Summer vacation looms large in a child’s life, pretty much no matter where you grow up or what your summer vacation looks like.
To celebrate the range of wonderful summer experiences out there, the Sassy Mama team will be sharing our own fond summer memories from childhoods spent on five different continents. Look out for a new summertime reflection from the Sassy Mama team every Friday through July and August, mamas! Today: Acting Editor Beate recalls her own expat childhood in Kenya and heading “home” to visit family in the UK each summer, and marvels at how parts of her experience have carried over for her own children.
Growing up as an expat in Kenya, summer holidays and the annual family pilgrimage back to England were long looked forward to. I loved my childhood in Nairobi, climbing trees and camping in the bush, running barefoot and a little bit wild. But the summer trip back to London to see the rest of our family, to the big smoke, to city life and all the mod cons that go with it, was a highlight of the year. My sister and I would begin a countdown four weeks before our flight.
Summer holidays in the UK meant a peek into a different life and best of all, a whole month of living with my grandparents. Giddy with excitement, we would anticipate the long summer adventure, gorging on all of the things we couldn’t get back home in Nairobi: hot crumpets with Nutella, trips to the public children’s library (I still love libraries and their odd musty bookish smell), days at Regents Park feeding the ducks, being treated to McDonalds (which luckily didn’t exist in Nairobi), amazing free playgrounds, and lazy picnics in Hyde Park.
But the biggest draw, of course, was spending time with the grandparents who doted on us (while mum did our once-a-year shop for clothes to last till the following summer, as shopping was a little bit dire in Nairobi).
Now living as expats in Singapore, my kids go through the same summer rollercoaster ride. We have a countdown before the big trip, one leg of which I make alone (as in sans husband). Just me, two small kids aged 2 and 5, and fourteen loooong hours (gulp, deep breath, glass of wine, thank you iPads, and hope for the best). It’s a journey which thankfully gets easier every year.
Like I did, my kids get four weeks of exhilarating grandparent camp while I do my buy-everything-in-the-summer-sale annual shopping marathon (yes I know Singapore has good shops, but what can I say? Old habits die hard and also, Primani price tags!).
The kids revel in M&S desserts and sugar-laden cereals put on by grandparents (the stuff that Singapore doesn’t sell, Shhhhh! That’s our story and we are sticking to it). It’s British farm visits to stroke bunnies and feed sheep, strawberry picking, museum visits, going on red double decker buses, the excitement of wearing jumpers, breathing in fresh chilly air, and visits to see our wonderful long-time friends (who by now, nearly eight years on, have mostly stopped asking when we are coming back “home” to England).
But most importantly, summer for my kids is time spent with their grandparents. Getting rides on grandpa’s lawnmower and sitting curled up under his arm reading stories, doing arts and crafts with Nonna, discussing sports on TV with Opa and playing with Daddy’s vintage LEGOs with Grandma. These are the moments my kids still talk about. This is what makes our summer holiday.
Because as much as holidays are about the places we go and the adventures they bring, what really makes them memorable are the people we spend them with: all the friends and family who may live the farthest away but who are still the closest in our hearts.