On Friday I finished the school run, so obviously needed another shower, a shot of vodka and a little lie-down.
Then it dawned on me.
In all its manic requests for little humans to put their shoes on and brush their teeth, swerving the teacher lest she asks you to accompany the class on a school trip or sign a letter that has since been swallowed in to the abyss of the reading wallet never to return…at least the school run has an endpoint.
A collective sigh of relief ripples across the schoolyard as the bell goes and your poppets trot off for the next six hours.
The same cannot be said for the summer holidays.
Six weeks may as well be six months.
I know, I know I’m a negative, horrible parent, dwelling on the downside of the holidays. I should be grateful that I get to spend every day of the holidays with my brood (42 days to be exact…I could work it out in seconds if anyone wants?!)
I’ve met parents who can’t wait for the holidays, and I do look forward to the six weeks holidays.
The lack of packed lunches to make, uniforms to iron and the possibility that we may just cherish a few moments and feel somewhat blessed along the way.
However, this is my fourth summer holidays since my eldest started school. I’m a realist. I’m under no illusion that six weeks may have its challenges. I’m overwhelmed.
If I say this and you’re part of the #blessed brigade, please don’t come and beat me with your colour coded summer holiday itineraries and enviable crafting supplies…but, I’m scared.
There I said it.
Scared of feeling tired, stressed and guilty that I’m not making the summer holidays fabulous enough.
With this in mind, I gave myself a talking to and have written a few commandments in order to survive the summer holidays.
You may find something to help you, or more importantly, you may think of more and drop them into the comments section.
I’m casting my net Island-wide people, please share any golden tips that can help this mama out!
1. Thou shalt get by with a little help from my friends.
Let’s face it, it’s a long day without adult conversation.
I vow to arrange meet-ups with other mums in order to save my sanity and allow my kids to be occupied with their kids whilst learning important social skills (or in other words, not bugging the hell out of me)
Please note that this does not work so well if the other parent wants to tell you what a wonderfully amazing summer they’re having, little Johnny has just passed his first exam in Mandarin and is now studying Shakespeare in between his ‘algebra for fun’ classes, whilst you were really hoping for a high five because you haven’t sworn (audibly) today. I’m a school run lurker, staying hidden in my car till the bell goes. I’m not anti-social but I cherish those five minutes of peace before the snack demands come thick and fast.
However, I’ve made some lovely mum friends in the schoolyard, so I aim to use these lovely mamas as well as my non-school run mummy friends as a support system this summer!
Get a WhatsApp group together, you can guarantee someone in the group will be at a loose end/tearing their hair out/in desperate need of a conversation that doesn’t include the word ‘poo head’.
2. Thou shalt not be a snack bitch
So my kids are never full, like ever. Even more so in the summer when routines are out the window, so all day can be snack time if they so desire. Past summers may have seen me rocking in a corner whilst throwing breadsticks and raisins at my feral children in an attempt to keep them on side.
I will not be that mum this year. You can’t make me give you snacks all day, you can’t!!!
I mean, I’m not planning on starving them or anything but I’m sure my kitchen has a worn-down track of flooring from the washing machine to the snack cupboard and back again.
I vow to take a look at the Instagram page of BabyToddlerFoods (BTF) for inspiration. Baby Toddler foods is the Isle of Man’s answer to Annabelle Karmel. But unlike Annabelle Karmel, this lady is keeping it real. Fish fingers for tea? Not a big deal and still an Instagram worthy meal!
BTF will inspire you with one post and then reassure you that even the best cooks head to the chippy when life gets crazy with the next. BTF’s snack ideas are simple to do, filling and will keep those snack requests at bay!
3. Thou shalt not be a kid’s entertainer
I have fond memories of my own summer holidays in the nineties. They were great fun, I may go as far as to say magical. But it was a rare occasion that my entertainment was provided by my parents.
I had a bike for sunny days, and the TV or some felt tip pens for rainy days. Simple!
In my 8 years as a parent, I’m still in search of the Holy Grail of Parenting. That is an activity that children can do that occupies them for more than five minutes whilst you enjoy a hot cuppa.
I’ve stumbled across a few activities that almost fulfill this criteria such as sticking Horrid Henry on repeat or making sure the iPad is adequately charged.
These activities should not be sneered at. I’m sure my youngest can say a few words in Spanish thanks to the iPad. Not a clue how, I was in the other room actively not participating with a large hot drink.
Anyway, other activities that require minimum mum effort but reduce the guilt factor? I’m stumped but I do know that I aim not to feel a shred of guilt for not jam-packing every day full of fun, organised activities. My mantra will be ‘boredom creates creativity.’
My laziness may actually create three little geniuses ..who knows!
