I don’t like saying stuff like this, I promise you I don’t. You know me, I’m a modern kind of a gal at heart.
I think everything is better than it used to be: the Seventies were beige and brutal; the Eighties were vividly-hued misery; the Nineties were grey and bland.
After the Millennium, things perked up a bit…except.
Except for school summer holidays.
Let me give it to you straight: don’t you think we make a bit too much kerfuffle about them now. I do.
The summer break used to be a quieter, more straightforward phenomenon. In July, you and your kids dropped the term-time routine of school and childminder and began the summer routine of grandma and grandad’s house instead.
That was the way it worked for me and mine.
When I were nobbut a lass, it was even simpler. We played out. We played out for hours, days, weeks. Parents came and went, we were hazy on the detail of their movements as they were on ours.
They sent us out to play in July and when we were allowed back in again at the beginning of September, we had all grown six inches in height.
I’m not saying do that now – but here’s what I am saying: make less fuss about it all.
The fuss begins with end of term. There are those awful, American-influenced prom things, where stretch limos and big frocks appear and children barely out of the CBeebies years have to have “dates” for the evening. Stop it.
And then there’s the fuss about the teacher. Oh my! Was there ever such a to-do. The class teacher must be sent a thoughtful card of gratitude, the teacher must receive an appropriate gift. They leave the school grounds laden, legs buckling under the weight of chocolates and candles. Do they declare them on their tax returns, I wonder?
And those same teachers seem to have lost the art of tact. As the long, long break approaches, they appear all over Facebook telling their friends of their tiredness, of just how much they need this break, of how they have the car packed and the engine running, ready to escape to their European campsite the very second they have dumped all their end-of-term gifts on the kitchen table, to be assimilated later.
As the clamour from the teachers dies down, the noise from the parents is dialled up. They wail and lament about the weeks before them. They talk of the impossibility of entertaining their offspring for all that time.
They start a countdown on social media. “One day down, six million to go,” they post. And then put a picture of a full wine glass and an empty bottle on there, just to make sure we have all got the point.
Their eyes strain anxiously towards September and, like kids in the back of the car, they whine: “Are we nearly there yet.”
Then we media types get involved. Newspapers, magazines, websites all join in the sympathy-fest.
We fill much space with suggestions of places to visit to keep the children occupied at all times.
We horrify you by setting out just how much summer fun is going to cost. Actually, the cost of summer childcare has risen steeply over the last few years – one of the few reasons to genuinely lament about summer holidays.
And finally, there’s shopping. You summer holiday families do a lot of it. The stores are full of all the generations, everywhere.
People notice. Two older women in the queue behind me in Debenhams definitely noticed.
“I don’t know why they bring them shopping, we never went shopping, kids hate shopping. We just got shoved out the door every morning,” said one to the other.
“My mum took me to Lewis’s at Christmas to see Santa Claus,” said the other. And then they went on to a different conversation.
But they were probably right about the shopping.
Here’s my summer holiday message: play more; make less fuss.