Every school holiday I learn something. Like that October half term when I thought that what we all needed was some chill-out time at home, and so I planned practically nothing. I’m not sure what I was thinking really – I think I had visions of cosy days full of baking and games and crafts; but by the end of the week we were all in tears and I was ready to poke my eyes out. I made a mental note to fill future school holidays with plans; to remember that days at home with all three children are very rarely either relaxing or productive. Now I approach each school holiday knowing that plenty of plans are very necessary in order to stay sane; and this tends to work.
The school holidays also remind me that providing three meals a day every day for all of my children is so much harder than I ever remember it being before they started school. Nothing I produce can ever compare to what the school cooks manage to rustle up and therefore is, very often, a disappointment. I am running out of ideas……and generally apologising for not being the school cook.
But this holiday, aside from trying to keep busy and struggling to keep up with the never-ending meals, I have learnt a couple of other things too.
Number 1 is that incorporating some named, timetabled elements into the day is, apparently, a good thing.
At the start of this holiday, I decided that every day we would have 15 minutes quiet reading time. There are always books around the house and my boys can often be found with one, but the difference with Quiet Reading Time (notice the capitals – it is now a thing) is that it would apply to everyone in the house at the same time, and we would all sit together for 15 minutes. It’s amazing the difference that simply giving something a name makes. Hundreds of times a day I ask my children to calm down, to stop shouting, to go and do something rather than poking a sibling with a pencil or sliding around on the stairs; but saying to them, ‘Right then, now it’s Quiet Reading Time‘ actually means something to them. They know what to do; and believe it or not, they all do it – at the same time. There is usually one boy (the same boy) who spends a couple of minutes insisting that he is off to do something else; but in the end he appears with a book looking sheepish. The youngest two usually also ask me a never-ending string of questions about what they’re reading and why Batman is chasing X and whether this guy is a good guy or a bad guy; but essentially, we all sit down with some reading material. Occasionally, if the books are going well, quiet reading time lasts for longer than 15 minutes – it is bliss.
When I think about it, I suppose it’s not surprising that my children prefer to have us all sitting down doing something at the same time rather than listening to me telling them all to calm down as I attempt to cook the dinner, clean the kitchen and nag a child about handwriting and spellings. Quiet Reading Time has helped calm the fractious moments and helped me to realise that sometimes, I need to do less yelling and more sitting.
Number 2 is that sometimes, you need to recognise when it is time to outsource. That sometimes, you can’t do it all yourself; and that’s ok. This holiday, I realised we needed to outsource the ‘learning-to-ride-a-bike’ thing for the biggest boy. I had been putting off the outsourcing, because I felt like riding a bike was the sort of thing that we should be able to teach him ourselves. I felt like we were letting him down, like this was an important part of parenting that we really should be able to do. But he just was not interested, and on top of that he was frustrated. So frustrated. Having always struggled with co-ordination, just learning how to use pedals had proved to be enough of a challenge. He was frustrated with himself and frustrated with us, and in the end he lost the will to even practise.
Thankfully, I came to my senses and realised that we needed an outsider to intervene, and so I booked him onto a Learn to Ride course over Easter. The first day, he absolutely categorically did not want to go – he ‘loathed’ cycling, so he said. He never wanted to be able to ride a bike……apparently he would walk everywhere, or run. That morning, he woke up and cried, and my heart broke as I dropped him off. But predictably, when I picked him up a smiling face appeared – he ‘loved’ it, he felt ‘confident’…..and he hasn’t looked back. It has taken him longer than most but who cares? I am ridiculously proud.
It takes a village -that’s what they say. Not many of us tend to have a village these days; but trying to take it all on ourselves isn’t always the best way forward. If outsourcing is what it takes then occasionally outsourcing is the thing to do. And in this case, it was one of the best decisions we ever made.
So here’s to Quiet Reading Time, or whatever your activity of choice might be, and to thinking about outsourcing some of those things which just aren’t quite working. And to keeping busy and staying sane for the last remaining days of the holiday…… which, incidentally, feels like it’s been going on for months. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, but it does feel like Easter weekend was about 3 months ago.
How many more meals to go??