After their dad and I split up nine years ago, the holidays I took with my two children always involved France and my extended family. This year, however, I announced to the kids that it was high time we went it alone, just me and them. My 13-year-old son, Elliot, wasn't bothered about the destination as long as it was a holiday and there was water, but my 17-year-old daughter, Betsy, spent hours on the internet bookmarking luxurious hotels.
Eventually I gathered the courage to tell her that I had rented a house on the island of Korcula in Croatia in the Easter half-term. Betsy immediately looked up the temperature for May and was placated. And when she discovered that a heat wave was predicted, she got to buy a new bikini. Phew.
Friends commented on how brave I was to go alone with teenagers who, in the normal course of things, spent most of their time trying to negotiate new and interesting ways of avoiding spending time with their parents or each other. This simply hadn't occurred to me. Anyway, my daughter would be too busy revising for her AS Levels to get huffy, wouldn't she?
As it turned out, all fears were unfounded. Joy of joys, the kids found a common ground that took us sailing through the holiday. Instead of winding each other up, they were blissfully united in the gentle care of a new object of ridicule and pity – their mum.
When we hired buggies to drive around the vineyards of the island, they loved every minute of it, laughing later because it was they who drove, not I – who cannot drive. And we spent two days on bikes, cycling in the 30°C heat to the nearest nice beach. I'm really not good on a bike – as soon as the road slopes up I get off and push. A pattern emerged of the kids waiting for me, giggling, for me at the top of any gradient.
As predicted, the weather was extremely hot and I've never known Betsy to willingly rise so early. She lay on the balcony as soon as she woke up and the revision only happened when she was sunning her back, which wasn't as often as I would have liked. Meanwhile, Elliot and I sat in the shade playing cards. He even let me beat him sometimes.
There were no nightclubs or shopping centres to distract Betsy and no games consoles or internet to lead Elliot astray. Bliss. Despite the occasional wind-up and strop, rather than reading our books, we talked – about things from my past (I think the kids listened) and their schools, friends and music (I did listen). I know for certain that this holiday gave us a lot more than just a tan and a bigger credit card bill. We're off to New York next half-term.
Betsy, 17, says…
"When my Mum told me that just the three of us were going to Croatia, I was apprehensive as I tend to spend more time with my friends than my family. But the holiday was a brilliant surprise. Mum was relaxed and up for everything, the sun shone and Elliot and I didn't argue once. Even the evenings were fun – Mum and I bonded and we laughed a lot.
However, as soon as we got back home, everything returned to normal: Elliot and I baiting each other, my mum on at me to revise. I guess we need to go on holiday together more often. "
WAY TO GO
British Airways flies to and Dubrovnik from London Gatwick. Visit ba.com.
Emma Kennedy talks to Robert Elms on board about her family holidays in her new book The Tent, the Bucket and Me (on selected flights).