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Mama Said: It’s summer holiday season. Time to let go. . .

Emily Martin has gone to a holiday park and, in the spirit of Frozen, she’s let go

Summer holidays are cue to let go, says Emily Martin
Summer holidays are cue to let go, says Emily Martin

Dear Reader, we’re in a holiday park in the Lake District where we’ve come for half-term and, in a risky move that pushes the boundaries of the deadline for this column, I thought if I write about the holiday whilst ON the holiday it would add a little something to it. Kind of like a method actor. But also, I thought it might get me out of going to the kids’ activities one morning if I could play the old “I have to work” card so I’m missing the climbing wall today and I’ve got the caravan to myself.

The kids have been pretty up for walking in the hills (for short periods at least) but the holiday park activities is what they’re really interested in. I’ve heard the phrase, “Can we go swimming?” about 400 times on this holiday so far. We’ve been standing in the sunshine, at the summit of a sweeping mountain, looking down at the sparkling blue water of Lake Windermere and I’ve heard, “When are we going back? What time is the swimming?”.

Caravan holiday parks were not a part of my childhood and watching my children this week, I think I’ve missed out. I have been to the Lake District once before where my Dad famously abandoned me and my mother on a mountain as storm clouds gathered. Although he maintains to this day he was just going on ahead to check the route down was safe for us to descend. But we probably stayed in some sort of inn, I can’t remember.

All the kids just let it rip at a holiday park, which sounds awful, but it’s kind of fun. There are no rules. Before we’d even been here 24 hours, Tom had to help a boy with a dislocated shoulder in the playground (no parents to be seen), and then an hour after that we helped a girl who wandered past our caravan, lost, having apparently spent an hour searching for her friends. “Can you remember the name of where you live?” I said cheerfully as we escorted the weeping child to reception. “All I know is tomorrow we’re doing the Escape Rooms” she said. Fair enough. Why would a kid need to know more than that?

Kids just live in the moment here. They can let their hair down. It’s like being in a cartoon. I walked past a table at the bar (a mum, a dad and a kid) and the kid was just standing up yelling, “Woohoooo!” as they played “Summer of 69” on the speakers. I heard him say, “It’s OK mum, we don’t have to be quiet here! WoooHOOO!”

It took about a day for our kids to get used to this new world order. Standing timidly at the side of the dance floor they couldn’t understand it. The lollypops are... free? If you play in front of someone else’s caravan, they don’t mind? The playground is still open at 11pm?? What is this place?! But they soon settled in. Our 5 year old went to bed at midnight last night after spending the evening tearing up the dance floor, a bubble gun in each hand blaring into the sky and then scoffing a cup of sweets on the way home.

The parents have lost control. The kids have the upper hand. And it feels weirdly relaxing to just let it go and stop trying. In fact, we had a group singalong of “Let It Go” at the bar last night where the entertainer made us shout the Disney classic burned into all parents’ brains as loud as we could as part of some quiz, and I felt a kinship with the other adults. We knew what we were singing about. “No right, no wrong, no rules for me! I’m free! Let it goooo!”

The evening entertainment is one of the best things about the holiday park. An array of sparkly entertainers trying so hard to whip up a crowd of sunburned, bleary-eyed Dads, tipsy mums and a huge mass of kids blinking up at them in flashing hairbands holding so many, many bubble guns. Last night it was a 90s pop disco. “That’s cool!” I thought. “How niche!? I love a bit of 90s pop!?”

And then it dawned on me very slowly. We’re the adults sitting at the tables now. The nostalgia evenings at holiday parks are playing music FROM THE 1990s because that’s what all the mums and dads are into. Oh my God, WE are the mums and dads. I poured myself another very small glass of wine as this sunk in.

I don’t drink but I’ve decided to drink on this holiday in the spirit of there being no rules on the park. I think we’ll be back next year.


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