My memories of the summer holidays as a child are being looked after by other people. There was Barbara, a local friend of my Mum’s with 3 young, boisterous boys. My elderly Grandma; who we would stay with. And Debbie; a family friend’s teenage daughter who would take us swimming, but whom I felt very shy around. We probably had the most fun at Kathy’s house, another family friend who had children the same age as me and my brother.
On the whole, these are not fond memories. Mum worked part-time, so we had two days at home each week… but these don’t feature in my lasting memory. I think I felt a bit like a seasonal nomad, being sent off to different people when all I wanted to do was hang out with my Mum. I don’t recall lazy summer days or trips to the park with her. I guess there’s some sort of psychological explanation here, something to do with negative bias…?
Of course, I now realise, how difficult and stressful it must have been for Mum to organise our care over the 6-week period – just as it was for me and is for every working Mum. The logistical nightmare required to plan the extended child care arrangements, not to mention the expense. And the favours you have to call in from family and friends. Add to this the anguish many Mums experience over just not being able to spend time with their children.
I don’t actually know if my Mum was upset about having to work over the summer holidays, because I never had that conversation with her. Perhaps sadness wasn’t permissible as it was a necessity that she worked. I have certainly grown up associating my own sense of sadness and, selfishly, some resentment to it.
For this reason, I have always been adamant about spending as much time as possible with my kids over the summer holidays. I absolutely recognise that for many families, this is just not feasible. I have been very fortunate over the last few years to have a boss who granted me unpaid leave for the month of August. Now that I am not working, I have the whole 6 weeks to indulge in my kids, to savour and enjoy this precious time whilst they are young… and it is just bliss.
I haven’t planned too much. I made that mistake in the past… filling every day with outings and activities so that we were all exhausted and the kids were literally begging to have a day at home. Last summer was different as Mum was ill, so my time was very much constrained. This year we are taking it easy. At the ages of 8 and 11, they have enough going on during term time and I am enjoying taking their lead on what they want to do.
So far our days have consisted of very simple pastimes and I intend to keep it like this as much as possible. Play dates and impromptu visits with friends, country walks with the dog (admittedly aided by Pokémon Go), swimming, a picnic, the cinema, a trip to town to spend pocket money… We have a holiday to Centre Parcs in Holland to look forward to and a couple of nights camping in Suffolk.
I know we’re only 1.5 weeks in… I could end up submitting a post entitled Summer holiday hell. But I think it’s unlikely. Yes, they bicker and they tease and fight. They leave a trail of dirty clothes and wet towels every single day. They demand a continuous supply of snacks and sweet treats. They need constant coaxing away from their ‘screens’… BUT we won’t get this time back.
My son will be off to secondary school in September, which means that next summer he’ll have more freedom and the desire to go out with mates rather than hanging out with me and his sister. So I am cherishing this summer holiday and the time I have with him and our little threesome unit.
Even if I did have to take dog for a walk tonight to escape the post-dinner crazy hour… but to also remind myself how incredibly lucky I am to have the opportunity to hang out for the whole summer with my two, amazing kids.
I’m interested to know how the summer holidays are for you… please comment below.