The summer holidays are finally here. Six weeks of no school run, no homework, no bits of paper to remember to hand in or school functions to attend. Six weeks of suddenly having to feed the child all the time, no space to myself and wondering how I am going to keep her away from the screens all that time. Today was the first Official Summer Holiday Day – just me and the Little Person.
We managed to go to the shops and everything.
I spent a good part of the morning revising in my head the lessons I have learnt over previous half terms and summer holidays, so it seemed a good idea to share with you how so far (one day in!), we’ve got off to a (relatively) good start. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I appreciate any tips you might want to add in the comments section. (Comments do require approval so will take a little while to appear if you’re not a regular contributor.)
- Avoid The Hungritude – Get Pre-Emptive Snacks
You know what I mean by hungritude, right? It’s the general grumpiness and belligerence arising from being hungry.
I must admit to stealing this idea from Slimming World™, where they talk about being prepared when it comes to food. But it’s especially true when dealing with children. Have snacks for them, but also snacks for yourself. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon, stop, have a cup of tea and a drink of juice and a little something. Before you get properly hungry. Sometimes this is enough to stop the grumpy right in its tracks.
I worked out this morning that during the school day, Little Person has breakfast, then fruit, then a hot school dinner, then a snack at the end of the school day, and sometimes another snack before her evening meal, and then her evening meal (which, depending on how South African I’m feeling I call tea, dinner or supper).
- Know Your Trigger Points, and Have a Plan
One of my major tip-me-over-the-edge things, is the cat. When I’m stressed, and Little Person is having half a meltdown downstairs, and I’m dashing around to try and solve an imagined problem, the cat will decide she needs immediate attention, right now, and will follow me around upstairs meowing until I see to her. Solution? Make sure she is fed on a morning before I go downstairs. Also, if she’s around when I come up the stairs I always give her a scratch around the ears. The insisted meows have become less frequent. (Except when the roof people are banging about).
There are others – an overfill dustbin (planning and communication sorts this), noise in the morning (cup of tea and some deep breathing), piles of stuff (only when I’m stressed does this bother me, which is also when I don’t have resources to do anything about it).
If you know your trigger points, you can think ahead of time how you can deal with them when they arise. You can makes changes to your lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of a problem. Just sit and have a think. It’s not like it’s the holidays and you’re surrounded by noise and chaos or anything.
- Children are People Too (Or, Take The Long View)
Your Little Person/s has their own trigger points. They are not just some problem to be dealt with, a something to be got out of the way so you can have a tidy house again. They have a whole life full of tomorrows yet to be lived, and you get the joy and responsibility to teach them the skills they need to achieve that. Cooking? Cleaning up after themselves? Patience? Perseverance? Sharing? (Yeah, that one’s a bit of a swearword, I guess.) This time with them is a precious resource – use it to build your relationship with them, teach them to be who they are, strengthen their self-esteem and their lifeskills. Don’t just do what they want – do what they need.
- Have (Realistic) Goals, not Expectations
Truthfully, I would love to have all of the upstairs re-organised and tidied by the time Little Person goes back to school. Realistically, my goal is to get her room sorted. And that’s just a goal – I may or may not achieve it, depending in large part on our social engagements and energy levels.
But on a day to day level, it’s so easy to try to cram so much stuff in, rushing from this thing to that, because we have to do all this stuff. We don’t have to do the stuff. We have to eat, sleep, wear clothes, be ready for school in September, and make sure the house is still livable. That’s pretty much it.
- Ditch the Schedule, But Keep The Routine
By this I mean, there are certain things that we do need to have in our days – routines that are comfortable and useful and helpful. Breakfast. Bedtime. But we don’t have to be tied to the clock. It’s really helpful to have few days when you’re not running your life by the clock, but by your senses – if you’re peckish at 11, start preparing lunch. You can always have a sandwich mid-afternoon if you get hungry again. It’s amazing how you will learn to understand your children better when you are relying on observation to know when to feed them rather than just the clock.
- It’s okay if it doesn’t work. There’s always tomorrow.
This observation has a corollary: Don’t get cocky if it goes brilliantly, there’s always tomorrow.
And besides, who said it didn’t work anyway? You’re reading this, right? So that means you still have the willingness to try. And some days, that’s all the success you need.
- Stop. Laugh. Remember.
If you give yourself the opportunity, you can find happy moments in the most mundane places. Today, Little Person chose to assist me with washing the dishes that don’t go in the dishwasher. Which turned into a bit of a science observation lesson about floating, sinking, and the clinging properties of bubbles. We laughed – her in wonder at what she was learning, and me for the joy of sharing in the moment. They may not always be moments of laughter, but if you are attentive, you will find moments worth remembering. Always.
- Learn to Love What Must Be Done – Goethe
We don’t have a choice about feeding hungry mouths, or piles of laundry, or endless cooking, but we can find ways to learn to love what must be done. By simplifying, sharing, and keeping our eyes on the purpose of all this activity, we can do as Goethe suggests. We can learn to love what must be done. (With thanks to @gracelaced who first started me thinking about this.)
There are a host of more practical things – batch cook, eat leftovers, turn chores into games, that can be done to make the summer holidays a more enjoyable experience for all (because I firmly believe that children are happier when their carers are happier), but addressing attitude is fundamental to the endeavour. The holidays are not to be endured, but enjoyed. We just need to find ways to “make it so”, as the captain would say.
And now, I must dash. There are strange noises coming from downstairs.
I’m hoping this will be the start of a “How To Survive …” series, and as such would be open to suggested topics (or, in fact, entire guest posts). Inbox me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org