On holiday with teenagers

It’s hard to juggle different teenagers’ moods while on holiday and keep everyone happy.

Teenagers sleeping


We’ve just come back from a holiday in Spain with teenagers and a pre-teen. If keeping everyone happy is hard when children are small, it is triply so when they are older. While the endless ‘are we there yet?’ questions and toilet breaks evaporate because teenagers generally sleep most of the way through the long car journey there or have brought along various forms of technology to keep themselves entertained ‘in-flight’ as it were, they present other obstacles to a tranquil holiday.

Number one is that the day begins for teenagers at around 2pm which may seem like paradise to a parent of toddlers who are up at 5am and raring to go, but can be slightly wearing after a couple of days. The 2pm start encompasses both a very, very slow wake-up period [usually involving several attempts by parents to provoke some sort of reaction and the last resort of turning off the fan] and checking phones [wi-fi being absolutely essential if you don’t want to spend the entire time looking for wi-fi or being surrounded by people who are completely bereft because they have literally had their entire life taken away from them]. ‘What’s the wi-fi code?’ is generally the first question on arrival anywhere, no matter how breathtakingly beautiful or interesting it might be.

Getting dressed can take several hours if your teenagers happen to be girls. I have no idea yet if this also happens when boys reach peak teen, but I’m willing to take a punt that it doesn’t. The clothes and make-up have to be absolutely en pointe. Parents, being of another generation or perhaps a different culture [post punk?], can be up and ready to go in five minutes so the waiting can seem interminable. It also makes parents feel slightly shabby, but also proud to be shabby if not being shabby means taking three hours to get ready and hitting the road at the hottest moment of the day.

Getting dressed also means finding the right clothes and while the case parents have packed is perfectly ordered, with each individual having an allotted space, once out of the case the teenagers’ clothes can be found in mountainous piles in and around their beds, with it never being quite clear which clothes they have worn and which they haven’t.

Having missed the morning, the next challenge is food. Half our team is vegan/veggie [but anti-cheese and peas] and holiday places often don’t go out of their way for vegans, unless you stick to the big cities. That means the menu tends to be rather reduced to bread-based snacks such as pan con tomate and chips. Maximum carbs. This can get a bit repetitive after a few days. It also tends to bring rather long diatribes against parents seen eating a tuna sandwich to the effect that they are evil incarnate and all climate-related problems are directly due to them. Teens also go around town filming any graffiti that is pro-vegan just to make said parents feel even worse. Pre-teens have been known to force their parents off the beach and into McDonald’s in a mad dash for wi-fi so they can do some sort of ‘essential’ live preview event about Splatoon 3 [don’t ask].

The next teen challenge concerns mood swings, often related to worries about their bodies and/or period pains. Moods can swing on a dime and one teenager who has been heretofore having a great day can suddenly stop speaking and withdraw entirely, possibly because of worries about what to post on instagram or what someone else has posted. Often the mood swings happen on alternate days so one teen may be fine for a day while the other suddenly develops acute period pains during a day trip to a beach when the only chemist in the village is shut for three hours for lunch.

Teenagers, however, tend to come alive at about 11pm. At this point they are great company – and possibly even before 11pm – but 11pm is just when parents are ready to fall asleep, having been up since well before 2pm, mostly waiting. One of the highlights of our trip was going to the beach at night, paddling in the water and taking photos of the moon. The beach at night offers teenages the allure of invisibility.

That is not to say that it is not an absolute pleasure being on holiday with teenagers and pre-teens. Long may they deign to join us. You have to feel for them too – it must be terrible living in a world where so much is invested in how you look. Moreover, they are exceedingly good company, when not in a mood, and often extremely funny. Hopefully, they would say the same about their parents, but I’m not willing to bet on it.

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