Going away without your parents for the first time is weird.

My first experience was a weekend away with the Brownies. We shared a large room in an old house, somewhere wet and cold in North Yorkshire.

It was also my birthday, something I’d been excited to celebrate with my new friends. That was until I overheard a girl whispering, ‘I could never spend my birthday away from my family’.

I felt a sudden pang of guilt and panic. I counted down the hours to getting home, snuggling on the sofa with a cup of tea and birthday cake, and watching Coronation Street with my mum and the dog.

Even writing that now makes me wonder why I ever left home again. But I did. I went to Spain with my new high school friend’s family, and rode the emotional rollercoaster all over again.

Whether it’s a school trip, a holiday with a friend’s family or a summer camp adventure – it’s likely that you’ll travel through a similar journey of the following highs and lows.

I can’t wait to get rid of the ‘rents for a whole week

Finally, I can shake off my parents and be the strong, independent woman that I am. No more sad camping trips in the rain and sharing a tent with my annoying brothers. And no more stupid games like rounders or Scrabble. This is my moment to be a proper grown up who sunbathes, acts aloof behind giant sunglasses and wears a two-piece swimsuit.

Mum please stop crying, I’ll see you in a few days

She is SO embarrassing. Why can’t she be a cool mum, instead of a regular mum? I hope Hayley didn’t see her squeezing Mr Teddy into my hand luggage. She needs to know that I’m totally mature.

I want my mum!

*Sobs while clutching onto Mr Teddy*

Why would she let me go through such a dangerous journey of passport checks, turbulence and lost luggage without her? Why did she send me off on my own? Why hasn’t she replied to my WhatsApp messages? Will she get on the next flight out here? Or has she already got used to life without me?

This. Is. So. Cool.

So last night’s drama was a blip. Today I made friends with six other girls and they all have belly button piercings. We discussed the importance of feminism and listened to Lorde while chilling in the sun. These are my kind of people, this is my type of holiday.

Oh great, my period has come along too

What brilliant timing! Thank you, life! Period blood polka-dots are the perfect pattern for my yellow bikini anyway. And I’m sure tummy cramps won’t be totally unbearable in this heat… Thank you mum for packing the maxi pads and super tampons! Can I get my period deported?

My family NEVER has this much fun on holiday

We walked around the local village today. Usually, I would have to wait around the souvenir shop for an hour while my mum stocks up on incense sticks and magnets for her friends. But here, we were allowed to go off on our own for a full hour! We got a cola at the cafe, bought friendship bands and stalked Hayley’s crush on Instagram.

I wish my brothers were here

We went kayaking today and it reminded me of the time my brother tipped mum from a boat into the lake. He sacrificed two weeks’ pocket money for that comedy gold moment.

And I got quite sunburnt today because I’m incapable of putting on sun lotion without my mum repeatedly telling me to do it. I wonder if the girls fancy a game of rounders. Oh no, maybe I do miss my family?

I never want to leave

I cannot be expected to go back to my normal life. I want to go swimming with these girls every day and have midnight feasts through fits of giggles with them every night. No one can tear me apart from my holiday crush, even though I have barely said two words to him – I won’t let them!

Take me home, now!

Hayley is so annoying. In fact, everybody here is so annoying. Even my crush is annoying. I’m going to give my mum the biggest hug ever at the airport and get the Scrabble board out when we get home.

NONONO, why is it all over?!

Mum’s shouting at me for getting sunburnt, school starts again next week and my brothers are ignoring me for not getting them a present. Bring on next year!

@hlouiser89

The realisation that your parents are actual people can be horrifying.

It’s like seeing one of your teachers outside of school, or Matthew Perry playing a character that isn’t Chandler.

You get used to seeing your parents in certain, parenty roles and it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that they exist outside of that realm; that they forget birthdays, that they send needy messages, that they feel fat some days, that they fall in love.

That they fall out of love.

And they also go through break ups.

For some people, when their parents break up, it can feel like their entire world is crumbling around them. As though the stable life they have always known has been blown apart.

For others it can feel like an enormous relief, an end to an unhappy household and parents who fight all the time.

