When your tots be­come teens

Australian Traveller - - Contents -

CHIL­DREN MAKE BRIL­LIANT travel com­pan­ions. When they are small (and por­ta­ble) you can take them al­most any­where, and as they grow, their wide-eyed won­der at new sights, sounds and ex­pe­ri­ences has a way of rub­bing off on ev­ery­one around them. It’s what makes fam­ily hol­i­days so much fun. But what hap­pens when time away with tots turns into fam­ily va­ca­tions with teens? Can a guile­less ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the world sur­vive Google, smart­phones and hor­mones? As our chil­dren get big­ger it some­times seems that the world around them shrinks in equal pro­por­tion. Via In­sta­gram they have al­ready seen the back­streets of Paris, the street tribes of Tokyo and the beaches of Bondi be­fore ever board­ing a plane. And the 24-hour news cy­cle fills in the gaps of what’s go­ing on around the globe – both good and bad. A re­cent sun, sand and sea trip with my teenage daugh­ter pre­sented a new land­scape to nav­i­gate, be­yond the one we were ex­plor­ing to­gether. Where in the past, fly­ing was the ul­ti­mate ad­ven­ture, and fur­nish­ing her with un­fet­tered ac­cess to a swim­ming pool, sweet treats (prefer­ably ice-cream) and a theme park with some sort of Harry Pot­ter guise to it would as­sure hol­i­day hap­pi­ness for ev­ery­one in­volved, it’s harder to rest on your lau­rels as they grow older. Now her re­ac­tions are a lot more muted; she doesn’t love fly­ing any more due to a height­ened aware­ness of how things work (and the con­tri­bu­tion of a friend’s macabre fas­ci­na­tion with the Air Crash In­ves­ti­ga­tions TV show); the pool out­side our room went largely un­touched; the sweet treats weren’t con­sumed with as much glee as they used to be. I be­came fix­ated on coax­ing pos­i­tive re­sponses from her. It was all in­creas­ingly an­noy­ing for her and tir­ing for me. But as our hol­i­day pro­gressed I slowly started to fig­ure out that the is­sue wasn’t ac­tu­ally with my daugh­ter, it was with me. I had some­how failed to no­tice that my dar­ling child was no longer a baby (al­though she’ll al­ways be my baby). Maybe the whirl­wind pace of daily life had masked the change or maybe it was just wish­ful think­ing on my part (if she wasn’t age­ing then nei­ther was I), but when the light­bulb mo­ment came it was a rev­e­la­tion. It turns out I had been gaug­ing her en­joy­ment lev­els on out­dated mea­sures hark­ing back to when she was eight years old in­stead of pay­ing at­ten­tion to what was res­onat­ing with her at the age of 13. De­lib­er­at­ing over ice-cream flavours now comes a dis­tant sec­ond to brows­ing sun­glasses in the re­sort shop; pool time needs to be in­ter­spersed with ‘me time’; and Harry Pot­ter, while not yet su­per­an­nu­ated, now plays sec­ond fid­dle to more cere­bral and chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. So, mid­way through our get­away I re­cal­i­brated my ap­proach. I let her de­cide what she wanted to do with her day in­stead of plan­ning things down to the last de­tail for her; I stopped in­sist­ing she do things with me when all she wanted was to stretch out on a cush­ion-strewn daybed and read; I let her foster friend­ships in­de­pen­dent of me. And I stopped wor­ry­ing and started notic­ing that she was ac­tu­ally hav­ing fun. Fam­ily hol­i­days of­ten throw our day-to-day life into stark re­lief. Maybe it has some­thing to do with be­ing at such close quar­ters with each other or not hav­ing the usual dis­tract­ing touch­stones around. And they of­ten re­sult in on­go­ing change once you get back home based on what you learn about each other dur­ing the jour­ney. I re­turned home as a fully-fledged teenager’s mum; my daugh­ter as an in­creas­ingly in­de­pen­dent young woman, al­beit one with the be­gin­nings of a very nice sun­glasses col­lec­tion.

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