I always look forward to the school holidays with equal amounts of joy and terror. Actually, no; usually, I’m considerably more terror-stricken than joyous. Okay, it’s nice to shift down a gear and mooch about in our pyjamas rather than racing to get everyone out of the house by 8.30am, but there’s also a seemingly endless expanse of hours to fill between the end of one term and the start of the next. And when Christmas is looming and excitement (read: hyperactivity) levels are growing by the day, keeping two children of vastly different ages entertained gets harder by the day.
I’m not a natural mother. I’m no good at playing. I don’t want to sit on a cushion on the floor for hours and pretend I’m on a train; nor do I want to lie on The Boy’s bed wearing sunglasses and make believe I’m on holiday. I’m no good at crafts either; if The Boy suggests painting, playdough or baking, all I can think about is the mess I’ll have to clear up afterwards.
Generally, the best way to survive the holidays is to get out and about. But at this time of year, that’s not easy either. It’s too chilly for the park, especially for the still-not-mobile Baby. The cinema is out of the question, again because of The Baby. We have season tickets for the local open farm and a soft play centre, but those are painfully busy during the holidays. And everything else costs money: money that we don’t have, following the Christmas present blow-out.
So, all in all, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the hols. But do you know what? So far, we’re having a really nice time. The Boy, who, during term time, seems to drift around the house aimlessly complaining that he has nothing to do, has rediscovered his toys at long last. Yesterday, he played Playmobil almost all day; today, it’s Lego. He’s been absolutely engrossed, which is lovely to see. It’s lovely for me, too, as he’s happy and occupied without a glue stick or a paint palette in sight, and without me having to endure a freezing cold park or a germ-ridden playbarn bursting at the seams with wild, snotty-nosed brats. True, the lounge looks like a bomb has hit it, and we’ve had a few issues with the Lego-eating Baby, but I can live with that when he’s amusing himself so well.
Perhaps this is the difference between Reception and Year 1. Now that school is all about work rather than play, The Boy seems to have rediscovered the joy of toys. He also appears to be genuinely appreciating having some down time, without needing to go anywhere or do anything.
Of course, there’s still The Baby to entertain. She’s reached that age where she’s happiest when we’re out and about, and is becoming increasingly frustrated by her thwarted attempts to crawl/smash up her brother’s Lego/pull the Christmas tree over. But on the other hand, she still has two good naps a day, and those times give both me and The Boy some peace and quiet: him to play without a baby-shaped battering ram descending on his games, and me to put my feet up and drink a cup of tea. Amazingly, I’ve managed to more or less end up work-free for the holidays, too, so I can enjoy a bit of time to myself.
Admittedly, the holidays are young. The Boy is getting more excited about Christmas with every day that passes, and by the end of the week, I’ll no doubt be ready to strangle him. But for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying the break from the daily grind and the chance to unwind. And when the novelty of being at home wears off and The Boy starts to drive me to distraction, well, that’s what grandparents are for!