4. Thou shall make the most of being Manx.
I can never agree when people bemoan the Isle of Man and its lack of things to do. No we don’t have huge cinemas or massive soft play areas. We do have clean beaches, fairy glens and our imaginations.
Not much use if it’s raining I know, but let’s just pretend it’s not going to rain for six weeks ok!? The summer holidays don’t need to cost us a fortune if we utilize what’s right on our doorsteps.
5. Thou shalt not cry over spilled Lego
You’d think I would have learned by now that with three kids my house is going to bare the brunt. Scribbles on the wall (I know they should be taught not to do this but I haven’t managed to stem this creative output yet, therefore my house has lovely little biro marks that I’m sure someday we will fondly remember as my middle child expressing his adorable little self), silly putty (now a banned substance in my house) on the carpets and fingerprints on the windows. In the words of Elsa…
Let it go.
I vow not to get agitated when I see yet another pile of mess that has appeared out of nowhere. It’s like the wall plaques say;
‘sorry about the mess, my kids are making memories’
I may buy that plaque. It’s defensive in a way that appeals to me.
“Yer my house is a shit tip. But that just makes me a better mum cos look at all the memories! Look at them over there on the carpet, oh and look there are some more memories all over the kitchen table, oh and wouldn’t you know, a whole heap of memories in the overflowing laundry baskets…”
6. Thou shalt recognise the signs of parental burnout
Parental burnout is a real thing. I know I’ve had it before.
It makes me snappy, tired and lacking in patience.
It’s when I know I need my own space before I lose it. It’s taken me a while to know that its ok to feel like this, and that I most certainly am not the only parent who feels this way.
So, if I can manage to make some time for myself I most certainly will.
If anyone offers to have my kids for an hour (or 24 hours. Please?!) you won’t see me for dust. If someone offers to help you out in the holidays and you feel you could do with some alone time. DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!!!
I always come back a happier mum, readier to join in with the silliness instead of feeling irritated by it. If there is no one to babysit for me, I promise myself that once they’re in bed I will do something for myself instead of housework etc.
Bubble bath, kindle, large drink. So, next time you pick up an extra bottle of wine or treat yourself to a bottle of gin, remember you’re doing it for the kids.
7. Thou shalt take social media with a pinch of salt
Most people only show their highlight reels. I vow to remember that behind every #perfectday picture there were loads of #fml moments along the way. I have loads of perfect Instagram pictures but if you look vvvv closely you’ll maybe notice my clenched teeth formed whilst I hissed:
“If you stand still and smile I’ll buy you E numbers”
8. Thou shalt cut myself some slack
Children living off beige freezer food for the fourth day running, using the fact that they went to the water park that day as a reason the skip bath time? I hear ya!
Kids will survive all these things and my main priority is staying relatively sane. If that means using the iPad as a babysitter, serving food that claims to be chicken but you have your doubts, using ice cream bribery as a means of getting them to get dressed, so be it.
I also vow to choose my battles. Sometimes my two boys appear to be attempting to murder each other. So far neither of them has succeeded and I no longer get involved. It’s good exercise for them I reckon.
Some may call me lazy, I’d be inclined to agree, but it’s working for me.
If any less lazy parents are horrified at the beige food please feel free to drop round a lasagne or roast dinner.
9. Thou shalt enjoy the Summer
I vow to embrace the chaos that ensues in the summer holidays.
I am not perfect, my kids are not perfect but along the way, we always make lots of perfect memories.
I vow to join in with the noise, I will get messy with crafts, I will kick a football around the garden whilst they laugh at my lack of skills. Because although six weeks seems a long time, it’s really not. We’ve got our kids for six weeks before that routine of the new term starts all over again.
Rushing to get out of the house, remembering homework and permission slips.
I vow this summer to relax and connect with my children and see the summer holidays through their eyes.
I know in a few years I won’t remember the epic meltdown they had at the Stix stand because I wouldn’t get them get seven lots of sprinkles, or the utter torture of applying sun cream to a wriggling three year old or the whining proclamations of boredom despite having more plastic shit to play with than my manic tidy up sessions can keep on top of.
I will remember the giggles that fill my garden when they run through a sprinkler, the rainy day film days and den making that were so simple but they loved you for it, and long sunny days full of possibilities for adventure and fun. That’s what we will remember.
So, parentals cherish what you can, gloss over the rest and enjoy!
So, there’s my commandments.
It’s not ten but I have washing to do, a three-year-old whose iPad needs charging and I’m still recovering from baby brain several years longer than I should be.
If you relate to my commandments I raise a cup of lukewarm coffee to you. I’ll see you on the other side.
And remember behind every #blessed first day of school photo is a parent mentally fist pumping the air and wondering why they don’t give out medals for surviving the summer.