When I was at school the summer holiday stretched out for six long weeks. Now that my kids are at school, I feel a bit duped. Their summer holidays stretch (drag?) on for eight whole weeks.
Eight weeks, which is the equivalent to 56 days (or 1344 hours, but who’s counting?!). That’s a long time by anyone’s reckoning.
The school holidays (or ‘scwolidays’ as my youngest calls them) always start with a bang. Ah, the euphoria of finishing school! Those last couple of weeks – the crazy days of summer – are always chockablock full of school activities, birthdays (it feels like literally every child in my youngest’s class has their birthday in June) and, of course farewell, parties.
So by the time the last day comes round we are all exhausted. We (well, I) stagger out of the school gates, loaded down with exercise books and assorted artworks, PE kits and – because we live in Germany, a country where school children are never knowingly under equipped – also wellies, snow boots, rainpants and, rather sweetly, ‘house shoes’.
All the above crap – sorry, school related paraphernalia – is then dumped in the laundry while we get busy packing for our holiday.
This year it was a week in Corsica, which was fabulous and I could’ve stayed there for the whole summer. But the Monday after we were back my husband started new job in Paris. Reality dawned that I would be doing the summer holidays solo.
And then the bang which heralded the start of summer became more of a whimper. Or rather a whine, as we realised all our friends had gone away. Some of them just on holiday, some to start a new life somewhere else. ‘I’ve got no-one to play with!!!’ became the refrain. And that was just me…
Yet now we are in the last week…and I feel a kind of nostalgia. My girls have grown like weeds this summer (seriously, weeds are the only thing I can ever grow. Green fingered I am not) and, as the eldest keeps saying, she’ll soon be as tall as me. Not quite (I’m not that short…) but not far off.
How many summers have we got left like this? Well, if you count 18 as being a grown up (which it clearly isn’t…), I am already half way through.
But, hang on, as teenagers they aren’t exactly going to want to make tents in the garden, go for walks picking berries and catching grasshoppers or – as we have done today – sit curled up next to me while I read to them, are they?
So instead of wishing those minutes by, I should be savouring them.
Honestly, I really try. But this isn’t going to turn into some wistful post about the pure joy of motherhood. My youngest must have said my name 500 times today – sorry, not my actual name but ‘Mummy!’ – and half the time she didn’t actually want anything. She just likes to say it. Over and over again. And, you know, that can wear you down after a while.
‘It isn’t annoying, her need – it isn’t a burden. It’s a privilege. I’m responsible. I chose to put myself in a situation where I’m responsible’.
And, ok, here Eleanor is talking about a scabby, abandoned cat…but, you know, same principle. I decided to remember this every time my children were – to put it bluntly – doing my head in.
I chose motherhood, and it is a privilege. Yes, I do sometimes feel like I am see-sawing madly between joy and despair…but luckily this see-saw is tipped heavier at the other end. (Hmmm, not sure this analogy *quite* works. I want to say my husband is on the other side of the see-saw but (a) he will not be impressed at the implication that he is really heavy and (b) that would mean my moments of joy would be despair for him. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Although I do feel joy when the rugby is over…).
So, moving on, I’m putting on a happy face and enjoying these last few precious days we have together.
I am by no means a super-mum. I am rubbish at crafts, and all my great ideas of having ‘a plan’ (you know…30 minutes of reading followed for outdoor time followed by making something wonderful together) fell foul the first day.
I did not manage to teach my kids all their times table this summer. I did not manage to dramatically improve the eldest’s spelling or the youngest’s reading. Neither of them are yet fluent in a foreign language, nor are they au fait with the finer points of quantum physics…
But they have waded past their knees in muddy rivers, ran amok on the beaches of northern England and built a fairy den in the garden. And I have survived, sanity intact. And yes, I am already saying prayers of thanks to their teachers, but I am also feeling grateful. Grateful to have two wonderful kids, and grateful to have been able to spend all this time with them.
Now, I’ve got 4 days to dig out the sports kit and get it washed and ready. If we’re anything like every other summer, that will happen when we’ve got 3 hours of the 1344 left to go…
So, to those of you who have already started back at school, I raise my cup of coffee in acknowledgement of your early starts. And, for those of you still in holiday survival mode, I raise a glass of gin because somewhere, someone is yelling ‘Mummy!’ for the 501st time…
Ps that fabulous mug in the cover photo? Buy it here