Don’t do it because you’re broke. After a certain age, sponging off your parent/s is not OK. It’s roughly one up from sleeping with your best friend’s ex because you’re in the middle of a sex-drought. Understandable, not pathological — but still profoundly icky.
Don’t do it because oh god one day they’re going to pass away and then you’ll wake up at 4am with guilt-goosebumps remembering how you skipped a trip to Wales to hit some terrible techno festival with your friends instead. Never do anything to pre-emptively stave off regrets. Not in a cool, je ne regrette rien way. It’s about time management, not nonchalance: if you try and cover all your bases you’ll never have time to do anything you actually want to do. And imagine being that parent – your kids only holidaying with you to prepare for you shuffling off this mortal coil. The mind reels.
This isn’t, for what it’s worth, contingent on you having some sepia-toned Gilmore Girls thing with your mum (or a Scout and Atticus vibe with your dad). Your parents are probably human and therefore gently broken in the way that most people are — or maybe they’re just irritating in the way that anyone with a pulse can be.
Broad swathes of your existence will be off-limits. You will argue if you talk about politics, your career or your love life. But there’s also thousands of joyful details that don’t translate over Skype. Your mum will cut every apple up into pieces before giving it to you to eat. Your dad will tell you, “It’s like Blackpool Illuminations up there,” if you leave a light on upstairs and will insist on going on long hikes with no good views. He will not bring water. He does not believe in regularly consuming liquids. Dehydration, like therapy, is something only the weak fall prey to.
Your dad will drive 90 mins there and back to the nearest large-ish supermarket to buy you sanitary towels. He bought the wrong ones because everything to do with menstruation is labelled in the vaguest possible way to minimise discomfort of (male?) shoppers. He drives again the next day to get you what you’re specifically after — you’ve sent him a screenshot of the right brand taken off the internet. Maybe nobody else loves you this much? This is simultaneously nice and terrifying.
Get up early. Your mum does and it’s worth fitting your timetable round hers. Nobody else would expect you to, after all. If you were on holiday with your friends or your partner they would let you sleep in until noon and nobody would make a fuss about it. Getting up early enough to have a cup of tea alone with your mother is the same feeling you get when you force yourself to do a full-body plunge into a lake back home when the weather’s lukewarm, not hot. It’s too much (too bracing!) at first and then it becomes the only decision you’ve taken that day you’re truly happy with.
Underestimated elements of a parent holiday: fuming when they hold your hand on crossing the road on the first day; feeling indignant when they forget to do it on the last day. Dazzling them by making an incredibly simple tomato pasta sauce. It doesn’t matter that it’s just a handful of fresh basil and some onions away from being a tin of chopped tomatoes — suddenly you’re Heston Blumenthal.
Watching them day-drink and get silly and having to take afternoon naps to sleep it off. Extreme focus on comfort: any draught, any hard seating, any hardship is banished. Complaints are made to waiters over lukewarm food.
They will drop you off at the airport. They will text you before, during and after the flight and Skype you the day after to see how you’re doing.
There’s no guarantees, of course. You’re with your parent/s — the person/people on this earth most skilled at bringing out your crazy. Maybe there’ll be shouting matches over the washing up and slammed doors! You are – you always will be – 15 years old around them.
That’s OK. You can argue — they’ll still be there when you make up. And when you wake up to the sound of them making scrambled eggs in the kitchen downstairs and laughing at the people in the next house along, you’ll close your eyes and for a moment, feel like all’s right with the world.