It’s not easy being a parent. And it’s especially difficult being a parent of teenagers. You have to lower your expectations. A good day is one without an all out row. A typical day includes tutting, eye rolling and conspirational “OMG” glances between siblings. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m really doing rather well. My kids are 15 and 12 and neither has ever told me that they hate me or that I should eff off. Supermum or what? (Don’t say “what”).
I spend my life trying to please them and summer holiday time is invariably my biggest challenge. Apart from the kids, there is a husband and hey, he has rights too (apparently). Ideally we would go to Israel. Israel has everything for everyone. Alas, four flights to Israel cost our total holiday budget. We could go there, but we’d have to get the next flight home. Ditto for sending the kids to summer camps. When I were a lass, a Jewish summer camp was a camp, under canvas. If you were lucky they threw in a trip on a barge, but what it didn’t include was a four centre European extravaganza.
Last year we went to France, a picturesque village in the Pyrenees. The scenery was stunning – tres rustique. But the apartment was grim, our bedroom like a cell, the en-suite bathroom without a door. So this year I changed my tactics. I found a beautiful apartment in Spain in average surroundings. I conversed with the Dutch owner over the internet. She promised me, in perfect English, that there would be other English speaking teenagers for my children to hang out with.
Planning the journey was a task in itself. A 3am flight straight to the resort was the most direct, yet most expensive option. I discarded it immediately. My kids don’t do getting up early, and they certainly don’t like getting up before they’ve been to bed. The cheapest option was a flight to Madrid and then a 5 hour drive to our “urbanizacion.” Hmm, my tired husband driving for 5 hours with grumpy kids in the back, suitcases on knees and on the wrong side of the road? I think not. So I compromised (story of my life) and we took connecting flights. It was quite straight-forward, but by the time we got to the car-rental office at Alicante airport, where they’d tried to stick us with a load of charges that they had promised were included in the UK, we were all getting a bit worse for wear. The car was not in bay 142 where they said it was and when we did find it the luggage didn’t fit in it. (Well, it did, but not with us in it too.) “Oh no, “my 15 year daughter cried, her finger on her chin. “WHAT NOW?” I yelled sympathetically. “I think I’m getting a spot,” she replied, without an ounce of irony. We should have made a getaway with the luggage and left the two ingrates at the airport.
Finding the flat could have been worse and only took one “we’re lost” phone call to the perfect English speaking Dutch friends of the owners. Do any Dutch people not speak perfect English? The apartment was as beautiful as its photos on the internet and perfectly equipped with Ikea’s finest everything. My other half opened the kitchen cupboard to see it packed with every type of drinking glass imaginable. “You can tell it’s not owned by Jews,” he quipped. He’s so witty. I’d struck gold…nearly. The air-conditioning wasn’t very cold. My husband was very hot. “It’s ok, “ he said magnanimously, “I’ll just have two weeks of hell here.” Lovely. (The rest of us love hot flats in hot countries in August.) However, the heat did not stop him sleeping and much to my relief, I heard the familiar sounds of his world class snoring as soon as his head touched the spotless pillow (with just the right amount of bounce.) I too slept very well and joyfully awoke during the night when he grumpily got up to turn the air-conditioning down. Yes, “down”. He was now freezing cold. Phew.
So what is there to do for Jews on holiday in the Costa Blanca? Well, there is plenty, but not much I can get an angle on for the Times of Israel (so if this blog is removed due to lack of Jewish interest, I will understand.) Before we travelled, I spent hours googling…”kosher food Alicante,” “Jewish Sites Spain.” I didn’t find much and if we want kosher food we have to drive for 3 hours and that’s only to get a tinned hot dog. Never mind, for two weeks of the year it won’t kill us not to eat meat. The supermarkets are set up for English tourists and we managed to fill two trolleys on our first visit. I always put on a load of weight on holiday so this time I decided to buy lots of healthy stuff too. We’d make salads and interesting veggie conconctions (and then eat all the crap.) I would get fat slower. The wine here is so cheap that even my husband can’t grumble. He even treated himself to a bottle of white for just over £1.
Just one problem. The place is extremely quiet. There are neither teenagers nor English people. There were a few French speaking little kids at the pool the other day playing this “Marco Polo” game that my son said he knew and I tried to make a shiddach. But my son nearly died of embarrassment and they weren’t too fussed for his company either. Last night we went out ‘for a drive’. Kids love that don’t they? Maybe we should have phrased it differently. After a few hours of condensed family time they were desperate to eat. It was the boys turn to cook, but it was very late. I suggested eating out and we found a place that sold pizza that was not out of a box. The people on the next table were tattooed and English. The people on the table next to that were tattooed and English. The waitress spoke only Spanish and even though she seemed to have closure that the kids didn’t want courgette on their pizza it arrived laden with it. However, as is always the case, we were all happier after we’d eaten and it was not an unpleasant evening. My son (12) was particularly lively on the car journey home but he did have a problem … he only really goes to the toilet when he is desperate and he hadn’t bothered to go all day. “Drive faster Dad,” he cried, “I really need the loo.” My husband obliged, but at a price. It was a bumpy road.”Oh no,” my son whimpered,” I think my waters have broken.” We laughed. We shouldn’t have done, it only encouraged him. “The head’s coming out,” he continued. Too much information.
As for content suitable for regular, grown-up readers of TOI, I have little. I’m winging this blog. I did see a Swastika and, how awful, I thought ‘ooh, maybe I can get an angle here.’ I asked my husband, because he is dead good at politics, what he reckoned it was about. He answered that it may have been an anti-semitic gesture or it may have just been a sign that the Spanish want the Fascists back. I left it there. Poor man would love to have someone with whom to discuss politics and we are all tiring of his recitation of the full Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch.
Despite how this may be coming across, I think we’re all having a lovely time. My daughter has low expectations and a Kindle, my son has his laptop and a flat-screen tv (which he happily watches in Dutch) and my husband has very efficient air-conditioning. And me? I have a lovely rooftop terrace with sunloungers that don’t fight back and even an outdoor shower. I have made it my own, but sometimes, often when hungry, they come and find me. I don’t mind – I quite like them really.