I’d be weekending in Budapest with my partner; working in Dubai; going travelling in Asia – travelling, being the operative word, because of course, you don’t ‘travel’ with your parents. You ‘go away.’
You go away to nice places, stay in half-decent hotels, and you eat well. You might even go on a bit of a walk. Put like that, it sounds tame. It is tame, but it’s also pretty great. Unless your parents drive you mad and/or brain dead, you don’t need stimulus. That neat, genetic – or elected, this being 2015 – unit contains itself: in-jokes, affection, familial understanding and all.
So here’s what I should say – do say – in defence of enjoying these breaks more than one might expect of a Functioning Twenty-something. These aren’t just my thoughts – having let my guard drop recently I’ve found many more friends than I expected feel the same way.
Of course, not everyone likes or lives close enough to their folks to spend more than the bare minimum of time with them, and that’s fine. You don’t choose your family, as they say. But if you are struggling to fathom why those who do go away with the ’rents, do it, let me and my parent-loving peers count the ways:
They’re not just your parents
‘I haven’t gone away with my parents since I was 15. I go away with my friends,’ says Emma simply.
At a certain point in your life, your relationship with your parents just changes and you’re no longer their sprog but an actual person who can communicate with them on a level. Like your friends, but a bit older. And they’ve taken you to the toilet way more.
It’s cheaper. Sometimes.
I hesitate to say ‘free’ because if you’re earning at all you should at the very least be offering a Wild Bean coffee round at the service station – but it is, for the most part, cheaper to tag along with ’rents.
After a good six years of absence (from your first teenage strop right up ’til graduating) they’re so eager to have you back on board that even if they don’t pay for your fare, the odd treat will still be thrown in.
‘Mum insists I pay for my own ticket,’ says Ellie, ‘then feels so bad when I arrive, she chips in at every opportunity. Even chewing gum.’ But of course, you don’t need to take the chocolate covered biscuit.
‘When I went to India with my mum, we split the cost between us, but the fact that she wanted to go and do similar things and stay in the same type of hotels I wanted to stay in made the difference,’ adds another friend.
They want to do similar things
Which is unsurprising. As the first people to take you away, your parents probably formed your travel tastes in the first place. Their daily routine, the accommodation, the choice of eateries and activities – all are likely to be similar to yours.
Going away with the girls in the Great Post A-level Piss-Up, I was struck by how differently my friends, many of whom I’d known for over half my life, approached the trip. Where were the galleries? The aimless wanderings punctuated with coffee? The exhaustive restaurant menu research?
You don’t realise how set your approach to holidays is until you travel with others – and while that, too, is highly enjoyable, there’s nothing quite like the devil you know.
Remember the halcyon days when travelling anywhere merely entailed following your father? Well, I’ve got good news for you: go away with your parents and they’ll swiftly return.
On a recent trip to Derbyshire, Dad insisted on sending me the train timetable, a detailed kit list of what we’d need for the weekend, and a warning to do my bag up properly. Patronising? Absolutely. But when holidays so often cause as much stress as they supposedly counter, it’s nice occasionally to have someone telling you to pack a jumper and wait on platform 3.
It’s less socially demanding (mostly)
Routine spats aside, it is by and large easier to rub along with your parents than it is with your mates, especially if you’re not really feeling it. They know you utterly, for one thing, and in knowing you, give you license to just – well, to just be.
‘I went away with my parents a couple of days after coming out of a long-term relationship and I cried pretty much constantly. It was perfect,’ says my friend Rachael. With a friend, crying throughout an entire holiday would be pretty unacceptable.
With the parents, however, ‘It was OK. They hugged me, ignored me, and made the right noises.’
With parents, you’re the priority. With peers you are rightly – because they’ve paid, and this is a sizeable part of their menial portion of annual leave – That Crying One That Ruined The Effing Holiday I’d Been Looking Forward To.
You get quality time with them
More than a phone call, more than Sunday lunch and much more so than Christmas, holidays are a time when the whole family relaxes – safe in the knowledge that the domestic chores and associated gripes that normally plague life at the homestead are far away.
‘When we’re at home, we squabble constantly, about stupid things: bathroom rights, packing the dishwasher correctly, folding the tea towel – everything,’ confesses a friend. ‘These days we just know that, if we’re going to see each other properly, we need to leave the house.’
Even if it’s just to go camping for a night somewhere. Gripes asides, there’s nothing like a stand off over the relative merits of air drying versus tea towels to send the level of chat plummeting.
Because they’re your parents…
…was my brother’s indifferent, yet fairly indisputable remark when I asked him why he went on a recent trip with our parents. Aged 21, he is more susceptible than anyone to the disdain peers can pour on a family jolly – yet as the most self-assured of the two of us, he is generally my bellweather when it comes to such things.
‘I mean, they’re still your parents, however old you are. They’ll always be your parents. Why not go on holiday, if you get on with them?’ he said.
And as ever, he’s completely right. Your parents won’t be around forever, and the window between them having more time to spend with you, post-retirement, and being too old to holiday with you, is an alarmingly short one.
In the end, ‘because they’re my parents’ is really the only answer you need to give.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.