Holidays during term time….
I know this subject may stir up a hornets nest of opinions, but this has never been a subject that has ever bothered me, until now….allow me to explain.
A bit of background first: My eldest daughter, L, is my Husbands step-daughter. My Ex, L‘s dad lives approximately 60 miles away. We split up when L was 2 years old, and she does not remember us being together. L sees her dad every fortnight, she spends two nights with him, her step mum, half brother and step brother (bear with me) and usually spends about half of all school holidays with him/them.
Last year, L‘s dad knocked me off my feet by informing me that he was going on holiday to Spain for two weeks and hadn’t asked me if he could take L with him as he was taking the holiday during term time and knew I would say “no”. He said all of this in front of L (I was collecting her at the time), who looked as though she would burst into tears, and understandably so. It made me feel absolutely and utterly awful.
I was furious. The most furious a furious person who was furious could be. He had not even asked me. He had assumed I would say “no”, and yes ok I probably would have instinctively said “No”, that is beside the point; he still should have asked. He blamed ME for L not going on holiday with them. The lowest game he has ever played!
I told him a few days later that in future he was never to leave L out again, that the damage he caused was irreversible and never ever to put the blame on me again. EVER!
So all last summer I had to deal with and try to repair the damage EX had caused. And to be honest, I am not sure I will ever be able to. L will always remember the summer her dad went on holiday with his family and left her behind (her words not mine.) My poor little baby girl (ok she is not that little anymore, but nonetheless, she is still my baby) was feeling very left out and exceptionally sad about the whole thing. She smiled again of course, and we carried on as usual, and I made a promise to myself that from that day on, I would stop protecting him and his silly games he plays and always, always make an effort to be honest with L about everything. And I have.
Fast forward to this year, L is now in year 4 at school (in my terms, she is in second year juniors), and it’s getting to that time of year when parents start organising holidays. It was during a routine fortnightly pick-up that I asked EX what his holiday plans are this year………wait for it………….he informed me that he cannot afford to take a 2 week holiday during the school holidays (who can at the moment seriously?!) so he is planning on taking a 2 week holiday DURING TERM TIME and wants to take L with him!!!!!
Again, I am completely blown away, for a number of reasons:
1. In my eyes, if you can’t afford a 2 week holiday during school holidays: either go for 1 week or not at all or maybe just maybe find a holiday in the UK which isn’t as expensive.
2. This is the parent who complained about L‘s “standard of education” following the last Parents’ Consultation (formally known to me as Parents’ Evening) and how badly she was doing! But he is still happy enough to take her out of school for 2 weeks when its suits him.
3. He is happy to risk his name and mine, for this holiday: our Education Authority is very strict. If permission is refused by the school for the absence and the holiday is taken anyway; we each get fined £120!
But the main reason I am in silenced (not an easy thing to do to me!) and knocked sideways; he asks me in front of L if I would allow her to go. So immediately I am in a no win situation. If I say “no” I not only run the risk of having a repeat of the emotional turmoil L went through last year, but also being the ‘horrible bad parent’ for not letting her have a holiday. If I say “yes” I go against everything I believe in. I, personally, do not believe in taking children out of school for a holiday. I have never done it and never even thought about doing it. I believe that school is important and that any missed days are time they never get back. I am not referring to the ‘odd day’ here remember, I am talking about 2 whole weeks. To a child 10 days away from friends is difficult. At the age L is at now, so much can change within a friendship circle in such a short amount of time.
So I did the only thing I thought the best at the time; I told him that he should request permission from the school directly and then we could sort it out. Knowing L‘s school as I do, I thought my position would be fairly safe, as they would refuse permission. How wrong I was!
Yes, they consulted with me: Was I aware that EX had put in this request? The Office Manager talked me through the procedure, how it all worked, what happened if the request was refused and she was still taken out of school, how long it takes, on what basis permission is granted, etc.
To cut a long story a bit short….they GRANTED permission! For 11 days!! That’s right ELEVEN!! Not the ten I had been told about…..!!
Now I really was gobsmacked. Now I had no choice really did I? Although you may say that actually I did. I could have stood my ground and refused to let her go. But could you honestly break your child’s heart by refusing a holiday with her dad? Especially in light of the fact that she had been so completely and utterly upset by last years events. No and that’s why she is going on this years holiday with her dad.
I have laid the law to him however, and told him that next year she will not be going on any holiday during term time; she will be in year 5 and working towards the end of her primary education.
And if I’m honest I love seeing her face light up when she talks about the holiday. It’s a real joy to see her so happy.
Am I jealous, cross, angry, frustrated, sad? Yes I am all those things and more. But her smile is so worth it.