By Jane Trask
As a school teacher by trade, I've always had a love-hate relationship with school holidays. I used to spend the entire term counting down to the two-week break only to struggle when it arrived. Pre-children it was a lot easier. I could lie in bed watching trash TV one day and then pop into school the next to get on top of planning, marking and choreography for the next term.
As teachers, we would always joke how lovely and quiet the school was when the students were away. Catching up on appointments and friends, cooking slightly more exciting meals and exercising in the middle of the day were all treats that I looked forward to.
I have learned over the years that it was often beneficial to get out of town for a mini-break to visit family or friends before returning home to resume life.
I live for routine and the transition period between term time and holidays is often hard to shake. I find it the same at the end of the holidays when I've finally wound down enough to relax and have to step it up back into a routine again.
Post-children the holidays lost a little of their shine. It's such an oxymoron, living for that extra time to spend with your children and then dreading the often long days trying to find enough to do to sustain interest and exhaust the children.
During term time, my kids wake early.
During the school holidays, this often escalates to even earlier. I mean, what else would a kid want to do then get up with whole days of nothingness and no structure in front of them? I'm torn between wanting to start the day alongside them and wanting to sleep for endless hours knowing we have no immediate schedule to adhere to.
We seem to have come to a happy holiday medium. With my better half leaving for work often before 6am, the 7-year-old now knows he has to stay in his room until
6am and the 4-year-old I happily plonk in front of the TV to watch two episodes of Paw Patrol.
Jane Trask: Mum guilt is inevitable, even if we're doing fine
Opinion: We need to build up and better support our youth
Both children also know that when my bedroom door is shut, no one is to re-wake mum up until 7am. (Which is a glorious miracle in our house!) Otherwise, a dragon
I spend weeks counting down to holidays by planning activities. We escape to our bach for a change of scene and attempt arts and crafts. Arts and crafts do include a small amount of sitting down though, which Trask boys don't do well. After planning activities for what seems like ages and then the actual activity is done and dusted in five minutes. Suddenly it's only 10am and we have exhausted an entire day of planned tasks.
Thank goodness for friends, in-laws and for my parents - as grandparents are saviours.
Booking appointments is now a fine balancing act of finding times that suit the super grandparents without overuse of their precious babysitting time.
Weather also plays a part in successful holiday stress management. I let the children play outside regardless of rain although behaviour always seems to bottle up when the weather is yuck.
My children often argue and fight. Correction, pick fights with each other when they are bored. This constant fighting does my head in. I become a United Nations negotiator between the two countries at war, for them only to make up of their own accord almost
instantly after I've stepped in.
While they aren't official swear words, my 4-year-old's list of not so ideal language that he isn't allowed to say is growing by the hour. I'm secretly impressed at the way he combines his insults for extra impact and the accuracy and appropriate timings of his
delivery but I still insist he can't use them.
I try to bribe them with device time so that I can get jobs done. This in turn only creates a vicious cycle where their behaviour is made worse by the time spent on the devices and then they end up getting in trouble for behaviour I have pretty much caused them to
My daily exercise becomes interrupted, so I try to find active activities for us to all do together. This almost always ends in tears. A simple bike ride to the dairy can end in a tantrum, which then lasts the entire way home just because we cycled in the opposite
direction to what the 4-year-old wanted.
We have played countless games of memory, guess who and snap. I have to tame my competitiveness to let them win most of the time, even though it hurts my pride every single time.
I thank the Lord for Paw Patrol, kids movies and books. Well, that's if I can convince them to sit down long enough to watch or read.
We entertain play-dates. Attention spans don't last longer than five minutes, so I micro-manage the playing and tidy up behind them as I go. I made the amateur mistake of cleaning the house the same morning as we invited friends over.
My teacher voice works with our guests but not with my own children. Uh-oh. Let's add another word to the 4-year-old's bad word list. I can never understand how when a friend comes over my own children can suddenly play very well and quietly by themselves as their sibling hangs out with their friends.
I spend all term looking forward to these holidays, I count down to the specialness of them and then reality hits and I spend my time wondering if I really am cut out to be a mum.
However, in between all the chaos, there are moments of greatness. Funny banter and shared jokes, special extra cuddles and memories made. I am grateful as I am reminded at how fast my munchkins grow.
One week down and one week to go.
Wish me luck.
Jane Trask is a Rotorua writer