Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Keeping Mum: Surviving school holidays

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It can be mayhem at home when the kids are on holidays.
Photo / Thinkstock
It can be mayhem at home when the kids are on holidays. Photo / Thinkstock

When your children are very little and you operate largely untroubled by the school year, school holidays mean very little - except less traffic on the roads.

Granted, my kids did go to kindy sessions from the age of two, and I do remember the looks of exhaustion and resignation we'd have on the last day of the kindy term (the kindy calender runs to the school calender). "Oh God, what are we going to do without kindy?!" I'd bleat to the other mothers. "And playgroup, and music group!" Because even though you'd only get about half-an-hour to yourself by the time you dropped your child off, withstood the inevitable parting scene, bundled the smaller child back in the car and made it back into the house (the same in reverse to pick them up), there was a sense somehow of a little it of space in the day to get things done. A little, tiny bit of space.

School holidays with older kids are a different beast. The children are dog-tired by the time the school term ends, so they seem to need a day or two to decompress. After that, it's all action. All manner of businesses are lining up to take your cash during the holdiays so you do find yourself cramming like a tuna into the latest kids movie, cramming your kids into the park along with 95 other families, cramming them onto bouncy castles and other amusements. You get the picture. If your darling husband hasn't - well in advance - planned to take time off during the holidays and you are stuck at home, you have to join the melee of everyone else trying to keep themselves from going insane.

I feel that I can say I have made an art of the 'play-date'. This holidays I practically had playdates lined up every day, back-to-back, and not always purposefully - they just seemed to happen organically.

As you got the chance to drop your kids around at someone else's house you took it, knowing full well you would get your own and others back on another day. At one point I had four five-year-old boys and a baby to look after one of the days and that just about did me in.

As always, I ended the holidays with huge respect for primary school teachers.

It's not so much that the children are badly behaved - although they tend to fight like cats and dogs - it's just that the sheer volume of noise, the chaos, and the energy are usually used up at school during the term, leaving the tired, hungry and totally crabby child for mum to cope with over the witching hour. Which, with your best fishwife's voice and a bit of Playhouse Disney, you have learnt to cope with.

For those at home with their kids during the holidays, active parenting, rather than relentless household administration is required. No wonder when the 'holidays' end, another one feels like it is past due.

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