The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday

Going on holiday with my close friend and her family seemed such a good idea


Taking a holiday with one of my closest friends and her family was a prospect that sent us both giddy with the sort of excitement we’d shared about birthday parties and discos when we were growing up.

After all, in 40 years of friendship, we hadn’t shared a cross word and I’d never even entertaine­d a negative thought about Sarah. What could go wrong?

Kids. That’s what. And our respective parenting and holiday styles. You see, our friendship originated in our own childhoods, it wasn’t a by-product of antenatal classes, baby-massage groups or the school gates. So, the focus has always been us – Sarah and me – not our husbands and kids, and certainly not the whole lot of us as one group.

Then we decided to go to Mallorca together, albeit in separate villas within walking distance of each other. That way, we’d get the best of both worlds, we mused over Sarah’s kitchen table one evening while hatching our holiday plan.

Two villas meant we’d get our own space as two families, but with all the thrills of hanging out together thrown in. What fun we’d have! What memories we’d make! So caught up were we in our daydream that, somehow, we forgot to pack a dose of realism along with our bikinis and sunscreen.

The holiday began with such promise. There were poolside lunchtime barbecues, dinners against the backdrop of the setting sun, the sound of cicadas screeching in the olive trees and palms, and the kids got on like a dream.

But five days into the two-week holiday, the novelty wore off in spectacula­r fashion when the elder two of Sarah’s four sons had what can only be described as a punch-up outside a beach restaurant.

As they rolled in the sand, arms flailing, faces puce with raw sibling anger, the disapprova­l of other diners was palpable. It was embarrassi­ng. Their father merely joined in, giving each of them a big clip round the ear as his testostero­ne fizzed along with theirs. Sarah, halfcut on white wine at that point, was mortified, but tried to laugh it off and excuse it as them both “being teenagers”.

My husband and I shared a glance, which, interprete­d, meant that had they been our sons, we’d have taken them home and given them a dressing down.

The following day, possibly fuelled by residual rage from the bust-up, one of the teens picked a verbal fight with my son, who’s half his age, for no apparent reason. Having got a rise out of my boy, who’s easily wound up, he decided he’d found his target for the rest of the holiday.

To say I was stressed doesn’t come close. My parenting came under scrutiny for the way I tried to deal with my boy’s retaliatio­ns, while I felt fury that Sarah and her husband could think it was OK for a teenager to pick on a six-year-old.

It turned out that they wanted to spend the day, and into the evening, steadily downing beer and wine, observing their kids from their sunlounger­s, while my husband and I prefer to save the odd tipple for dinner and actually be with our kids during the day.

The remainder of the holiday was fraught with tantrums from the younger kids as they clashed, more cringewort­hy altercatio­ns in public from Sarah’s teens and booze-infused attempts by her and her husband to deal with them, which only led to more conflict. We won’t be holidaying together again.

Sarah, half-cut on white wine, tried to laugh off the punchup and excuse it as them both ‘being teenagers’

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