It's that time of the year where we like to get away from it all and go on a summer holiday. The trouble is, it's frowned upon if your children don't go with you. So, technically, it's that time of the year where we like to get away from (some of) it all.
If you, like me, are preparing for a family holiday right now then you'll almost certainly be still living in the fantasy that it's going to be a good, positive experience. You're probably imagining some last-summer-before-the-war Arcadia where your kids Famous Five around a field while you smile on beautifically like Harry Secombe doing a hymn.
The reality will, of course, be very different. If it's anything like what happened to me last year, you'll actually be staring at your phone while your kids attempt to crack a cow pat with a tennis ball. (It was horrendous when it finally went. Horrendous. Like a turd creme brûlée.)
So. In order to help guide you through the hardest seven days of the year (or 14 if you've got a place) here are my top tips for being a better dad on holidays.
DO NOT SIT DOWN
There's no point, you're only giving your legs hope. As soon as you do, someone will want something from you. It's like there's a klaxon attached to your arse. You're much better off in a standing position, ready to spring and attend to the required spillage, tantrum, excretion, kettle. You're basically going away to spend the week wiping things. Get this into your heads now, it'll make you a lot less snappy.
DON'T TAKE A SINGLE BOOK
You're not going to read a book. What do you think this is, a test match? Last year I took three thrillers (#dicklit) and used only one, once, to kill a mosquito that woke my wife up in the middle of the night. If you do get so much as a second to yourself, you're going to sleep like a darted Rhino.
PRETEND THAT DRIVING IS EXHAUSTING
Not that it's only men who drive, but if you do take on the bulk of it this one's for you. Here's the trick: make out it's really exhausted you. Think Lewis Hamilton after a Grand Prix. That was some DRIVING you did out there. The traffic was intense, conditions were tough. Don't let on that you actually spent three hours staring into the middle distance thinking about Jurgen Klopp. Post drive fatigue is an actual condition (it's not) which requires you to spend the same amount of time as the journey recovering via the medium of sleep, in whichever part of the accommodation has the best data signal.
TAKE ALL THE IPADS
You're not going to do a puzzle en famille, you're not going to play charades, you're not even going to talk. This is not the 1950s and you're not Nanny McPhee. Get a grip and take every screen you possess. I'm serious. If you want this holiday to work, you should look like you've smashed and grabbed a Maplins. If necessary, pack your actual living room television ahead of nappies. It's that important.
TAKE EXTENDED FAMILY WHO YOU DON'T MIND HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME
An important addition. Nieces, nephews, parents, passersby. Whatever. You need numbers. If you don't have a buffer, there's a real danger of spending endless hours with your child. And no one wants that. I mean I love my kids, but I also love doing nothing at all. Picture the scene. Day one of your holiday and your five year old is demanding you play hide and seek. Obviously you do this, because you're not a monster. But oh look. You've been playing for 20 minutes and he doesn't want to stop but you'd quite like to just stop sweating if only for a minute. It's too early to deploy ice cream, and you've already watched an entire movie. Call in the big guns. Get your 14 year old niece out of bed, tell her you'll buy her some Snapchap credits or something (no idea, literally none) and get her to step up. Et voila. Welcome to the next 6-7 blissful minutes of your life.
GET VARIETY PACKS OF CEREAL
I mean, why wouldn't you? Every serving is like opening a present. Buy them in duplicate to avoid arguments over Coco Pops. You will end up taking home loads of tiny packs of Cornflakes which you can keep for when your father-in-law next stays. You're welcome.
DO ONE BARBECUE
Make out it's the main event of the week. Start preparing at 3pm the day before. Insist on making a separate shopping trip to buy meat. Don't get offended when your wife puts everything you've skilfully undercooked into the oven afterwards, in order to cook it. Vow to do more barbecues, generally, in life. Don't do another one until this time next year.
GET OVER PARKING AND TRAFFIC - THEY'LL BE AWFUL NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO
This is possibly the toughest challenge. Heaven knows there's nothing more manly than worrying about congestion and logistics. But just try not to. If you do want to avoid traffic, though, you can always insist on doing all your activities at 3am. There's nothing more stunning than a beach walk in the dark.
As for parking, there's only one solution: borrow my mum.
Frankly, the only reason we're taking my mother with us this year is because her Blue Badge will make us Padstow VIPs for a week. There's only one Cornish Bay that's really beautiful at this time of year, and that's the blue one right by the shops*.
BOOK TIME OFF WORK FOR AFTERWARDS
As soon as you've finished this holiday, you'll be so exhausted, harrowed, aged and feeble that you'll need an actual break. The SECOND the blighters are back at school/nursery/granny's house, get home, get on the sofa, close your eyes and enjoy the silence of sirens, traffic, helicopters and that weird noise the fridge makes. And vow never to try and get away from this ever again.
*My mum is available for parking solutions at a reasonable daily rate. WARNING: you'll have to talk about charity shop politics and gardens.