It’s that time again. The end of term is nigh, and an endless chain of days to fill beckon like a yawning abyss. It is with some trepidation that we plunge into the trenches, mixed feelings of joy at our unencumbered mornings, free of the school run madness, and fear of the dreaded cries of:
Gone is the frantic scramble of school shoes, packed lunches and forgotten homework, all somehow assembled in a frenetic five-minute dance of chaos that walks the fine line between ‘on time’ and ‘definitely late’. A feat that would make an Olympic athlete proud. Instead it is replaced with a lackadaisical crawl towards the inevitable realisation that plans have to be made for the day.
The thought of a rainy day with no activities or visitors is enough to send any parent into a cold sweat. Especially in this time of social media when we are bombarded with images of laughing parents bonding with their immaculately clad children in their spotless houses and articles explaining at length how we are doing everything wrong. Reality seems to be more a sea of paint splattered, glitter infested, toy strewn, junk food laden day on repeat. And of course, we must ensure we cherish every blessed second of this madness for fear we will live to regret it until the end of our days.
But for those parents who do not live in the TV studio world of make believe, here are a few tips to keep you sane through the wilderness that is school holidays:
1. Play to your strengths
Whether you’re a Bear Grylls wannabe or a glitter gun toting craft ninja, we all have our preferred activities with the kids. Some of us shudder at the thought of a Peppa Pig induced rave in muddy puddles but are happy to fling about some flour and eggs in the kitchen and see what happens. Others of us come out in hives at the thought of Playdough being trodden into the carpets and colours being forever mixed into an inevitable shade of grey but could spend all day making dens in the woods.
Play to your strengths.
Don’t force yourself to do something you despise just because Marjory on Instagram posted pictures of her little angels making heart shaped cupcakes (which she probably decorated herself because nobody stays that clean baking with kids!). Do something you’re good at and the kids will pick up on your enthusiasm.
2. Enlist in help/ company
Parenting is a team sport, don’t be a hero! Accept help from the grandparents/ aunties/ uncles/ well meaning friends and if there is nobody on hand then arrange a playdate with another beleaguered parent. Even having a joint moan about the state of the house, the endless snacking and the RELENTLESS bickering is sometimes enough to ease the load. Adult conversation is a must. Spending every day discussing the finer points of Minecraft or the daily happenings in Adventure Bay are enough to drive anyone round the twist.
3. Talk to the Kids about the costs
One of the biggest factors of the holidays is the inevitable cost. Yes, the parks are free, and we can create our own fun but even the snacks, the picnics, the baking, the crafts, they all add up. And that doesn’t include the really extravagant days out. Our children need to know these things don’t come for free and we can’t afford to entertain them endlessly throughout the holidays. Ask them what they would like to do, discuss the costs, and then maybe pick one or two of the more expensive options. Challenge them to come up with their own cost-free ideas, then see their little minds boggle.
4. Don’t be afraid to let them amuse themselves
It can be quite a terrifying prospect for the modern parent, as we are now programmed to believe we are neglecting our children if we are not caring for them every second. But children NEED to be bored! The greatest creativity can come from the simplest of things. Turn off the TV, take away the tablets and explain you will be busy for next hour so they need to entertain themselves. There may be whining and bickering at first but stick to your guns. To be comfortable in their own company and make their own entertainment is a life skill they need.
5. Be prepared
Make a list. In fact, make a couple of lists. A wish list of things you would like to achieve during the holidays. A list of last minute activities should plans change or the weather put a sudden dampener on things. A list of places you would like to visit or crafts you’d like to do. Cross things off when you complete them, star the things you’d want to do again. Go wild with those highlighters! Being productive is a wonderful feeling and can often alleviate that sense of aimlessness the holidays sometimes produce.
6. Take time for yourself
Oh, the holidays take their toll. Parents can often be seen rocking in a corner, clutching a battered Iggle Piggle, with their left eye twitching wildly at the end of a particularly bad day. We need to let off steam. We need it in order to be better parents, in order to keep parenting without reducing ourselves to mewling puddles on the kitchen floor. So, make sure and take some time out. Whether that is getting stinking drunk with fellow parents, enjoying a relaxing bath, going to the gym or even zoning out in front of the TV with a bucket of ice cream… DO IT! Be kind to yourself. You are keeping these smart talking, snack eating, fart producing, sibling torturing little miracles alive and you should be damn proud of it!