My eldest is in Year 6 so I don’t know why the school holidays trip me up every term, but they do. God knows why as I know that they’re coming and it’s not like they’re a surprise?! Anyhoo, the fact that I’m a simpleton aside, I know that I’m not alone in my dread about the hols as my mum and dad friends all despair about how they’re going to juggle their schedules and entertain their kids without breaking the bank and their sanity every 10 weeks during the school year. And don’t get me started about our simmering resentment about pupil free days and how that one extra day (after two weeks off) just pushes us royally over the edge!
This topic is clearly on my mind as we’re on day 4 of the hols here in NSW and I’ve been having a wee self-congratulatory pat on the back as it’s going pretty well so far. Touch wood. Have I jinxed it now..eek?! So, what am I doing? Well nothing ground breaking at all, but I’ve realised that I now know what works for my boys and our family and thought my musings might be helpful. Or amusing. Or maybe neither, it’s been a long day after all..! So I’ll stop babbling and tell you how I survive the school holidays with two boys.
I work for myself and from home largely so find the school hols can be quite challenging when I try and maintain a work/life balance. I love having the boys around but also need to work and to be able to hear myself think, so the only way to be a good mum and a productive professional is to make sure that I don’t try and do it all as I invariably fail. So, I let my boys have down time pottering around the house and playing with each other for a few days – as they’re little homebodies and tired at the end of term – and then balance that out with play dates and going out and about to the cinema, Flip Out and all things noisy and boy friendly. And work of an evening (and around outsourced activities) to hit my all-important deadlines. The school holidays need to work for everybody, not just the little folk!
I think that this is an important one. As much as we’d love to think that our little people can play independently and quite happily for prolonged periods of time without much supervision – or is that just me being mum of the year? – the reality is that they can’t and the most frustrating (school hols) days that I’ve had is when I’ve expected too much because I’ve been working, or trying to do stuff around the house, left them to their own devices and then had bored, whinging boys who didn’t know what to do with themselves on my hands. And I’ve been frustrated, crazy, shouty mum when clearly it was my fault not theirs! So I know now to gently structure their day if we’re having a day at home and have lots of suggestions up my sleeves, ‘chunking’ out their day into activities, games and meals..so I can move them on to something else when I see tempers starting to flare.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks..!
And staying with the subject of food and I don’t know if it’s the same with girls – I have an 11 year old boy and 6 year old boy – but my boys will happily eat constantly and declare that they’re ‘starving’ every hour like clockwork so in the dreaded school hols weeks I like to have cupboards stocked full of snacks so that I can fend off the marauding beasts when they start circling.
I think that a big part of parenting is mediation; deflecting disputes and communicating with warring factions and after a day at home with the boys where they’ve been getting on each other’s nerves feel that I could easily get a job at the UN! On my better days – where I’ve managed to talk calmly and under the shouting – rather than raising my voice to bellow over theirs – I can deflect grumbles, distract with a favourite meal, disarm with having a giggle and at the end of the day feel like I’ve put in a good day’s work in the trenches! It’s bloody hard work at times though isn’t it?!
And on the days where the wheels well and truly fall off and Condoleezza Rice couldn’t have got a better outcome, I make sure that I take myself off and scream into a pillow!!! As a good cathartic screech relieves tension and I don’t want to scare the cats?!