Ciara Rafter shares what happened when her parents insisted they jet off to France for a nostalgic family vacation when she was undergoing a ‘not a girl not yet a woman’ phase her life.

We are sure many people have experience the same type of holiday and can related to how Ciara found the whole event.


From the time I was born in 1994 up until the time my parents deemed me an independent, responsible adult in 2011, we went on annual family holidays. That is a long time-span to do something, so much so that it became an expectancy - a habit of life.

When I became a fully functioning human being who makes her own decisions and so on in 2011, the family holidays stopped, and so I jetted off to America alone. My mother did not leave the passports in the taxi to the airport again, because she was not there.

I felt a huge responsibility to get everything right. I took the duty as if I were my own personal assistant, which actually, I guess I am, because I do not have somebody else who personally assists me. I had organised colour-coded plastic wallets, a planner and multiple copies of booking references and various other important codes that without a matter of a doubt ended up being unlooked at and shredded in the office post-holiday.

I knew where everything was; times, buses, places, everything. Gone were the days when I relied on mum to my jacket and dad to give me piggy backs on the way back to the hotel every night.

It is not just the responsibility change that gets you – it is the activity change of holidays too. Sun cream can wait (although, you will learn the hard way that sun cream should not wait. Stay safe, kids).

The sip of dad’s red wine that you tried that one evening at an Italian restaurant turns into discovering an authentic Venetian wine cellar and buying large amounts of Prosecco given to you in recycled water bottles because it’s so cheap.

If anyone ever wondered how to turn something classy into something completely undignified, that is how. Holidays are no longer about spending quality time with your loved ones; they are more about seeing how many Australians you can meet (or fall in love with).

Other than the getting used to this responsibility and complete change to everything you thought holidays were about, they still remain the highlight of the year. They are just, well, different.

They still offer a time and place to rediscover yourself, only in different ways. They offer culture. Not the culture you already know from past family holidays, such as visiting museums and cathedrals.

You learn a new definition of the word; seeing how many Australians you meet does in fact become a form of culture. Sitting on the Spanish Steps makes hangovers a cultural experience. Holidays without parents are so desirable because they offer freedom. This is the biggest change you notice when you go on holidays alone.

Alas, when you do have a long break from family holidays, it is only a matter of time before your parents start to feel that you are becoming too responsible, independent, and adult-like. They suddenly want to cradle you like a baby again to protect you from the big bad world.

What they do not understand is that you resided in Harlem for a whole month when you were 18 and not only did you survive, but you now consider yourself streetwise. What is the best way to bring the family back together again like the good old days when you did what they said and if you questioned them, the only response was “because I said so”?

A family holiday of course. Parents do not say things like “because I said so” anymore, do they? The eye line is too close, as is the confrontation. They are aware that we deserve a little bit more respect and authority because we are not that dissimilar to them these days.

We have embarked on losses, heartbreak, and some of the other negative aspects that life throws at you, like discovering that Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls is supposedly gay. We have experienced traumas of the same depths. We can relate.

I was personally quite excited about the prospect of going on a family holiday again. It will be like the good old days. I won’t go into debt again. I will be a break from the stresses of life. My family aren’t so bad, I thought. But like most of my other wishful dreams, what I thought was a mere plead of hope that came crashing down.

Did you know that it is not acceptable to chat up the waiter based entirely on the fact that he was Australian or just has really good hair when you are with your family? What is and what is not acceptable has become foggy for me these days. You are also not obligated to skinny dip just because it is dark and the beach is empty. You cannot tell mum to get off her high horse when she tells you that you are not putting sun cream on correctly. Is there some kind of global procedure for these things?

I thought you just slapped it on and let it do what it does. Beer is not for breakfast even though that is what the cool travellers did last summer when you were in Berlin, and birthdays are certainly not a liable reason to swap your morning swig of mouthwash for a morning swig of a shot.

When I say mum does not appreciate these kind of antics, I am not exaggerating; she accused me of being a thief for taking a beer mat as a souvenir from the pub we went to on our family holiday. I responded by saying that Ross Gellar taught me that it was okay – “the pint glass, no no no, but the beer mat, yes yes yes”. 

Dads are a whole other story. While mum just want you to survive the day without getting sunburnt, she does accept the fact that you are older now. Nobody can deny the lumps on your chest you now have that you did not have on the family holidays of the past.

Things have changed. Mum can handle her daughter talking to French men. Dad cannot, I repeat, cannot handle this. Do not mistake your mum’s acceptance for your dad’s. They just do not have the brain capacity for it.

It gives them the ‘how did she grow up so quickly?’ thought. Contrary to belief, men are not as strong or adaptable as woman are. They are freaker-outers. They do not like you to know this though, so they try to hide the blatant fact that they are not okay with what is happening.

My dad’s way of doing this was by buying me gin and tonics, not realising that gin and tonics usually end in bad decisions. I think in his mind he was advocating my maturity. But it is hard to compose yourself after multiple G and Ts and something I do not want to try again until I am in my thirties.

It is not only these escapades that you have to endure. The change in age is not simply that you are grown up now. The experience of having every sense of freedom and independence you have earned over the last few years ripped away and torn to shreds becomes a problem too.

When mum and dad have this mind-set, somehow it infects into your mind and soul too. You can never fully escape the nurturing culture. This withdrawal will cause tantrums that you grew out of a decade ago regurgitating because you do not get a say in where you want to eat and you might even cry on a ski slope or some other setting that makes you feel young and insignificant.

All in all, lessons have been learned. It is not that I would not recommend a family holiday after years of freedom, but I would say mental preparation is advised beforehand.

It will be your worst nightmares thrown into one. The fear of ‘Sun, Sex and suspicious parents’ happening to you will become a lot more prevalent the next time you go on a holiday without parents because you are now even more aware of how differently you act on these two holidays.

Actually, after this holiday, your parents will probably never want to go on holiday with you again. A win-win situation? Kidding. You will learn though, that your parents will still love you unconditionally even after they experience your embarrassing, regretful, not-quite-there-yet transition into adulthood.  


By Ciara Rafter


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