We need to talk about kitchenette holidays.
Holidays have changed. We know this. What you may not realize is that beneath the new layers of budgetary considerations, extra bags, at least three different kinds of sunscreen, sticker books, snacks and wipes, our holiday expectations remain intact. We understand that booking a vacation with a kitchenette is practical—it costs less and it makes perfect sense to have a place to keep the milk. A kitchenette means we don’t have to drag cranky hungry kids around an unfamiliar town looking for a breakfast place that does not serve suspicious things like lemon ricotta pancakes or tomato jam instead of plain old waffles and comfortable ketchup. Somehow though, our sensible understanding of the new family vacation paradigm stays lodged in the upper layers of our consciousness. The layer cluttered with the damp crumpled socks and cracker crumbs.
Underneath that layer lies the the family holiday secret we have a hard time telling you: we still expect Romance. In our mind’s eye we picture happy children, settled and content to build sand castles while we are holding hands with you. We are wearing a filmy sarong, and we did indeed lose pesky five pounds in time for the vacation. You are gazing at us adoringly while turquoise waves sparkle peacefully at our bare feet. We can’t help hoping there will still be a picture perfect holiday morning with a sleep-in, the white curtain blowing in the breeze, breakfast in bed, you lying next to us all relaxed and buff (because you lost those five pounds too), reading the paper in the tranquil bedroom.
The truth of kitchenette holidays is that family life begins the way it always does, at the usual early hour with some essential need waiting to be met and our last clean pair of underwear still damp and hanging on the shower rail. We are going to have to have to do what we do every day—the dishes in the sink, the physical labour of love that is getting children into and out of gear, diapers, vehicles, bed, bath, that wretched filthy SpongeBob T-shirt—in a less convenient environment.
So dear Husbands, we get emotional. We may even have outbursts which we cannot really direct at anyone else but you. We do this because you can neither read our minds nor see through all those layers. You too are human and on holiday and you want to work out or play that round of golf or get in a run on a ski hill that does not involve a rope tow. You do not gaze longingly at our fabulousness, dammit. You are too busy looking for the lost stuffed animal whose non-whereabouts you are responsible for.
Here is the other secret: we will get it together and we will go out and face the day and leave the dishes in the sink because there are sand castles to be built or sun protection to be applied or equipment to get organized. And we will find ourselves having a really great meal all together at a little place we came upon and everyone will be happy with what they ordered and yes, suddenly we will be on holiday. And it may not be Paris or Belize, but it is a moment we will share as you squeeze the last drops of ketchup onto someone else’s plate. It will be a moment we fought for and earned and our eyes will catch yours above the mess on the tabletop and we will fall just a little more deeply in love with you.