Childrearing

Family Vacation: Sorry But My Girls Are Staying Far Away From Those Horrid Kids’ Clubs

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It seemed, on paper, to be exactly the kind of holiday we’d been waiting for after two long, stressful years: a week idling under the sun at an all-inclusive resort with four pools, six restaurants and – key drumroll – a kids’ club. That last feature we’d never had the pleasure of acquainting ourselves with in our nearly five years traveling with children, and it was just what the doctor ordered.

We spent the subsequent weeks prior to departure fantasizing about what we’d do with those couple of hours each day, once we’d packed a beach bag for our daughters and dropped them off with the gung-ho, formally trained staff we imagined would be awaiting them at the gates, behind which we imagined boisterous children playing volleyball or horseshoes or tag and making lifelong friends. Tipsy lunches! Siestas by the pool! Uninterrupted sex! Oh kids club, I thought, where have you been all my (parenting) life?

On day two of our vacation, my husband popped the question: Why don’t we book in the kids for the club’s evening session and have a quiet dinner, just the two of us? I couldn’t have said it better myself.

That evening at 6, with the blessing of our eldest, we headed over to the club. Reader, it took me all of 60 seconds to alert my other half that we’d be four for dinner after all. Maybe it was the miserable six-year-old girl dressed up as if for a gala but instead cowering at a corner table tracing a photocopy with dull colored pencils. Or the old retired housekeepers shuffling around, trying to suppress their yawns. Maybe it was the sad kiddie buffet, or the obscure, stuffy location, or the gang of boys shouting at the Sega screen in the corner. I gave my apologies, found the girls’ shoes, grabbed them and ran for the door.

Did I regret it? Maybe if I’d asked myself that at dinner, between the appetizers and the mains, I would have said yes as I passed over an iPhone to appease my antsy daughters. Perhaps if there were more hours in the day, we could have found a few to try playing the kids’ club card. Indeed we did give it another shot. The girls braved that dank room for 90 minutes one sunny afternoon, and when we collected them, they told us that none of the other girls would play with them, because they weren’t the same age. Since that day I’ve been staunchly anti-kids’ club.

It starts with the phrase “family vacation.” We’d committed to it. We spent a fortune on flights to an exotic location and dragged our homebody children there with the unspoken promise that we’d guide them through it. Sure there were times when they would probably have been happier playing Sega in a room full of children than at the terrace restaurant being shushed at every squeal. My feeling is they can do that when they get home to sub-zero temperatures and dwindling daylight. And anyway, my kids have enough social interaction to negotiate in their lives, between school, lessons and play dates, without having to deal with the mini society in a kids club.

I have plenty of friends who would disagree, friends who take great pains to foster independence in their children, choosing to socialize them in kid-friendly situations rather than drag them along with the adults, who send their children to sports clubs and camps while the adults get that all-important quality couple time. I guess I’m just one of those neurotics who feel a weight when they’re enjoying themselves without their brood.

So here I am, home at last, slightly tanned and exhausted. They wore us out, those two, between the swimming and the shushing, the trips to the toilet and the hours frying our backs among the sandcastles. Not that I’m complaining; it’s a good problem to have. But really, couldn’t there be a better way?

(Photo: Poznyakov/Shutterstock)