Don't think travelling with your family is fun. And don't think the only children in your family are your kids. I've just discovered that my wife is going through her second childhood. I caught her laughing at an Adam Sandler in-flight film.
Sometimes I think the only thing my family has in common is that none of us enjoy going on holiday together. Family holidays are fraught things. Why do we make such an ordeal out of what should be a treat?
It's because of what the kids want to bring with them. Which, these days, are hormones. Which can't be easily pacified.
"Let's go away," I suggest to my wife. "All of us?" she gasps with a look of horror; of a mother remembering two teenage sons with a collective age of 28 and joint ownership of the National Collection of Pimples. And then she gives me her "you-know-what happened-last-time" face. And it all comes back. The sullen faces. The moods. All that teenage angst! And me bankrolling it all. And saying: "Never again!"
The family holiday is an art form my family will never master. Especially now the kids are teenagers. Family holidays are always ruined by two things - parents and children.
Teenagers on holiday wear out parents quicker than they wear out trainers. For them, parents are people who think setting a good example is fun. Teenagers are people going through adolescence. Parents of teenagers are people going through obsolescence. Between the ages of 12 and 18, an adult ages 20 years. That is fact. As much as "family activity holidays" is a contradiction in terms.
No matter what you suggest, the only activity teenagers are interested in is moping. They are very proficient at moaning too. Ours average about 20 moans per hour. You can't win. The sea is never warm enough. The beach is rubbish. The hire car isn't cool enough. Although it has a sun-roof. I've given up trying to play with our kids on holiday. I challenged our youngest to a game of tennis and he said he preferred to play against a wall.
Teens don't want to do anything on holiday. With their parents. Where there's a will there's always a won't.
When we go on holiday we say "see you in a fortnight". And that's to each other.
Everyone goes their separate ways. Mum and Dad go and look at some Roman remains. The kids go to the fridge and pick their way through chicken remains.
The only communal meal is toothpaste. Every meal seems to be a fight for civic liberties and the right for migrant adolescents to hold their cutlery how they like.
And of course teenagers have to be PC. They have to be veggies. I always think holiday resorts should have special restaurants for parents of determined veggies. I would call it The Lamb Shank Redemption.
The only local specialities our kids want to taste are girls. Whom they stare at. Major landmarks are bras.
The only time teens want to see their parents on holiday is when the clubs close. Recapturing your youth is picking him up from a disco.
Teenagers don't want to be around adults because they are boring. A bore to an adult is someone who wants to talk when you want them to listen. A bore to teenagers is someone who wants to talk when they want to text their friends.
Parents are embarrassing. Last year our youngest stayed in bed for the first two days. We thought he was ill. He then admitted he didn't want to see me giving the world premiere to my new holiday swimming trunks. The other one, as self-conscious as his brother, wore his hood all the time. He had heard that if he stayed out in the sun with his acne he would turn into a scotch egg.
There's also the language barrier. Our eldest speaks Mid-European Monosyllabic. He is also fluent in shrugging. The youngest spends most of his leisure time in bed. Why is it that all teenagers on holiday give the impression of convalescing?
It is wrong to say that there is little or no chance to enjoy going on holiday with your teenage children. The truth is probably somewhere between the two.
Compromise is the answer. Meet them halfway. Meet them for a few minutes every day. Then go back to your hotel.
Cardinal rules for travelling with teenagers
• While looking through brochures for a holiday destination don't say "nice spot". It is likely to be misconstrued as sarcasm by a spotty pubescent.
• If your children are nice on holiday it means they have either just done something or want to do something which you will disapprove of.
• A lolly won't solve anything any more. Cash does.
• Teenagers are things on holiday that make you miss work.
• Teens need laundry. Not morality.
• The only mature things about teens are their socks.
• Teenagers only wear ties to school, and on holiday to know when they are vertical.
• Teens suffer from two incurable emotions: boredom and hunger.
• The only good thing about travelling with teenagers is they won't bore you with their life story on the plane.
• Family holidays are planned with trepidation, experienced with stoicism and remembered with a shudder.
• Teens are free of all prejudices. They hate all grown-ups equally.
• Never raise your hand to a teen. It leaves the crotch vulnerable.
• Never fall out on holiday. Especially out of your Speedos. You'll never live it down.