But even if you expect it to happen, even if you knew it was coming, it can still hurt like hell.

I was seventeen when my parents broke up and I didn’t see it coming.

I was wrapped up in my own life. I was taking my final exams, I was navigating my way through my own, very intense relationship, I was trying to decide what I wanted to study at university. I didn’t notice the other things that were going on in our house.

I didn’t see that my parents were hardly talking anymore. I clocked that my mum was crying a lot, but I put that down to her becoming more emotional as she got older. I was aware that my dad was coming into my room more often to hang out, but I thought it was because he was worried about me going away to university next year and having an ‘empty nest’.

But when they finally told me, I felt the pieces click into place. I felt stupid and self-absorbed and confused. I had no idea what to say or what to do or how to act.

I mistakenly thought that because my parents had survived four children, five different cities and 30 years of marriage, that they were somehow immune from divorce.

When dad moved out, my boyfriend helped me pack all my dad’s clothes into big black bin bags and stuff them in the back of my car. We counted up all the spare change in his top drawer, separated it into different currencies and took it to the bank. We made cookies with my new Christmas-shaped cookie cutters.

I remember holding my mother as she cried and realising that I had never been the one doing the holding, I was always the one being held. My mother had spent her whole life taking care of me, and now I decided it was time for me to take care of her. And sometimes, she’d let me.

I would go to the supermarket and return armed with what I considered precisely the amount of chocolate to cure her broken heart. We would lie curled on the sofa watching films and she would fall asleep resting her head on my shoulder. When the film was over I would carefully nudge her awake and tell her ‘it’s bedtime,’ while I turned off the lights in the living room.

My parents got back together in the end, so I guess I was luckier than most. Now, they hold hands like teenagers who can’t bear the idea of being apart.

And sure, it was a crappy, emotional, chocolate-filled time but I learned a lot from the experience. The thing that stuck with me the most was that sometimes adults will act like teenagers and sometimes teenagers will act like adults. After all, we’re all just people in the end.

Image: Getty

Parents are unruly creatures. When I was a teenager, I could never figure out how mine were going to feel about things. I could disappear into town all day with a fiver in my pocket from the age of 12, and they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I could rent movies with an 18 certificate and they would gladly watch them with me. But then they could draw the line in what felt like utterly random places: I had to be home by midnight, and not a minute before. I wasn’t allowed go to music festivals. I couldn’t sleep over in a boy’s house, even if he was just a friend. The list goes on. Even today, I still struggle to understand why my parents let me do some things, but not others.

However, I have realised one pattern: most of the things my parents wouldn’t let me do, turned out to be pretty crappy anyway. Look, I’ll prove it. And if you assume I’m lying just to make you feel better, well… I’m not. Shh. 

Festivals

I wasn’t allowed to go to festivals until I was 18, and you better believe that I went mere days after turning the illustrious one-eight. My friends had already been going for years – some since they were 15 – and I was fed up of feeling left out of their stories. I was ready to tick everything off of my festival bucket list in three days: I was going to share a water with a minor celebrity. I was going to meet a mystery boy at a silent disco. I was going to have that kind of complicated festival hair that is woven with flowers and glitter. I was going to be IT. 

The reality? By day two I wished that my parents had extended the ban until 21, or possibly 30. I was too poor to buy the incredibly expensive (not to mention unhealthy) food at the festival, and was instead slowly giving myself scurvy by subsisting on Nutrigrain bars and lipgloss. Everything I owned was damp, especially my socks, which seemed incapable of drying and very capable of giving me trench foot. You can imagine my delight when, on the Sunday morning, my friend got an asthma attack and we all had to leave early. 

Staying out past midnight

Look, I’m an adult who can go to bed whenever she wants and doesn’t have to answer to anyone, and I still leave the party at midnight. Believe me, nothing good is going to happen after the witching hour.

Travelling

Another thing that you should wait until you have actual money to do. At 19, I backpacked through Spain, France, Amsterdam and Germany, where my budget was £38 a day, exactly. That’s including accommodation. Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of nights “sleeping under the stars” – which, believe me, is nowhere near as poetic and romantic as it sounds. 

