Alpha dads and vacations

Filed under: Activities: Babies, Places To Go

There have been few greater changes in household life over the past sixty years than those relating to family holidays. Whereas once families invariably ate together, now many spend an appreciable length of time together as a single unit only when on holiday. Before work schedules became tougher and wage earners commuted longer distances, parents and children shared a closer life. Even 60 years ago fathers, once they had married and had children, renounced their wandering tendencies, settled down, and swapped their maps of Europe for the straitjacket of family life. Dr. Thomas Stuttaford, writing in the London Times, suggested there are certain holiday rules that are disobeyed at peril. Long car journeys are the first opportunity in which type A (unreconstructed, ambitious) men can allow their competitive instincts a free reign. They are able to sit happily for hours as they compete with other road users while checking the dashboard computer to find out how many miles they have traveled in the past hour, and their average speed. They will calculate whether they are achieving targets and will be cast into either reckless gloom or hypomania depending on whether they will make it in time for lunch at their favored restaurant. Long drives aren't just a problem for aggressive fathers: the children are often bored to tears and prone to perpetual bickering, shouting, and fighting.

Long drives can also undermine a family's physical health as well as its psyche. Any form of travel that involves sitting still in a seat for 12 or 14 hours at a time is a likely way of inducing blood clots in those susceptible to them. This includes those who have recently had surgery, pregnant women, and people who have a previous history of blood clots. Pregnant women are also at an increased risk of losing their baby. The angle of the back of the car seat to its cushion allows the blood to pool into the woman's pelvis, where it fits snugly into the back of the seat, congesting the uterus and detaching the placenta more readily. Meanwhile type A men never relax. The stress and strain of a long drive can test their cardiovascular system beyond breaking point. Fathers should forgo their desire to drive and book cheap flights for the family.

The competitive man's boredom threshold is as low as that of any of his children who might be suffering from ADHD; a morning on the beach will probably be enough for him. Even so, he will overdo the sun as his isn't the temperament for slopping on sun cream, slipping on a long-sleeved shirt or wearing a hat.

Even building sandcastles poses problems. His children may not respond to having him as both the king of the castle and clerk of works. He will soon be planning family activities as if they were army missions; no dinghy will remain unsailed, no mountain unclimbed, no bay unexplored, no sea or pool not dived into. The father will revel in playing the sea captain as he commands his crew (the family) and then happily hauls the dinghy ashore. No sooner are they back at their base than he will have them out on the tennis court.If any of you mothers are planning a vacation with your type A personality husband, I hope the humorous observations of Dr. Stuttaford are of value. You may want to add other note regarding family vacations with this type of man.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.