James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Surviving the dark days

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Send your children out to play Monopoly using actual Auckland streets. Photo / Richard Robinson
Send your children out to play Monopoly using actual Auckland streets. Photo / Richard Robinson

It is that joyous time of the year, the one (of several) that all parents love and look forward to; that time when the nurturing of children reverts from its rightful place in the schools of this nation into the homes, where the parents really quite like having a few hours' quiet time while the tamariki are away.

Yep, it is the school holidays. Again? Didn't we just have school holidays? How come the little snot-rags get all these holidays and we don't?

But the school holidays are real and they are very much upon us, so here are a few suggestions to help the true victims here, the parents, get through these dark days:

Play A Game Together

Mayor Len Brown wants us to have an Auckland version of the game Monopoly, so why not test things for him by sending a gaggle of children out to play Monopoly using actual Auckland streets. Start the game at, say, the Wynyard Quarter, where the kids dress up then roll a dice, which sends them on their way to, say, Hurstmere Rd or Ponsonby Rd or East Tamaki Rd in Otara.

Right from the beginning, this is a great lesson in self-reliance, teaching them about using public transport or stealing a car.

When the kids reach their destination, after you've had some nice quiet time, they phone in and you roll the dice to send them on their way to their next destinations: Remuera Rd; Titirangi Rd; the Dairy Flat Highway and so forth. If played properly, with the use of Chance cards such as "You failed to tidy your room when asked, go to Pakuranga" and as long as CYFS don't get wind of it, this game of Monopoly could buy a whole week of quiet parent time, interrupted only by plaintive calls from the far-flung reaches of greater Auckland.

Stage Your Own X Factor Competition

Although television is a great school holiday device for buying quality parent quiet time, people tend to judge you badly if that is the only thing your kids do for the entire break. Never mind that they actually are quite happy parked up in front of the box, it is apparently "bad parenting" to leave them parked there the whole time, throwing snack food at them to maintain their silence/distance.

But one of the most popular shows on TV at the moment, The X Factor, offers clever parents a way of using television in an interactive and creative way that also buys heaps of time to do the stuff they want. Basically, what you do is get together with some fellow parental units and tell the massed offspring that they need to go away and come back only when they're ready to audition for their very own show, "Kidz Factor".

Then, while the young ones are off practising their songs and their "this is all I've ever wanted to do my entire life, I just want it so bad" speeches, the parents can drink wine and decide which judge they will be - the one with the pink hair; Stan with his tattoos and down-home attitude; the boy ex-pop star who can't co-ordinate his shirts and ties; or the girl ex-pop star.

Eventually, after a few times of telling the kids to go back to rehearse some more, the parents get to sit at a table and mock each other's progeny under the guise of teaching them the harsh realities of the artificially created pop-star music industry.

Yes, depending on how much wine the parent/judge has had, there will be tears, as the dreams of the child are crushed but, as the parent, you need to keep in mind that tears equals good television.

Have A Late Celebration Of Anzac Day By Recreating It

A valuable history lesson and a way to get heaps of parental quiet time all in one. First, send the children out into the backyard and get them to pretend this is them landing at Anzac Cove. Then instruct them to dig trenches in the lawn, deep enough to withstand the Turkish (parental) assault from the cliffs (back deck) above. Then do nothing for long periods of time, while you have quiet time inside, to teach them that the true horror of war comes in those times waiting for the actual horror to start. Now that the drought has broken, the trenches should get nice and muddy, thus adding to the authentic World War I feel.

Eventually, just before they start to get trench-foot and it is time to go back to school, you can tell the kids that the whole campaign was a huge British cock-up and evacuate them back into the house - but not before they've put the lawn back the way they found it.

- NZ Herald

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James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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