So having the holiday of a lifetime to Disney World at Easter is amazing and everything (and it really was) but it turns out that it was also at Easter. Which now seems a very long time ago. It seems an especially long time ago when it has left me too poor to partake in any kind of summer holiday, and has left me facing six weeks at home. (I know I sound like an ungrateful wench – I did LOVE Disney World and I am so grateful for it. It’s just I do like the sun. And a beach) I had a minor panic about this at the very beginning (will the kids kill each other? Will it rain all the time? Will the kids and I still like each other at the end?) and googled lots of cheap holidays. It turns out – a fact I’m much saddened by – that those holidays I used to go on as a student for two hundred pounds for two weeks don’t exist any more. (I must bear in mind I was a student twenty years ago. An actual two decades) They especially don’t exist when you have two children in tow, both of whom count as a whole adut all on their own. Six weeks at home it is then.
Ten days in, here are all the great things about it:
1. All that time with the children. I haven’t spent such a long, undistracted period of time with them since I was on maternity leave, and a lot of the time it’s been a total joy. (Not all the time; there’s rose colouring your life for social media and then there’s actual lying.)
2. I asked child 1 what he most wanted to do over the summer; he said, fervently, ‘I want to have lots of time at home to play with my toys Mummy.’ In that sentence was packed a whole world; a world where he is too tired from school or too busy having tea and doing homework and exercises and handwriting to have sustained periods of time to play by himself, which is his favourite thing in the world. He has spent most of the holidays so far building lego or running around with his friends. It’s not much for a six year old to ask.
3. In relation to this, I’ve read a lot this week about free play and its importance to children’s development. In short, apparently it’s crucial that they get to play, alone and with others, in order to develop skills in resilience, problem solving, creativity, initiative, and perseverance. Legitimised time to myself to read my book and waste time on facebook while they entertain themselves, you say? And it’s actually good for them? I’m totally on board with that. My favourite moment of the holidays so far was when child 2 and her little friend decided to make birds and birds’ nests; they had playdoh, shredded paper, paper, scissors, and glue. Together they decided what they wanted the nests to look like, and set out to make them; once they’d completed some pretty impressive nests they designed some birds, complete with wings, faces and tails to go in the nests. It took them about an hour and a half, and in that time they didn’t come and find us once. Winner on all fronts.
4. We’ve read. A lot. As part of the obligatory sorting out at the beginning of the holidays (I’ve taken about a million bags to the charity shop and feel like I’ve barely started) we rediscovered all their old picture books, and we’ve been reading our way through them. I’ve got out of the habit of picture books as we usually read Enid Blyton et al at bedtime, but this has been such a joy. They’ve been so delighted to see the ladybird in ‘What the Ladybird Heard’, the Gruffalo’s Child, the selfish crocodile, Sugarlump and the unicorn and it turns out I’ve totally blocked out the hell of reading these delights so many times I’d rather have thrown myself at the wall rather than suffer it again when they were little. As a plus, child 1 has abandoned Beast Quest with its attendant violence and swords and crushingly tedious plot resolutions to reread the tales of Peter Rabbit to his animals at night. There’s something just a bit more wholesome about Beatrix Potter.
5. The discovery of silk clay. There’s nothing child 2 likes more than an afternoon spent doing some kind of craft, and her friend today introduced her to silk clay. If you haven’t used it before, buy it now. No mess. It air dries. The child constructed an army of animals, a sea, a boat for the sea, and some fish this afternoon. She barely stopped for tea. I was almost entirely surplus to requirements.
6. A lovely woman in a cafe this morning stopped at our table this morning to tell me what fun we looked like we were having and how lovely it was to see us enjoying each other’s company so much. We were actually doing some maths, so this was a bloody miracle, but I loved her nonetheless. I felt like supermum for the whole five minutes that elapsed before they started trying to kill each other again.
And all the things that are really rubbish about not going on holiday:
1. All that time with the children. The children themselves are lovely. It’s just the meals, the endless bloody meals. And the clearing up after the meals. And the thinking about the next meal.
2. The weather. This morning we walked into town and child 2 whinged all the way because she was cold. (I’d told her to put leggings on before we left the house; she said they didn’t go with her dress; I said, ‘fine then. If you get cold don’t whinge to me.’ Shades of my mother definitely but I forgot that she is so persistent in her whinging that this was a lesson we both would have to learn from. Nex time I will force the leggings on her myself.) I’m not loving a summer where they can’t just dress in shorts and a t shirt as a matter of course. I used to live in Scotland and experienced eighteen years of this type of summer. I don’t want it here.
3. The sibling infighting. Jesus, does it ever stop? To be fair to the little gremlins, I’ve been pretty lucky with them so far. There aren’t many advantages to a twelve month age gap, but one is that between the ages of three and five they really liked each other. They played together for hours, requiring only a duvet and a blanket and their imaginations. Sadly this has not lasted. They could barely hate each other more these holidays. I’ve banned the words ‘I’m telling Mummy’ and ‘Mummy, he/ she said…’ At times I’ve feared actual blood will be shed. Today child 1 told his sister that she was walking too loudly near him. There was some rage incited. But you know – now I’ve discovered silk clay, all will be fine.
4. My friends’ facebook photos of shimmering waves, swimming pools, and beautiful beaches. I’m jealous. But they did suffer throug the whole of Disney World with me so I’m gritting my teeth and ‘liking’ through it.
No one, contrary to the views of those comedians at parties who kick off the conversation with ‘oh, so you’re a teacher? Great holidays’, really becomes a teacher for the holidays. But I’m grateful every day of the summer holidays that I am, and that I do have them, because they’re allowing me to take back, just a little, of the time I wish I had for my children during term time, the time that they love and deserve, the time where we have to be nowhere and please no one, and we can spend it together. So far, it’s been a joy.
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