There’s a drippy meme that does the rounds this time of year. Something along the lines of “We only get eighteen delicious summers with our children. This is one of your eighteen. If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is”. Ick, ick, vom, vom.
Designed to prey on the, “Oh shit, I’m doing it all wrong” mentality that comes easily to most parents, along with a good helping of “you’ll miss all this when it’s over”, which is at best unprovable, and at worst, massively damaging; this meme is the worst.
And actually, eighteen summers is quite a lot. Each summer (holiday) is six weeks. That’s 756 days. If you have two children, that’s 1512 days. Don’t get me started on further multiples.
Oh and also, there’s spring, winter and autumn to “treasure” too; I’m not sure why summer gets all the glory.
In case you’re interested, here’s how our “delicious summers” have gone so far.
Both of ours are autumn babies, so the first summer with each of them was mostly spent failing at baby-led weaning and picking food out of the cat’s fur. Plus norovirus. Delicious.
Tantrums. All the tantrums, all the time.
More tantrums. And in EldestGirl’s case – tantrums plus Mummy’s morning sickness. And potty training. Tantrums, potty training, morning sickness – delicious.
Don’t forget to treasure the delicious moments as you’re wiping another toilet accident off the floor, accidentally vomit all over the radiator, and then have to negotiate with a toddler-terrorist about why you can’t put their banana back together again. I hope you’re savouring it all. If you aren’t, you’re DOING PARENTING WRONG!
Why? Why? Why? Why? What happens if…? Why? Why? Why? Tantrum.
The fact that I literally can’t remember this summer at all suggests I was perhaps drinking heavily.
“Tomorrow I want to go to Alton Towers and have an ice cream and go swimming and go horse riding and see Grandma and Grandad and then I want to go to Chessington and Legoland and I want a picnic and to go to McDonalds and, what do you mean you’ve run out of money? Buy some more!”
I imagine ages 6-18 will involve a few more tantrums, a lot more money, some teenage door slamming and eventually a complete refusal to have anything at all to do with their parents.
EldestGirl is quite a structured little thing. Last year, she made a list of thirty things she wanted to do over the summer break (some were big things, like “go to the seaside” – we live a really, really long way from any patch of sea, and some were fairly simple, like “feed the ducks”). I printed off a calendar plan for her. We prioritised the things she wanted to do, and mapped them across to the calendar.
This actually worked really well, as she could see that we didn’t have time for absolutely everything, and it gave her some control over the things we did get to do. It also gives me the opportunity to budget, and make sure we don’t promise more than we can afford. Plus, it means we can plan a few little surprises for them too.
It felt like it worked really well, partly because the weather was so nice. I have a feeling we might be more washed out this year!
I am also very lucky in that TheBloke (TM) has the summer off with the children, so I’m not solo parenting – or – just as hard – trying to juggle a job with childcare and desperately trying to fit in “precious moments”, and I still find holidays incredibly hard work.
Long story short, don’t feel bad if you are dreading the summer break with the children, or have to (or choose to) work. There are eighteen long summers to fill, and – although I’m in the thick of it at the moment, I truly expect the moments that I will hold most fondly to be the ones where we’re all bent over laughing because the cat rolled in another slug… not some artificial ideal where we’re all paddling beatifically in the sea.
Treasure the good moments, for sure. But you cannot possibly expect every moment to be treasured. Sometimes it’s fine to let them watch TV all afternoon or play on their tablet. It gives you a chance to breathe too.
Worst case, your carefully-printed calendar of activities can double up as a handy “how many more days until term starts?” log. Shh. That’s definitely not why we do it…