“Does anyone want to be my friend?” roared my five year old as he walked into the playground at our French campsite on holidays. So much for organising a play-date.
I was going to tell him to stop, that he was making a fool of himself and desperation is never a good look, just ask anyone who saw me in a night-club during my 20s. It turns out he knew what he was doing. Loads of kids in the playground already knew him by name and we’d only been there for three days.
Two French kids with no English even came up and gave him a high five. But general popularity isn’t really enough for my son — he’s a one-best-friend kind of guy, always has been. So the search continued.
It can be heartbreaking watching your kids trying to make friends on holiday. My daughter made loads of fast friends — she’d give a girl the eye in the swimming pool and if she got the eye back, they’d act as if they knew each other forever.
I desperately wanted to help her out, but there is no good way for a middle-aged man to try and bribe a bunch of kids at a mini-disco. You’re basically a spectator at these events. Actually, spectating is one of the best things about taking two weeks away with your kids.
Don’t get me wrong — it can be tough to keep two smallies entertained all day, every day for a fortnight in the scorching sun. The guy off our flight who announced at passport control in Cork Airport that he was looking forward to going back to work almost got a round of applause from the other parents in the queue.
But summer holidays are a great way to catch up with the kind of people your kids are becoming. I work from home and see my kids a lot, so assumed I was up to date with who they were. It was only on holidays I could see my son has left the baby phase behind and has turned into a lovely, funny boy.
My daughter is even more full of joy and love and, after a very unpromising start, has finally mastered a cart-wheel. But most of all, when they go on holidays, they want a friend, one they can call their own.
Towards the end of the holiday, my daughter bumped into another girl without a gang in the pool one day and within five minutes they’d sealed their fast friendship with a forward flip into the pool. (If I’ve learned one thing from our latest trip it’s those seven-year-old girls communicate via gymnastics.)
My son got sorted with a football. We were playing a game in the five-a-side pitch one night when this from Dublin called Jack with a killer smirk asked if he could join in. Himself and my guy were like an instant bromance.
I got so carried away with their budding friendship that I forgot the golden rule of holidays — six year olds aren’t the best at directions. So, when Jack told me where his mobile home was before taking my guy up there to show him the view, I thought what could possibly go wrong?
Half an hour later, I’m roaming around the campsite looking for Jack’s mobile home. Eventually, I spot his mom and sheepishly ask if there is any chance she has my son. She does and we head back down the hill to our own place, chatting about Jack and his crazy ways and how it’s great to make a friend on holidays.
I can’t wait to watch it all unfold again next year, as long as I don’t lose one of my kids.