The children are shattered after eight weeks of school. Year 2 and Year 4 are VERY HARD WORK evidently, and now it’s half term what do we do? Book up every day with activities of course! Since last Friday, The Girl and I have been girly shopping and girly lunching whilst the boy-folk ate everything Pizza Hut had to offer followed by several Star Wars missions on the X-Box, we had my sister and her clan round for play, dinner and a sleepover (there was no sleep), deposited the children in the depths of the Peak District with Granny for two days of walking, shopping, walking, crafting and more walking (there was very little sleeping) whilst The Husband and I ate, cocktailed and shopped (there was A LOT of sleeping), The Girl has spent two days on an art course which has involved a 100 mile round-trip each day, The Boy and I explored caves near to the art course on day 1, and spent day 2 fully immersed in Halloween activities in the local village hall at a drama workshop. We have got more family coming over to stay (there will be no sleep then either), and friends to catch up with before school starts again.
It’s only Wednesday and I am exhausted. Why do we do this? Book up every spare second of every day and then implode under the pressure to achieve it all?! To be honest this half term has become unintentionally ridiculously busy. The art workshop was too good an opportunity to miss for my art-obsessed daughter, and judging by the work she has produced, it has been an amazingly successful couple of days learning new skills and making new friends. The trip away with The Husband was booked weeks ago, as we spent the whole six weeks of the summer holidays moving house and juggling packing, unpacking, decorating and furniture building with work and child care, I knew we would need a break and this was the first free day we had! I am actually looking forward to Monday when I go back to work and don’t have to make any other plans other than Turn Up and Do The Job.
That’s a lie. Monday can sod right off.
But this constant busyness bothers me a little bit. As a natural lazybones, anything more than getting up, pottering about and eating counts as a Busy Day. It certainly doesn’t do my anxiety levels any good as my mind is perpetually jumping from one plan to the next, is everything ready? How do we get there? Has everyone got clean clothes? Has everyone got food? What time does it start? What time does it finish? Can we afford this? Is it bedtime yet?
My racing thoughts exhaust me before I even get in the shower.
I’m finding the balance between providing opportunities to grow and develop which keeps everyone busy, and allowing the children to enjoy their own space and do their own thing really tricky, and not just this half term. The kids both do clubs and activities before and after school most days and ballet classes on a Saturday. Making sure uniforms and equipment are clean and ready for the right child on the right day, ensuring child care plans include delivering the correct child to the correct activity on time and collecting them again, and fitting in homework at some point – not to mention food and sleep – is a military operation some weeks.
I don’t know if it’s anxiety or mum-guilt or if it’s just entirely normal, but I’m never fully convinced we are doing the right thing. They do too much, they work too hard, they need more down time, they need fewer rules and deadlines, so they look tired? Do they need more rest? Are we expecting too much?
If we stopped their sports, dancing, music and drama clubs I’d be fretting we hadn’t given them enough opportunity to find out what they enjoy, where their talents lie, I’d worry they didn’t have enough chances to make new friends, and that they would become hermits by the age of twelve. And they do love the activities they do, despite the fact there is a battle with The Boy to actually convince him to leave the house to attend any of the activities he does every single time he has to go, but when he gets there, wherever he is going, he gives it his all, thoroughly loves every minute and is sad when the class is finished, wishing it was time for the next one already. This happens every week, with every class. Having to remind him of how much he enjoys said class EVERY TIME WE NEED TO LEAVE is a chore I could happily live without and is almost a good enough reason to pack everything in and leave him at home all week. But the bouncing, smiling boy who can’t stop talking about the exciting stuff he just did stops me giving into my urge to cancel it all and live a whinge-free life. Until the next time.
There is a lot of positive to say about allowing kids to be bored. It nurtures and feeds their creativity and their sense of play. It allows them to decompress and just be, instead of having to do. I know on the days and evenings when we have no activities (and TV isn’t an option) The Boy will spend hours playing with Lego and other little figures, creating battle scenes and chases and other fantasy worlds, and The Girl will find a pen and paper and will happily draw until her arm aches.
And to be fair they do get the chance to do these things. Just not every evening, and not this half term. But that’s fairly balanced isn’t it? Not constantly busy every single day, just some bits of some days; everything in moderation and all that. Anyway in eight weeks it’ll be the Christmas holidays and in the spirit of balance, after the next seven weeks of VERY HARD WORK at school, and all various term-time activities, there will be 14 days of watching crap TV, eating crap food, living in PJs, fighting over new toys and old toys and complaining about being bored every single day.