The first full summer we had as a young family in the countryside was difficult. My youngest hadn’t yet started nursery, my eldest had been going three days a week. Our old nursery operated all year round, but this one was attached the primary school he would be starting in September and therefore closed over the summer holidays. And they have long summer holidays. I didn’t know the area well, I didn’t know many people, my husband had a work training course and was away a lot, the house and garden felt overwhelming. I remember feeling so relieved when school and nursery started. I was at the end of my tether and not only that the tether was frayed and unravelling, like a curtain being clawed at by cats.
Roll on three years and I feel like I *may* have nailed it this year. Of course, it helps that the children are older; they will play independently (sometimes), I no longer have to wipe bottoms and even when they are home I can still get some stuff done without always resorting to screen time. I’m not going to lie, the last two weeks and in particular the last three days we were all on the cliff edge. We were all tired of each other and craving routine and structure. But we survived. And here’s now we did it.
Have a plan.
This is the cornerstone and the capping stone. This is where it all starts and ends. I used to stare down the abyss of 8 weeks of nothingness with dread and panic. But like Hugh Grant in About A Boy, time can be broken down into units. We were fortunate to have a long family holiday in Cornwall – three units. I signed them up to a drama and dance week – one unit. We had a week with my parents – one unit. The weeks at home I staccatoed the days with activity days (one unit each – my unit measurements are flexible) or made sure each day at home had a focus – whether that was going for a walk, painting, playdates, baking cakes, or going swimming and plenty of unstructured time when they usually made up their own games or built Lego (my youngest spent a day playing with a banana to which she had adhered stickers to make a face. She even wrote a story about her friend the banana – hey – she was happy).
Accept you won’t get anything done, or at least less than you would normally.
Supper will still get made, dishes washed, clothes cleaned, but the things I would like to do have had to take a back seat. Once I accepted that it and resolved to get back to things in September I felt better. I let go of the anxiety, and agitation in me that ‘things weren’t getting done’ (blog, book, decorating) and relaxed. As a result I focused more on the kids, and also freed my brain up to come up with new ideas, creative thoughts and even planned out a better structure for my book (writing down notes on my iPhone so I didn’t forget). If I got to go for a run, or do some gardening it was a bonus.
It’s ok if they have sandwiches for lunch most days.
Let go of the guilt.
My kids love a club and are happy to meet new friends and play with old ones. You get a break. Everyone’s a winner.
The last two weeks are the toughest.
You can see the finishing line, but you’re not there yet. Don’t collapse just yet. Keep something in reserve.
But it doesn’t last forever.
Summer holidays are long, but they always come to an end. Plus they won’t be young forever; so make memories, play games, let them stay up a bit later because all too soon we will be looking back on these days as golden wisps of joy; forgetting the tears, tantrums and frustrations and remembering the giggles, the fun, the cuddles and never quite believing they were once so little.