As I get more and more school holidays under my belt, I feel less of a need to justify why we didn’t conquer Mount Everest or deliver newborn lambs in half term week. Bloggers write an awful lot about their guilt in order to seek reassurance from their peers and be a Better Parent. Mostly it’s self-flagellation. It’s not about the well-being of the kids: it’s about measuring yourself on the yardstick of perfection that is waved in our faces by the internet and social media. It’s time to grab that yardstick and snap it in half.
Let me tell you this: what you’re about to read wasn’t written to make myself feel better. It was written to make you feel better – to let you know that it’s okay. Really, it’s alright if you didn’t take a photo of your kids frolicking in snowdrops and apply Instagram’s Vintage filter with a smidgeon of a vignette. (Vintage because that makes life look retro and kids were so much happier in the olden days when they could race across open fields and only return home for tea, etc, etc, blah blah blah.)
It’s time to stop using other people’s Facebook timelines as a must-do-or-I’ve-failed guide to activities to cram into the school holidays. Your children will not be disadvantaged in their future life if you choose iPad time over roller skating the Inca Trail. Another episode of Paw Patrol will not cast them onto the educational scrapheap. (Many apps are highly educational and played alongside Candy Crush and Panda Pop will balance your child out as comfortably mediocre.)
Here’s a fancy infographic for you. It’s the first time I’ve done one and I can reassure you that no children were harmed in the time it took me to do it. They were not knocking over pans of boiling water or sticking their fingers in plug sockets as they revelled unsupervised.
There you have it. I’ve done my little bit to make parents feel moderately better. (And that’s only half term – just think of what you won’t achieve in the summer holidays!) If I were to now fall off the sofa and die, the old Cheerio in the rug that I inhale with my last breath would be utterly worth it.
As we find ourselves heading into the fleshy part of the school summer holidays, that dreaded feeling has already set in. No, it’s not cabin fever nor is it a yearning for the days when a summer holiday was exactly that – a holiday and a child-free one to boot. What is it then? It’s the feeling of guilt that you should be out of the house doing something with your kids.
Despite having just returned from Disneyland Paris, our first plan-free day has put me in a tailspin. We’ve worn ourselves out chasing Mickey and what we really need is a day at home with our feet up and perhaps – dare I say it? – the telly on. But unforgiving Facebook and punishing Twitter have warned me that other people are out showing their kids a good time. Eek. I’ve just sat my two down on the sofa under a duvet with their breakfast and Disney Jr. I’ve put a load of washing on and run a deep clean on the dishwasher. But, do you know what? We’re all content and satisfied (apart from the 3-year-old complaining about two Doc McStuffins in a row).
My kids aren’t the going out types. When I ask them what they want to do, more often than not they’ll squeal “stay at home”. Imagine that accompanied by a whoop of joy and a fist pump and you’ll have a picture of how excited they get at the prospect of actually playing with their toys. They’re quite happy (I think) not to be dragged hither and thither. Throw open the doors on a hot, sunny day and you’ll most likely find them indoors stretched out on the floor with their heads in colouring books. I’ve read a lot of brilliant articles about the importance of letting your children be bored so why do I feel like I’m doing them long-term harm? And why does it make me feel so darned lazy?
I know that people aren’t out with their kids every day. I’m by no means critical of parents who have their holiday activities planned down to the last second – I’m jealous of them. I’m as keen as anyone to get out and about, especially as it can make for a more stress-free day. Crumbs on someone else’s floor; the great outdoors to absorb the high decibel output of a 3-year-old that otherwise shakes the windows at home; and perhaps, if you’re lucky, the kids will fall asleep in the car on the way home (without having been sick over the car seat first).
Balance is what I’m after. But on days at home I just can’t escape the feeling of guilt. It’s not as if I’m using the time to put my feet up. If it’s anything like a normal day, I’ll be fixing legs back on dinosaurs, sweeping up glitter, refereeing an argument or being forewarned there’s a poo on the way every five minutes. Guaranteed at the end of the day I’ll be ready to run out of the door roaring and baring my chest.
On the flipside of all the guilt, a day at home has its advantages. Dishwashers get cleaned, kids discover old favourites in the depths of the toybox and I get to drink vulgar amounts of tea without worrying about having to use the Potette on a public highway. Maybe there is some rest for the wicked parents after all.