Dating

Your parents think you’re too young to go on dates? I’ll let you in on a secret: dating is not good when you’re young. It’s not good when you’re old, it’s basically good never. Sure, going out to a restaurant or to the cinema or to a gallery with someone you really like is great fun, but ‘dating’ – as in, turning up at a place and eating food with a near stranger – can be absolute hell. You never know who is supposed to pay and you always forget the point of your story halfway through. Avoid this one for your entire teens, or your entire life if you can manage it. 

Going on holidays with your friend’s family

This is something that, when I was around 13, everyone started doing. Suddenly, families everywhere seemed to be extending free holidays – FREE! – to feckless pre-teens who did nothing to deserve it other than befriending their wretched spawn. I was incredibly jealous of all this free holiday action, especially because everyone who went on holidays together seemed to return with a stronger, more sisterly bond. 

My parents were cynical about the prospect of letting me go on holidays with other people’s families, partly because they were afraid of having to return the favour, and they were not the kind of people to give some rando teen a free holiday. 

However, time taught me that going away with your friend’s family is not all its cracked up to be. You’re basically expected to be a guest, 24/7. That means no arguing, doing exactly what your friend’s parents tell you to do, and going along with their weird family traditions and crap car games. Who wants that? You’re supposed to be on holiday. 

@Czaroline

If you have separated parents (or the blessed fortune of having a ‘weekend home’), you’ll know the pain, pleasure and relentless packing that accompanies a life lived between two houses.

The good news is, it gets better – or rather, you get better at it as the years go by. The bad news is that by the time you leave home(s) you’ll be such a pro at the two-house thing you’ll genuinely struggle to adjust to living in one…

It’s at the other house

Whatever it is, it’s at the other house when you need it. It could be small or large, life-enhancing (eyeliner) or as a essential as your beating heart (phone charger): cometh the hour, cometh the moment you realise you know EXACTLY where it is, and it’s about 12 miles away, along the A22.

You can see it in your mind’s eye. You distinctly remember looking at it and thinking, ‘I shan’t forget you my friend,’ then getting a distracting WhatsApp and never looking back. My advice to you would be ensure everyone in your family has the same phone (if they haven’t already), and to make steps toward implementing the below scenario immediately.

You have double of everything…


Like a material Noah’s Ark, if it’s necessary to your life you’ve got it doubled – whether it’s toothbrush, pyjamas, hair brush or wellies. But unlike Noah’s Ark, the crucial difference between them is that one is always older and lamer than the duplicate: Little Mermaid pyjamas and a toothbrush that more closely resembles your doormat, for example, versus an electric number and some snazzy shorts from New Look.
The trick is balance: you can bear the fact your pants at mum’s have all the days of the week on them in fluorescent colours, as long as you’ve got a room with half decent wifi access and GHDs at her house. In the end though, you will probably end up lugging the best stuff between the two.

…except when you don’t


The day you need to watch Sky will be the day you’re at the house which has never had Sky, never will, and why-do -you-want-Sky-anyway-read-a-book. This is less of an issue in the giddy age of Netflix, but the principle also extends to Freeview, games consoles and the good telly. If only it were so easy to blag a second 34 inch flat HD screen of your parents as it is a spare hair dryer and extra sandals.

Breakfast becomes a whole new ball game

Once the most predictable of meals, breakfast steps up a gear when you’re confronted with two homes, each with a different cereal offering. Some cool kids might disagree, but other than “Saturday” I can’t think of a better realisation to have before 8am than ”I’m at Mum’s! That means crunchy nut cornflakes instead of Weetabix!”

Do try to resist playing one parent off against the other on the cereal front, though. Tempting as it is, there’s only so far you can milk it before they cotton on and you’re stuck with plain porridge at both houses for weeks. Blurgh.

You’ve got a ready-made homework excuse

A trembling lip, one solitary tear, and a shaky voice announcing “mum and dad are separated and I left it at Mum’s and I was at Dad’s last night I’m so sorry” works wonders when it comes to letting you off the hook for that maths homework you clean forgot to do last night. Ditto PE kit and musical instruments.

