Perhaps I feel the Summertime, or need for it, more than others; I am an Australian after all. I have an intense need for the sunshine and the daylight; I am solar-powered for sure. I crave the time outdoors, and even though I have been a Londoner for 20 plus years, I desperately long for the seaside.
Being a Parent, the Summer offers opportunities and excitement, and requires copious amounts of time, energy, money and motivation. I know it can also hold room for potential disappointment, guilt, resentment and moments of anger.
Breathe, bear with me.
The September when my daughter began Reception, some parents had organised something of a Champagne Breakfast following school drop off (no I didn’t join, I was messy crying for most of that day). At the time, I assumed said Breakfast was to mark the start of the profound educational journey for our precious babies. But, as time has gone on, and I reflect with my slightly more cynical and experienced hat on, the celebratory Breakfast was more likely to be about marking the end of a long Summer together. A Summer with small children is often very full, and many parents were likely glad to be rid of their darling small people, even just for the school hours.
Yes, Summers feel long, with weeks feeling like, well, much longer, more gruelling weeks. Young, unruly bosses rule with sticky fists. Summers bring excitement. Everyone can sleep in (or not, as is usually the case with younger children). We can all stay in our pyjamas until later, and there is no mad rush to be out the door. Everyone can eat pancakes in front of the telly, while a Parent does yoga and meditates. Um, maybe that is the reality for some families; that’s not what Summers ever looked like here.
We are fortunate enough to usually be able to escape for some fun in the European sunshine, without having to rely on the fluctuating British temps. Getting away as a family requires military precision; packing not just for the days and nights you are away, but packing for every possible eventuality, with the knowledge that a load of washing will likely mean lugging everything to a non-English speaking laundrette and having to navigate all that it entails.
Packing is not just about clothes and toiletries for a trip as a family; it’s also likely to include activities for all, some quiet, some more boisterous. Plus an essential, old, never-been-opened First Aid kit.
Of course, fun will be had, fresh air, perhaps some meals that are cooked by someone else. Enjoy.
And, with a trip (a holiday or a day trip), wherever it is to, there is definitely some expectation that all participants will rub along gloriously, we will make picture-perfect memories, there will be no arguing, no tantrums, and both parents and children will all have their needs met.
Where oh were did we get this idea from? Think for just a moment, how unrealistic and unlikely such a time is. Working around the dietary requirements, nap schedules, the forgotten items, snacks, potential language barriers, and whatever else flares up – we need to alter our expectations to be far more aligned with reality.
My general rule for a good day with my own children, and anyone else’s is: no blood, no fire, no broken bones. In my book, that’s a winner of a day. Some serious gold-star parenting.
Yes, my expectations have really had to shift as a Parent. And, my rule stands for the Summer holidays more than any other time of the year, there are just so many days, children, and opportunities, for things to go haywire.
Summers, what do you remember from when you were younger? Family time? Reckless fun? Swimming on a Greek beach? Maybe you just remember a lot of ice cream. I remember the smell of coconut sun cream, burgers on the beach, and endless sunshine. I also remember mad tropical electric storms, very common in Australia.
Whatever you plan, however much trouble you go to, or not, really consider this:
What will your children remember?
What would you like them to remember?
And, what do you need this Summer?
Your offspring are unlikely to even consider how expensive something was, or if mummy looked fat (they won’t even notice I assure you). They don’t mind wearing the same t-shirt 3 days in a row, whether it has ketchup splodges on it or not. They are more likely to remember that they saw a cat with 3 legs, that they had breakfast for dinner one day, that you all cuddled and read in bed for longer.
However you can juggle things for the remaining weeks of Summer, try to enjoy parts of it for yourself. Have fun, add in some spontaneity (a picnic dinner on the kitchen floor!), laugh and smile more, hug for longer, and free yourself from some of the expectations and constraints that have landed on you.
Sending you sunshine, pockets of joy, and hopes for no broken bones/blood/fire.