Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. And I would love to spend quality time with them over the summer. And we do achieve it at times. I just wish they liked each other - at least a little bit!
I did have a plan. Sort of. It's not as if you bury your head in the sand and pretend two months a year don't happen, they loom large once Easter is over and necessitate a Category 5 level of planning. But the Great British Weather hasn't helped and I'm stuck!
I remember my first summer holiday as a mum. Thrilled to have a full two months to spend with my (then eight month old) little boy every single day was savoured. Having returned to work when he was a mere twelve weeks old (the archaic maternity law then stated that 14 weeks was my maximum time off - although my employer would have gladly let me go indefinitely for daring to fall pregnant in my first year of work!) any time off was incredibly valuable. The easiest of my four children by several miles (and some) we had a truly epic summer. Travelling to stay with friends, days out, quiet days at home, trips together - it was a really special two months and perhaps set the bar a little too high. Because let's face it, the reality for most of us is that the key word for the school summer holidays isn't so much excitement as SURVIVAL.
So for those equally trapped, struggling to create some precious memories out of a quagmire of frustration, here are some top tips!
- Don't rely on the weather. Obvious I guess but given that summer has utterly failed to install this year a useful reminder nonetheless. You not only need a wet weather back up, it's worth turning that idea on its head and having a sunny weather back up....... expectation management is key here. If you wake up and the raincoat isn't needed you are on to a winner anyway and anything goes!
- Don't "go for broke". A conservative day trip where everyone survives unscathed with some enjoyment is far better than attempting the proverbial Everest trip where the risks far outweigh any potential benefits. Factor in the almost certain outcome that you will end up a) In A and E b) tearing your hair out and/or c) calling for reinforcements, aim low. It really is about survival.
- Take the long view. Whether you have six weeks to fill, or an eight-nine week marathon the message is the same. There is only one of you, and unless you have a fortnight booked in some spa resort to recover in early September, you need to reach the finish line in one piece. A TV / computer game day does NOT make you a bad parent. Neither does cheating on the catering front at least one day a week. Given the allergies here cheating is rarely an option, but when it IS, I seize it with both hands and give it a hug. Tightly. Anyway chips are GOOD - the twins' dietician actually prescribed chips when they were younger, so how bad can they be??!
- Find at least ten minutes a day for yourself. Lock yourself in the loo if you have to, but those ten minutes are sacrosanct. Whether it's a peaceful cup of tea, ten minutes on Facebook or some time reading, it's YOUR time. Your sanity matters...... I've tried matyrdom and it wasn't a pretty sight. Those ten minutes are MINE and God help the adult/child who thinks I don't need them..... the bill for The Priory will be FAR greater than the cost of my coffee bill I assure you!
- Eyes on the Prize It might seem a long way off, but September will hurtle round faster than you think. The day when you hand those children back to their respective schools and wonder what you have DONE all summer will surely come. Make sure you find time for some real adventures amongst the necessary rushing around. Those are the memories that will sustain you when you actually miss your small people as the cycle of the school year cranks up again and you realise just how far off Christmas is.