School holidays and the things we learn

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) Quiet reading timewho 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??

Boy on his bike

Yippeeeeeeeeee!

 

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School holidays are made for bickering

This year’s Easter holiday was when you perfected the art of telling tales. You had been working on it for a while but this holiday gave you a good couple of weeks to really work on your skills.

He called me poo.”  

“He says he’s not my friend.”

“He called me a BUTLER…….Did you hear me, mummy? He called me a BUTLER and it is NOT funny…….No, I don’t know what a butler is, but he just said it AGAIN.”

“He just TOUCHED me on the HEAD!” 

“He said I don’t know how to do my SEATBELT!”

“He tried to eat my SHOULDER!”

Don’t get the wrong idea, boys – I love having a job which is term-time only. I love not having to worry about childcare over the holidays. I love not having to think about sticking to a timetable. I probably spend around 80% of my work days looking forward to the holidays; I really do. I have grand ideas of things we are going to do during during our long and leisurely days…..We are going to make a pizza from scratch. We are going to make Easter cakes and biscuits. We are going to grow cucumbers (HA!).

I suggest that you write a list of some of the things you’d like to do over the holidays. Not today, you say – you’ll do it tomorrow. The list never gets written…..obviously.

But still, list or no list, we begin the holidays optimistically.  You enjoy the simple things – having time to play in the garden and to re-acquaint yourselves with your toys and books. I am doing my very best Julie Andrews impression – it is exhausting, let me tell you.

By the end week one, I am ready to poke my eyes out.

Apparently you all need to talk at the same time, nobody is able to talk at a normal volume, and everything mummy says has to be repeated at least three times. I wonder how anyone possibly manages to home-school their children. Seriously…..how would you get ANYTHING done?

But at the same time, I know that in a few years you will be doing your own thing during the holidays and I will probably long for these days back again. I won’t long for the fights and the squabbles and the tale-telling; but those bits probably won’t stand out to me as much as the special times. The excitement on your faces when I tell you that we’re gong to stay with your grandparents for THREE WHOLE NIGHTS over Easter. The cuddles and the squeezes and the little hands holding onto mine. Easter crowns, sitting at the front of the bus, picnics at the park, running up and down hills, ice-cream moustaches; and you begging mummy to join you for a game of football.

I know that at some point in the not too distant future, the very idea of mummy playing football with you will be truly horrifying.

The excitement when you, eldest boy, lost one front tooth and then the other a few days later. That beautiful, gappy smile and your eyes twinkling with joy when you found your coin from the tooth fairy.

I know that these days won’t last forever. I know that us tired, flustered parents need to do our best to see through the bickering and the squabbling, and treasure the special moments. And I will treasure them, honestly I will.

But it would help enormously if you could just remember that you are NOT poo (even if a four year old says you are, you’re really not), that despite your squabbles over who gets to choose their cereal first, you are all friends; and that…..well, there are worse things in the world than being called a butler.

boys on the bus