THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Somehow we are already halfway through the Summer holidays. Usually that statement would be one of reassurance, spurring me on through the second half towards the finishing line, where I can collapse in a heap at the school gates and be wrapped in a foil blanket by a member of St Johns Ambulance.

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This year however, something very, very strange is happening. After doing a quick check that I’d actually got my dates right and we were indeed at the halfway mark, I didn’t feel any sense of relief at all. In fact my heart sank a little knowing that the weeks are going by far too quickly and before I know it we’ll be diving into the new academic year.

So what has changed? How have we gone from a situation where I spend weeks dreading the arrival of the holidays and counting down the days until it ends, to one where the whole thing is a relatively pain-free, dare I say enjoyable experience?!

Now I know there’s a current trend of parents slagging their own children off, calling them everything under the sun and generally highlighting the many ways they make our lives a misery. While I find some of it funny, (Katie at Hurrah For Gin is just genius!) I won’t be referring to my kids as  dickheads, tw*ts or little f*ckers anytime soon (can’t promise I won’t be thinking it now and again though). Every parent knows children are hard work, they are relentless in their demands and have the ability to push you to the limit by breakfast but really, they are just being kids and sometimes kids can be annoying. As much as we would all love a tranquil existence with our impeccably behaved offspring it’s just not realistic to expect children to behave like anything other than children. In fact as parents it’s our job to deal with their little ‘challenges’ and ensure that they don’t develop into fully grown adult dickheads!

So apart from the incessant demands for my attention, requests for food, constant bickering and all the other perfectly normal shenanigans that make up family life, I guess what I am really trying to say is – the kids are alright. In fact they’re more than alright, I’d even go as far as to say it’s actually quite nice having them around! Yes, this is basically the post where I admit to sometimes enjoying the company of my own children. I can almost smell that Mother of the Year trophy.

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The obvious difference this Summer is that Flump and Spud are a year older, 5 and almost 8. This has such a big impact on many aspects of their abilities and behaviour versus previous years. In other words, they can enjoy doing way more stuff without everything resulting in some sort of emotional meltdown – HURRAH!!

Most days they can happily go from one activity to the next without needing to ask “What can I dooooo Mummy?” every 5 minutes and can play together or independently for a decent period of time too. Most days. Flump is more than happy in her own little world but Spud sometimes needs a little bit of guidance so we have a ‘Summer Rules’ sheet on the wall listing all the things they need to do before they are allowed screen time. This includes a certain amount of time reading, doing a craft, completing worksheets, making their beds, playing outside etc and usually this is more than enough to keep him entertained between breakfast and bedtime.

Days out are a much more enjoyable experience too. As long as I keep a constant supply of snacks and water on hand at all times the world’s our lobster. Playdates are a pretty relaxed affair with the little ones happy to play together (between snacks) and although there is an age gap, Flump is now more than capable of holding her own with the big boys and much to their annoyance often enjoys joining in with their games.

Where in previous years I wouldn’t have even attempted a trip to the shops unless it was absolutely necessary, so far we’ve managed a couple of pretty successful days shopping (even a Primark haul!) relatively fuss free. One of those included a trip to IKEA which the kids requested so they could go to Smalland for an hour, well I’m not gonna argue with that! Win win.

Lazy mornings, dawdling walks to the local playground, visits to the library and the odd trip to the coffee shop for a treat have broken the days up nicely and kept us happy with little effort or expense.

Credit where it’s due, they really have been pretty good company so far.

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In order to make the most of our time together I’ve made a few changes to my own behaviour which have without a doubt allowed me to enjoy the holidays in a much more carefree manner. Primarily, I’ve taken a big (temporary!) step back from blogging, writing if and when the notion takes me, dipping in and out of Twitter much less than usual and joining linkies a little less often too. This alone has made a huge difference – although I do feel like I’m neglecting my lovely blogging friends a bit I know they are a great bunch and will completely understand that family takes priority.

