I’m currently sat in the car travelling to my Mum and Dad in Law’s house in West Wales. Listening to Wind in the Willows and handing out foil wrapped mini chocolate eggs to keep the children occupied. The sun is beating down on the car, an unusual occurrence for April. The traffic streams busily but unhindered. All sounds serene doesn’t it? And it is for most part.
Such serenity allows me time to reflect on how I feel about holidays or trips. For some strange reason I always feel I have to have it all together when we’re away from home. I feel like we as a family are on display; as if other people have nothing better to occupy their time than to observe my parenting skills and monitor the behaviour of our children.
This may indeed be the case in some situations, although I highly doubt it. It’s much more likely that these thoughts of almost paranoia are another of the cognitive distortions associated with my anxiety.
So is there anything wrong with wanting our family to be at its best? Well yes actually! There are a few adverse affects that result from unrealistic and inflexible expectations. Firstly, I am less patient with the children and Stephen. This means that I am more likely to be snappy and easily rubbed up the wrong way. So essentially, a misery!
In addition to this, if the children forget to say thank you or have tantrums or want to watch TV when I’m trying to convince others that my children are ‘outdoorsy’ adventurers or ‘proper children’, I forget the fun and quality time that we’ve shared and dwell on these rather insignificant incidents.
Finally, holidays are much more physically demanding, especially in my poor condition, when I don’t allow myself to rest. I have to be busy just in case people think I’m lazy (of course this is not what people think).
My plan of action is to first accept that I do have these tendencies, which I know seems strange and contrary to popular advice. I don’t think it would be practical or even beneficial to try and change them all. They can be positive in circumstances where organisation and safety are important. Anyway, acceptance is sometimes enough to minimise these cognitive distortions to the extent that though they still exist they don’t take over everything.
That said, I’m going to try to cut myself a little slack. I’m going to attempt to be more patient with the kids and allow them a period of grace that covers the duration of our trip.
This trip is the first of probably five overnight or longer stays away from home this year, so I may as well start practising to become less of an emotional Scrooge on holidays.