A word of warning however: while rivers of sympathy run deep for the kids of divorces, they do dry up eventually. Try to limit your abuse of your home situation to a maximum of once or twice a term, and to target different teachers each time.

ALSO: this does not work for those of who have a weekend home. You can try it, but if the idea of you leaving your Key Stage 6 textbook by the pool in Provence elicits pity on the part of your teachers, they’re a softer lot than mine…

You live your life out of a holdall

Before reading Jacqueline Wilson’s The Suitcase Kid, I thought me and my brother were the only ones in the world whose lives could be reduced to a single Reebok holdall. Now I realise there’s a whole tribe of us out there, lugging homework, school shoes, chargers and at least five potential Saturday night outfits from one house to the next.

Our necklaces are never not tangled into a knots; our earrings haunt the depths of the bag like bright sea creatures, to be expertly fished out when required; and our tights bear the scars of always, always getting caught in the zip.

You become a master of packing

See above. Where lesser mortals spend days deliberating over how many knickers and what size of body lotion they’ll need for a trip, you pack like a woman on the run from police: ready to leave at a minute’s notice when the sirens sound. By the time they’ve located their adaptor plug, you’re halfway to Rio.

It’s a niche skill, true, but it will stand you in good stead next time you’re late for a plane or decide to engage in some serious crime.

@clare_finney

Image: Unsplash

Parents are embarrassing in real life, but they are, without question, at their peak cringe when they decide to engage with social media. If, by some lucky miracle, your parents aren’t on social media or haven’t worked out emojis yet, we strongly urge you not to teach them (though on the plus side, their social media cock-ups can provide a steady stream of LOLs).

But one 18-year-old from Austria has decided her parents have taken their digital activities one step too far – so she’s doing the only logical thing: she’s suing them.

Say what?

Yep. She’s suing her parents for posting embarrassing childhood photos to Facebook. In the last seven years, she claims her parents have uploaded more than 500 photographs of her as a child to the social network without her permission, and that it has made her life miserable.

They knew no shame and no limit – and didn’t care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot – every stage was photographed and then made public

Woah.

While lawyering up might be a pretty extreme response to public parental affection (whatever happened to just writing “GOD MUM YOU ARE SO EMBARRASSING GODDDD” underneath and slamming a few doors?), there’s no denying that parents + social media often = a whole heap of pain.

In case anyone else is looking for more reasons to go all Good Wife on your ‘rents, here are a few other social media mishaps that we wish we could sue our parents over…

1. Re-posting poems captioned “Share this if you’re a mom who loves her kids!!!!”

2. Liking three weeks’ worth of Instagram photos in one giant landslide of notifications

3. Putting kisses on the ends of tweets to nobody in particular.

4. Misusing the cry-laughing emoji on texts telling you your Grandma is in hospital.

5. Showing they’re angry with you by passive-aggressively refusing to like your photos, and expecting you to notice or care.

6. Excessive fear of The Man, leading them to periodically delete their accounts or post 500-word chain statuses about Mark Zuckerberg harvesting details on your favourite crisps and Netflix viewing habits to sell to terrorists.

7. Replying to everything Phillip Schofield says on Twitter, and genuinely expecting a reply.

8. Posting things in the voice of their pets. E.g. A photo of a dog with “I had a really hard day today! I went for a big walk in the morning and swam in the river, then rolled in some mud so had to have a bath when I got home. I met so many new friends! Now I’m home and cuddled up with teddy” on Twitter, and genuinely expecting a reply.

And our personal fave:

9. Referring to it as ‘The Facepage’.

Dislike.

1. “It’s just like a big roast dinner!”

The calm, nonchalant words of your mum or dad the morning they start on Christmas dinner.

2. WHY AREN’T THE POTATOES BROWNING?! I TOLD YOU TO TURN THE OVEN OFF/UP/DOWN/INSIDE OUT (delete as appropriate) NOW EVERYTHING’S RUINED

The harassed, furious and screeching words of your now red-faced, vein-popping parent as D-time approaches, emitted at an ear drum-bursting volume. Cue kitchen exodus.

3. “I’ll get the drinks.”

