Yesterday, after my kids had a particularly fiery exchange over who was going to be Bowser and who was going to be Mario, predictably ending in bodily harm followed by a stint on the time-out step (which, if you’re wondering, has no impact on their behaviour), I googled, “How to survive the school summer holidays”. One click led to another until I found myself five pages deep into one of those parenting forums (the ones where you’re a bad parent if you don’t wean your baby on curly kale guacamole and organic vanilla flaxmilk) with the thread in question appearing to have been initiated by a mum who had taken offence at the very suggestion that school summer holidays are something to be “survived”.
Her reasoning, and the reasoning of those who came out of the virtual parental woodwork in support of her disgust, went something like this: It’s not that hard to entertain your kids for six weeks… kids are a blessing… you shouldn’t have kids if you’re going to moan about looking after them… summer holidays should be treasured not endured… And so on. Yet there were a great many more comments from parents (well from mums, but it’s just as relevant to dads) disagreeing with Mrs Easy Like Summer Holidays and it got me thinking about why mums and dads might view the holidays as something to be “survived”. Let’s get stuck in.
During term time, it’s standard practice for parents to have one of those massive wall organisers detailing which family member needs to be where and when. Though it may feel like a bit of a grind, it’s usually not long before a weekly rhythm is established. You will know, for example, that you can’t have a “cheeky pint” with Steve after work on a Wednesday because you need to be at under-sevens’ gymnastics class by 6PM. You’ll also know that you’ll be flying solo for the toddler’s bedtime on Friday because your other half has Bikram yoga, but that on Tuesday you can work late/go to the gym/go to the pub because you are not responsible for any pick-ups. Yes, it can be a logistical nightmare, particularly if both of you work full time, but at least you have some kind of system.
When the school holidays arrive, it feels a bit like somebody has taken a dump all over your system. Suddenly, there are seven hours in the middle of the day when you should be working but instead are forced to take two weeks’ annual leave, a separate two weeks from your other half, so you can take it in fortnightly turns to hang out at soft-play centres drinking weak coffee while silently forming opinions about parents with no teeth who’ve given their daughter a hyphenated name constructed from Love Island contestants. If you’re freelance, “annual leave” basically means you will spend the summer pretending to your kids that you’re listening while simultaneously pretending to your clients that you’re not crawling around on all fours through the “Krazy Kidzone”. If you’re a single parent you will need wine. Lots of wine.
Everyday parenting trials are also exacerbated in the summer holidays. I don’t know whether the OP (that’s “original poster” in parenting forum speak) has ever ventured down the A30 to Cornwall in peak holiday traffic, but I can tell you there is nothing about a carful of squabbling, whingeing, wee-needing kids that feels particularly worth cherishing. The same goes for the airport where the world, his wife and his dog are attempting to jet off to Majorca because parents get a more than a slapped wrist for taking children on holiday during term nowadays.
The summer break might also bring with it the realisation that your children don’t actually like each other. I am currently living with this suspicion at the moment. In fact, after the Mario Kart row I asked my boys outright if they liked each other and in unison they confirmed that they do not. But I am burying my head in the sand and pretending it’s just brotherly bants because we’ve still got five holiday weeks left. In these upcoming five weeks there will almost certainly be some quality family time, some Instagrammable moments of joy (#makingmemories) and mild relief every morning that nobody has to do the school run.
However, there will also be days when it’ll piss it down with rain, when I’ll have a barney with my husband over who can afford to take another day off work and days when my kids will take their wrestling too far resulting in a chokeslam that nearly kills someone. On those days, I will stick two fingers up to anybody who tells me to treasure the holidays and I will do what I have to do to survive.