Weekending With The Kids


Weekending in Ludlow

Perhaps one of my favourite things that we do as parents is our weekending trips away with one or other of the boys.

Wrapped in love, focus and adventure, we first got the idea from an article published in the Guardian newspaper, written by psychologist Oliver James about love bombing . My husband spotted it in the early part of 2016 when life didn’t seem quite as settled as we might have hoped for, and we felt as though we needed to take action to create a better balance. In particular at the time we had 3 very young children – aged 5, 3 and 1 – and a puppy. Family life was definitely chaotic and whilst wonderful there was a nagging feeling that the boys might feel as though they weren’t always getting the focus that they wanted or perhaps more importantly, that they needed. Their behaviour at times tested us too, and we really wanted to find our way through in a positive, nurturing, manner.

The idea behind love bombing is very straight forward. You spend one to one time with your child which is planned out a little in advance to their specifications. For us, we do this in two ways. We give each of our children a ‘Christmas wish’ each year, which is to try something new the following year that is decided entirely by them. This has included to name a few: a young person’s driving lesson; a horse riding lesson; snorkelling experiences; Go Ape; climbing walls; and 3D cinemas. We also take them ‘weekending’ once a year.

Our weekending trips are really special. We plan these out in advance, with whichever boy is going away choosing where to go and what to do. Sometimes they have chosen the other way around, for example one wanted to go to a great train museum so Jacob took him to York, another wanted to combine history and science so he went to Bristol. The destinations have all been UK based, and we have been creative with accommodation to keep costs down whilst making the most of our time away. I booked a stay in a conference centre for one of our weekend trips in Ludlow, for example.

Weekending in York
Weekending in Bristol

Far from being weekends filled with unachievable demands, these trips away always seem calm and focused on time spent together and experiences, rather than material objects. Between us all we have visited numerous attractions including The Deep aquarium in Hull, watching the parrots in St James’s Park in London and absorbing the tranquillity of an RSPB nature reserve in Wales. We’ve climbed mountains, descended into caverns and clambered over castle ruins. We do let the boys choose a memento to take home with them from their trip, but often this tends to be a magnet for their radiator or a pen, pencil or postcard to remind them of their time away.

Green parrots in London

What we notice is that there has been a gentle shift with this time away from home. Each child gets to do something that is entirely directed by them, which gives them confidence but also allows them time to breathe and take in sights and attractions that appeal to their own curiosity. Whilst they plan out their trip in advance the others take an active interest. Not with jealousy because they all get their turn, but they engage with ideas of what the one going away might like to do. If a suggestion takes them by surprise they ask why that might be of interest, learning a little more about each other whilst respecting their differences.

Another change that we have noticed is that when life feels tough, it is easy to dig out photographs of time spent away from the everyday and to revive the feelings that the special trip evoked. Reminiscing over a weekend when they went away, were totally in charge and had a lovely time seems to boost their confidence and help to remind them that there are good times as well as not so good times on the rollercoaster of life. We have found ourselves doing that more frequently as they have got older and challenges they face seem bigger and more difficult.

These trips are undoubtedly made easier because we are a two parent family, but they don’t have to be weekends away. Time out during a day for a couple of hours can be just as important. In fact the year before we added the Christmas wish idea in to the mix the boys all had one weekend away plus a morning or afternoon of 121 time where again, they were in charge. These mostly ended up being café and charity shop trips but the idea was the same. They chose the destination in advance and thought about what they might like to do with their time. When they chose to go to a café they even thought about what they might like to order! Photographs from these experiences can serve as a prompt when life is not so rosy too, and it can be easier to find childcare for siblings for a couple of hours compared to a whole weekend.

I am certainly glad that we took the plunge to start these with each of our boys when they turned 6, and know that we all look back on these special weekending trips with a lot of warmth. The only query I have left is whether or not any of us will ever stop doing them!