'I went on holiday with my kids for the first time. It was nothing like I expected.'

I could feel my cheeks burning as my furnace-like breaths heated up the confined space. While the air started to sizzle, my knees screamed at me to stand and release the tension that had built up. 

Months of CrossFit hadn’t prepared me for this. Shuffling like the ninja I wished I was, I started to be attacked from above by an avalanche of sand-covered buckets and spades, deflated beach balls, crocheted blankets, and nappies.

It was at that point I also realised I was actually stuck, with two nappies velcroed to my hair, in a wardrobe of the apartment we were renting.

Why was I in the wardrobe? Silly question, reader. Obviously, it was so I could spend 30 minutes waiting for my semi-conscious two-year-old to fall asleep.

Wait, but why the wardrobe?

Dear reader, we all know you hide in a wardrobe rather than risk waking up an indefatigable toddler because of a door that groans louder than the audience after someone actually asks a question at the end of a meeting, right after the boss says, "Any questions?".

Also, the silver lining was that the nappies were unused.

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When it comes to holidays, there are different stages of the holiday that people love. 

First, there’s the pre-holiday planning and imagining. Oh, the sweet, sweet potential, of what will be. 

Then, there’s the doing and being at the holiday. Man, we’re here, really doing that thing. We’re really doing it! 

Finally, there’s the post-holiday fun. Looking back over the photos, sharing the moments, telling and retelling the stories to anyone who will listen. (We all know if you are one of these people, other people listening is optional). 

I’ve realised I’m a 50 per cent pre-holiday and 50 per cent in-the-holiday person.

Except, I had forgotten three key things:

  1. My kids were on the holiday.

  2. They were there the whole time.

  3. I was still a parent. Even when on holiday.

If the last 18 months have taught me anything, it’s that escapism is both a blessing and a figurative kneecapping.


So, I knew the fact we could get away was a miracle. We were on a real life holiday. That cup of gratitude had well and truly runneth over. Or so I thought.

But, then my stupid brain remembered the movie and slideshow (sorry, slide deck for non-millennials) of what this exciting holiday would bring us. 

Lounging around in hammocks; not cooking and having dinners out; surfing while practicing my shaka; going for hikes; and enjoying a cheeky drink or three.

But, like every hammock I have ever tried to use, things fell apart quickly. Especially during that first night when at 5.30pm my two-year-old went into Full-Blown Tantrum Mode, arched her back, screamed and climbed all over me and our table, knocked all the drinks onto the floor (and people) around us, and somehow accidentally kicked her sister in the face.

At that moment the holiday we’d spent nearly two years picturing was like Snoop Dogg’s famous world tour: up in smoke.

We stood up, stacked serviettes on the puddle on the floor, and snuck past our waiter. Dinner out became cold-ish burgers on the couch with a four-year-old and a toddler excitedly climbing on us.

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While having a pair of toddler-sized feet rub my face, I realised that so often as parents we are great at creating high expectations for ourselves and our families. However, maybe we’re not as quick with adjusting to what’s actually happening. 

With this new world that’s surrounding us with #perfection #blessed #humblebrag or #inspo, it’s easy to get caught up seeing the gaps with what we think things should be like for us.

After our cold burgers, then getting the kids in bed, and finally hiding in the wardrobe, I started to became okay with my newfound holiday. 

While I missed many things from previous holidays, travels, and adventures, I realised I would continue to do so until I chose to shift how I was seeing them.

Instead of seeing it as missing them, as I was stuck in that wardrobe with nappies hanging off me, I made the choice to change the word from "missed" to "appreciated" those times. 

I loved being with people, laughing, sharing stories, enjoying food, and just catching up. Those previous times of living and travelling overseas and in remote Australia were about discovering new things, meeting new people and places, and learning new things.

While I had spent the whole day and night looking at all the things I was missing, not getting, or being frustrated by, I was choosing not to actually see the good parts. 


I was with people I bloody love spending time with. There were still plenty of times to laugh and be silly. Food (both of the hot or cold variety) was easily accessible, and my kids and wife love telling stories about their days. (My two-year-old's favourite question now is, 'What your day like, Dad?').

After that time in the wardrobe, the rest of the holiday was so much better. While it looked different to other holidays, it still was full of adventures (wandering through shark-infested tunnels at the aquarium), learning new things (which led to my four-year-old surfing her first wave AND doing a shaka); carving out time for early morning hikes; sharing stories over food; and just slowing down and catching up.

(And let's be honest, if you can get time away without kids, that can also be bloody amazing... which led me to organise an ongoing catch up with a group of friends sans kids.)

Similar to the strength-approach I use when working and speaking with kids, parents, and staff in school, it was about bringing things back to what we value to help us stop focusing only on negatives or gaps. The more times we can stop ourselves to look for the positives and things that really matter to us, the more we can notice and start appreciating them.  

Once we notice and know what is important, we can start making time for them to happen during our days – even while you’re stuck in a wardrobe.

Dan Steele is an assistant principal, teaching coach and dad of two with a masters in educational leadership. If you're interested in more posts by Daniel, head to his blog Upgrade Think Learn or at Instagram @upgradethinklearn

Feature Image: Getty.

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