Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Holidays for Good or Bad

The weather is strangely oppressive, with its lowering, uniformly grey skies from which the occasional drops of water randomly fall because, I suppose, the humidity gets to 100%.
We're into the school holidays now, as witnessed by the groups of children being shepherded around the city centre by
a) determinedly jolly dads, intent on the family having a jolly educational time (they'll probably return - much relieved - to work after a week or two),
b) tight-lipped mothers for whom this enforced jollyhood precedes a further month or so of desperate child-minding, and
c) bewildered grandparents (usually grandmothers), dismayed that they have been dumped on (from a great height!) by working parents with no paid child-care in place.
I witnessed an excellent combination of a) & b) today in Caffe Nero, where the Bright-Eyed Boy and I were enjoying a lazy coffee and newspapers experience, Daughter #3 having signed up to a week's-worth of rock-music day-schools (where she is having an 'awesome' time apparently).

An aforementioned mother, on entering the coffee-shop, immediately slumped into the nearest comfy chair and assumed an expression of blank-eyed despair. Jolly Father seemed intent on letting everyone around know what a fantastically Jolly Dad he was by addressing his two young-ish children in an over-loud 'public' voice and explaining to them why they couldn't fill themselves with chocolate, buns and coke 'Because, you see Callum, too much sugar is bad for you and you might feel sick, and then and then we couldn't go to the Viking Museum.' No-one was particularly impressed, least of all the mother who passed her hand over her eyes and looked as if she wished the whole bunch of them would disappear in a puff of smoke and leave her with a nice big gin and tonic. Or am I projecting?
Summer holidays, as I am only too well aware, start off - like the Road to Hell - with good intentions:
We won't get cross, or irritated, or bored.
We will maintain a cheerful and upbeat dialogue with our offspring, regardless of their response (or lack of it).
We will not cave in to demands for any sort of stuff.
Food will be simple and nutricious and non-negotiable in either timing or content.
We will simply ignore bickering and wind-ups.
Entertainment will be cheap, and worthwhile. No DVDs, computer or console games.
We will arrange fun and creative play-dates with similar-minded friends and their children.

Like hell we will!

Children can spot a weakness at a hundred yards, can organise a concerted attack that saps not only morale and determination, but ensures that after the first holiday week that the days are running according to their own specific agenda. All bets are off as they loll in front of the telly snuffling their way through Twix wrappers, Fanta and Wotsits before leaving a trail of cheesy dust over your laptop keyboard because they're arguing over whose turn it is on Mousebreaker and you can't stand the noise. And certainly not the prospect of anyone else's brats either!

Been there, done that, washed the damned teeshirt!

I am so glad that my two youngest have got to the age of comfortable, mutual accommodation, can generally get on well, can take turns, are reasonably grateful, polite and sort-of helpful. SO VERY GLAD!

I used to absolutely dread the school holidays (as this blog has probably previously revealed), but we actually seem to have turned some sort of corner over the past couple of years and their increasing independence and maturity is a boon and a blessing. We jog along nicely - they understand that each member of the family (and not just them!) NEEDS their own space and time, that mum isn't a wish-granting automaton, that money is finite, and that eating your cake precludes still having it. If only the dog was so perspicacious!

Soon we are flying to Greece for a family week of exploring by jeep, swimming and sunbathing in off-the-beaten-track coves,, chilling out, eating and drinking in the local tavernas. And do you know, I am really and truly looking forward to it! We deserve this break - we really do. It's been a hard-working year for all of us: it's definitely time to kick off those shoes and relax, drink wine (or Coke) and watch the sun go down over the harbour.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Last Day at Junior School

It is the Bright-Eyed Boy's last day of junior school today, and I am besieged by a lot of different emotions.

Sorrow - he is the last of my children, and his passage to senior school signals pretty much the end of his childhood and the intimate ties that have bound us for the last eleven years.

Joy - that he has had such a happy start to his scholastic career (even with the minor wobble when he had his anxiety attacks last autumn) in a caring and supportive environment and is blossoming into a lovely fellow.

Relief - that the monotony of the school-run (through a less than salubrious neighbourhood) has finally ended, and we no longer have to negotiate sullen dead-eyed youths and feral dogs on the walk to school.

Nostalgia - that in a few months time I will be remembering the school nativity plays, parents' evenings and trips out in a golden haze - I am doing that even now!

Anxiety - that he won't find the transition to 'big school' the adventure he currently imagines it to be and becomes unhappy.

Trepidation - now that I have two extra hours tacked onto either end of my working day, will I acquit myself of my academic duties, or am I (as I suspect) a complete lightweight.

Worry - that he won't be able to manage to crosss the roads safely, tie shoe-laces, catch the bus home etc.

Fondness - for all the others parents who I've been seeing on and off for the past seven years, and for some of whom this is also the last day at the school gate.

Life goes so quickly - too quickly - and I am reminded of the feeling I get when I return from holiday, that I could have enjoyed it all so much better if I'd put in a bit more effort, concentrated on enjoying the moment rather than looking aheat to what was next on the schedule.
I feel that way about their childhood. I was always so selfishly caught up in how difficult I found it to be a mother that I often wished it away, wished they were older, more independent. I never took into account how difficult it must be to negotiate the business of growing up. The little things were left unnoticed, swept away in my haste to get it all over with, to move on. I look at the childish cartoons on the fridge, the old school photos, the discarded toys and heartily wish -oh wish so much! - I could re-run the last thirteen years (since Daughter #3 was born) and do it all again but BETTER. Do it for them, not me! Regret is a terrible, heart-churning thing!

I shall try my hardest to be a better mum to them as they get older - God knows, they deserve it. They are great children and I am so proud of them and love them all so much. I have been given a great gift in my family, and it behoves me to treat it like the jewel it is.