Spud and Flump are growing up far too quickly for my liking and every day I lose a little bit more of my babies as they figure out who they are and develop into little people! (Sad face.) I am very, very lucky to have the option of being a SAHM and I’ve realised that even though the kids won’t appreciate that now, hopefully in years to come they’ll remember the day we found ‘the tiniest frog in the world’ or knocked on fairy doors in the forest.

And so will I.

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BACK TO SCHOOL??

7 days. We are 7 days into the school holidays and already I feel like I should be sewing name tags into PE knickers*. OK, I get it. I know that as parents we’re responsible for kitting the crew out ready for the first day of term. I know it makes sense to just get it out of the way as quickly as possible, weeping into our ever-emptying purses as we go.

(*Pah, ha, ha AS IF!! I’ll be using my trusty Sharpie to scrawl initials onto washing labels like every year!)

We’re all used to seeing ‘Back to School’ signs in-store before the kids have even broken up for the holidays, I’ve already seen a few blog posts on the subject too but I’m sticking firmly to my usual Head-in-Sand technique. Is it too much to ask to just NOT have to think about school for a while? School-runs, PE kits, fundraisers, parents evenings, homework, packed lunches, random costume requests, assemblies, sports days, sick days, school trips, Nativity plays, birthday party politics, Harvest festival, after-school clubs, lost property, show and tell and the endless list of things that make up the school year – please can we just enjoy our holidays happily in denial that it’s all there waiting for us again in a few weeks time?

This will be my fourth year of ‘doing uniforms’ so I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be any different this time round. Here’s my personal method to dealing with the back-to-school prep (I’m not suggesting it will work for everyone):

  • Read emails from M&S advertising 20% off uniforms in June. Make mental note to take advantage of this offer saving time and money before the holidays start. Completely forget (mental notes are no longer a reliable form of reminder, make pointless mental note to write everything down, or even better set reminder on phone so I can’t forget to read it.) Remember the day after the offer has expired.
  • Ditto Startrite.
  • Spend 5 weeks not thinking about school
  • Plan a quick trip to Clarks to get the kids feet measured.
  • Approach the clipboard wielding member of staff and add your name to the waiting list (page 7) along with the entire population of Bedfordshire with children under the age of 12.
  • Have the mental ‘Should I pop next door for socks/water bottles/hair bobbles while I’m waiting?’ debate. Decide not to risk it.
  • Follow 5yr old around putting sparkly shoes with flashy bits back on the shelf, explaining why they’re not an option for school shoes and trying to ‘big up’ the lovely plain black, tat-free pair.
  • Thank God for 7 yr old boys who just want to get any pair and get out!
  • Purchase 2 pairs of ridiculously expensive school shoes, safe in the knowledge that after one day in the playground they will resemble something Worzel Gummidge might wear.
  • Momentarily feel victorious before remembering you still need to buy uniform!
  • Rifle through rails of uniform in the hope of finding anything other than age 15-16 polo shirts.
  • Feel a bit sick
  • Spend the rest of the day online sourcing the required items/sizes (speedy delivery obviously) and hoping everything fits.
  • Hunt out old school bags – containing homework form to be completed over the holiday! Quickly Google stuff. Print, cut, stick while child reluctantly labels things.
  • Bath, bed, book, lights out.
  • Wine.
  • Set alarm.
  • Make mental note to be more prepared next year.

Like I said, my way may not be the most pain-free approach to Back to School, but somehow, every year I manage to present the kids at the school-gate in a shiny new, grossly oversized uniform, ready to be adorned with biro, grass stains and a number of unidentified mystery stains in the coming weeks.

Ironically I live just around the corner from the official school uniform supplier and walk past a lovely display of embroidered badges and printed logos on a daily basis – it literally couldn’t be easier for me. Maybe I’m just a bit ‘homework on the bus’, maybe I should be a sensible, organised, responsible grown-up but actually we’re far too busy learning to ride without stabilisers and chilling on the paddling pool while we can!

So are you a super-organised Smuggy McSmuggerson or a bit of a Last Minute Larry like me??? Either way I hope you are enjoying the holidays so far! x

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