Tag Archives: Vacations

How I Crashed and Burned Because I Didn’t Follow My Own Advice

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This time last week we were excitedly packing our sunglasses and swimsuits, about to jet off for a fortnight in southern Spain. We know El Puerto de Santa María well. We spent a month here early last year, and my 12-year-old did a language course here in October.

Cordie was excited about learning more Spanish and we were all looking forward to relaxing in the sunshine and playing in the sea.

But then …

… the weather took a Freaky Friday turn. While England is basking in sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s (80F), here in Spain we’ve got cool grey skies, rain, and gale force winds, with no let-up forecast until the weekend we’re due to fly home.😂

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… because of a lack of other students, Cordie was placed in a Spanish group well below her ability and was panic-stricken at the prospect of not learning anything during her 40 hours of classes.

… my 11-year-old son, who’s been complaining for months about being forced to come here {we are so evil}, bounces around the tiny apartment we’re renting, letting the entire block know how he feels about being here whenever we suggest he takes a break from his iPad (or – heavens above – come for a walk on the beach).

… and then there’s my dear husband, who’s using his precious holiday allowance away from a stressful work environment, and has spent the week mooching around without a clue what to do with himself.

In Top 3 Tips to Up Your Energy and Resilience Level, Simone de Hoogh writes:

“Emotional OE people have the tendency to put everyone else’s needs before their own, because it is so hard for us to relax when someone else is suffering. The more tired we are, the harder it is to distance ourselves from others’ feelings and to make the distinction between what we feel ourselves and what others are feeling.  So we feel the deep need to fix until we are finally free… “

Boy, did I do that last week!

I talked to the staff at the Spanish school so Cordie wouldn’t feel she’s wasting her time there. Thanks to homeschooling, I’ve never before needed to advocate for my bright, asynchronous daughter, but this week I got a glimpse of what other parents go through and – oh my goodness – how I sympathise! Meanwhile having emotional OE herself, Cordie was horrified at the thought of me upsetting anyone, so I had her stress to contend with on top of my own.

I spent hours alternately entertaining and calming my son, often long after I wanted to be asleep.

I mediated between stressed-out, stir-crazy  family members.

I listened to my husband and racked my brains for ways to help him enjoy himself.

As the only driver here, I chauffered everyone around (driving an unfamiliar car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road).

I helped Cordie with her Spanish homework (usually at 9.30pm, when she felt like doing it).

And as the only Spanish speaker, I did all the grocery shopping, restaurant ordering and negotiating with the apartment staff.

In short, I ran around trying to make everyone else happy.

Guess what? It left me a wreck.

As Simone says,

“But there is always someone in emotional need, whether it is a child, family member, or a pet. If we don’t prioritise ourselves, there will never be a time to recharge and we will end up eternally exhausted and we even might become depressed.”

Because I have emotional OE, my stress was of course compounded by making myself wrong for not appreciating my blessings. How could anyone complain about being on holiday with their healthy loved ones? (We all know how much that kind of thinking helps, right?)

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that by Thursday I realised quite how low my resilience and energy levels had sunk.

I hate neglecting my family when I can see that they’re in need, but unless I meet my own physical, emotional and intellectual needs, I’m no good to anyone.

So I went back and read my own words about the importance of raising our personal baseline and about how to stay sane as a mum to sensitive, spirited kids.

I listened to Self-Care for Parents as I meditated.

I didn’t beat myself up for not following my own advice; I reminded myself that mistakes are part of learning.

I told myself that I’m doing a good enough job of looking after myself.

And once I felt a bit better, I felt my creativity return and began to think of other ways to meet my needs – like planning a day out in Seville, and signing myself up for Spanish classes next week.

Who knows, maybe the sun will even come out? ☀️

10 Things that Happen to OE Families on Vacation (that probably don’t happen to other families)

10 Things that Happen to OE Families on Vacation

1. When getting ready to pack (a week in advance), you pull up your ‘Holiday list – winter’ document from your computer and save a new ‘2016’ version, colour-coded according to the location of items. You then spend half an hour meandering through lists from bygone years, growing teary-eyed as you cast your eyes over things like sippy-cups, toy cars and bedtime song cassettes.

You later arrive in the mountains to discover you haven’t brought your daughter’s ski gloves, while your non-OE friend who packed without the assistance of a list hasn’t forgotten a thing. How do they do that?!

2.  The middle-aged couples on two separate nearby tables ask to be reseated in the hotel restaurant because your exuberant son doesn’t understand the idea of an inside voice, let alone a polite restaurant voice.

3. You find yourself explaining Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration to your daughter who wants to go skiing but is feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of getting into all her gear. ‘So if you use your wonderful imagination to envisage all the fun you’re going to have out on the mountains, and if your brain could break down the process of getting ready into bite-sized chunks, what would you do first?’

4.  You’re not the least surprised when your son, who’s been leaping around at breakfast shouting, ‘C’mon! Let’s hit the slopes!’ announces, exhausted, at bedtime, ‘I never want to go skiing again!’ In fact, you could have written the script.

5.  You run your hands through your freshly-washed hair in the hotel elevator, then turn around and are shocked to see your daughter on the verge of tears. ‘I’m sorry! I just can’t take the smell of your hair combined with Jasper’s humming in this small space!’

6.  Your husband asks, ‘Do you mind if I eat pistachio nuts?’ as you enjoy a pre-dinner drink together in your hotel room. ‘Sure,’ you say, reaching for your headphones and white noise app.

7.  Your 10-year-old wears the same T-shirt for seven days straight because he doesn’t like the colour of any of the other six you pulled out of his wardrobe when you packed the suitcases.

8.  Your daughter’s thrilled to discover there are 15 sequels to the book she’s reading at the start of your holiday. She finishes the series on the flight home.

9.  At breakfast on your last day, while contemplating the eight hour journey home, you have a lively family discussion about teleportation, time travel, worm holes and the nature of consciousness – subjects no one ever tires of.

10.  You experience the blissful sensation of ASMR as you drive home past glassy Italian lakes and  breathtakingly vast snow-capped Alps.

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Every single one of these things truly happened to us last week. So come on, tell me – is it just me?

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What’s your favourite family vacation story?

Anyone else get blissed-out on scenery?

How do you deal with the overwhelming task of packing?

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