Said by whichever parent isn’t cooking, as they grab the wine bottle and exit the kitchen in reverse.

4. “Well, it IS Christmas.”

First heard at 10am (along with the Buck’s Fizz cork), then throughout the course of the day whenever the bottle, chocolate box or brandy cream passes.

5. “GO ON. It’s Christmas!”

Said jovially to anyone who does not subscribe to the above rule.

6. “Take it in turns, please”

An order totally ignored by you and your siblings as you tear through your stockings with all the ferocity of a Tasmanian Devil – whether you’re 5 or 15.

7. “Now it’s mummy’s/daddy’s/auntie’s/grandma’s (delete as appropriate) turn”

Cue the giving and receiving of a gift so eye-wateringly dull (cycling gloves, garden trowel, tights) it provides an immediate reminder that growing up sucks, in almost every possible way.

8. “Hurry up, or we’ll miss the Queen’s speech!”

There’s always someone so desperate to watch the Queen’s speech they’ll insist on bolting down Christmas pudding at a speed you know will come back to haunt them later. To the amusement and/or total indifference of everyone else.

9. “But I thought you’d grown out of Advent calendars?”

Every year they ask it, as if you would ever grow out of something as exciting as legitimately eating chocolate at 8am.

10. “Sorry it’s not a chocolate one”

When, finally, they remember to get you an Advent calendar – and they completely miss the WHOLE POINT. 

11. “But I thought you’d grown out of stockings?”

May the gods defend you from ever hearing these dreaded words, which it’s almost impossible to defend yourself against without sounding just that teeny bit spoilt. It was fun while it lasted, but that, my friend, is Santa calling time on your fun.

12. “What do you want for Christmas?”

Your mum* will have already asked this. Your dad will ask you around the 22 December, with all the wide-eyed innocence of a middle aged man who’s only just realised Christmas is happening. 

*Or vice versa, obviously. Christmas is no excuse for gender stereotypes.

13. “Are you sure that will fit in the hall, darling?”

The doubtful parent, or whoever it is that’s responsible for putting up the Christmas tree at the garden centre when the other one feels a competitive, almost primal drive to purchase the tallest tree going.

14. “There’s no way that’s going to fit.”

When you get the tree home.

15. “It’s okay, I’ll just saw the top off.”

[three hours pass]

16. “WHOSE ******* IDEA WAS THIS? I SWEAR TO GOD, WE ARE GETTING A FAKE ONE NEXT YEAR.”

When sawing the extra four feet off has left needles where needles ought never to go, and inevitably leaves the tree bald.

17. “Did you keep the receipt?”

There’s always at least one present in the pile exchanged between partners that falls short of expectations. Short of lying, this is usually considered to be the most tactful response.

18. “Don’t worry, I kept the receipt!”

Said by an anxious parent when giving pretty much any present, whether it’s a pair of suspect heels or some rollerball pens.

19. “It’s dry. It’s dry, isn’t it? Dry as a bone. I knew it would be dry.”

The cook, upon the serving of the Christmas dinner.

20. “Do you need picking up?”

Said with a heavy sigh when you declare your intention to go to your mate’s Christmas party.

21. “I can’t pick up yerup darling. I’vad too much tdrink. Walkorgerra cab.”

Said in a sleepy, rolling slur when you ring them at 10pm

22. “Have you written your thank you letters?”

Every day between Christmas and New Year.

23. “Are you sure you meant these for me, mum?”

Your mum to your grandma upon unwrapping a bumper pack of men’s thermal vests.

24. “No I did NOT make the Christmas pudding. Who do you think I am, Jesus?”

The parent who cooked Christmas dinner to the parent who didn’t cook Christmas dinner when the latter asks innocently if the pudding is home made.

25. “Has anyone seen the matches? Where are the matches? The pudding’s getting cold!”

Birthdays and Christmas. Literally the only time humans ever need matches anymore. No wonder they can never find them.

26. “It won’t light. Why won’t it light? Give me another match, I’ll just GAH GAH GAHHH.”

Lighting the brandy on the Christmas pud. And maybe burning the tree offcuts. 

@finney_clare