The P Word

Muddling my way through parenting

Archive for the category “summer holiday”

Breaking the rules

I just gave my kids sweets. In the bath. Shortly before bedtime.
Now I’m not sure how many parental ‘rules’ I broke in that moment of madness, but I’d probably struggle to count them, even with a full complement of fingers and toes.
The summer holiday is, at least in our household, a season when rule-breaking is rife. Feel free to judge (I know you’re not perfect either!) but we’ve let standards slip on TV breakfasts (not to mention lunch and tea), diet, treats, gifts, bedtimes … in fact, most basic parental boundaries have been stretched in the past few weeks.
However, quite frankly, I don’t care. I don’t quite go along with the ‘rules are made to be broken’ school of thought, but surely there’s an element of truth in it.
I’d stake a lot of money that the vast majority of happy, lasting childhood memories are created when the rules are broken. The unexpected treats, the outlandish exceptions, the surprising ‘yes’ in response to the desperate request out of pure hope, not expectation.
Now it has been noted by some that we can be a touch on the strict side. My wife and I expect polite, decent behaviour, and we make no excuses for that. So perhaps by breaking a few rules we’re not moving the bar particularly low.
But regardless of the starting point, the fact that children know they’re getting away with something that wouldn’t usually be permitted can’t fail to give them a bit more joy. It strengthens the bond between rule-breaker (parent) and beneficiary (child): the shared mischievous grin that cements emotional ties; the eyes lit up in amazement that say, ‘Dad, you’re brilliant!’
And the memories. Oh, the memories.
I doubt that my own offspring will recall the bath-time sweeties on an otherwise nondescript August evening. But, deep down, I know it made a difference.
Having said that, it’s impossible to predict the memories that will last the test of time. My mother was mortified when my sister and I reminisced recently about one of our fondest childhood memories: watching the wrestling on Saturday lunchtime (Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, et al) while stuffing our faces with pickled herrings. Not an everyday occurrence, but an occasional weekend treat that obviously struck a chord with two young children about three decades ago. Happy times. Fun times. Together times.
I hope your summer season was full of fun family times, however many rules you managed to break along the way.
Anyway, with growing and changing children the goalposts are moving on a fairly regular basis, so hopefully you’ll get away without causing too much of a confused mess to sort out in the aftermath. And with any luck, I won’t now spend the entire autumn battling over re-defining those stretched and misshapen boundaries.


Surviving the summer?

Are you still hanging in there? Have you ever been more exhausted? Summer holidays, eh …

As the huge chasm of time that has passed since my last blog post may suggest, it’s been a challenge on many fronts.

As child #1 is about to move from Reception into Year 1, this is the first ‘proper’ summer holiday I’ve had as a parent. And blimey, what a strange experience it’s been. As with every new phase of parenting, there’s an almost mind-boggling amount of stuff to learn and adapt to – but the past few weeks have been quite a shock to the system.

As some indication of what’s been flying through my little mind over the past few weeks, here are a few random reflections on the wide-ranging thoughts which punctuated this most un-summery summertime:

Why on earth did I do this?

Firstly, the maths doesn’t work. We’re both working parents (my wife part-time) and our employers are more generous than most with holiday allowances. But still we’re scrabbling around for ways to sort childcare during school holidays. This summer, we’ve managed to arrange almost two solid weeks with the whole family being together, with the odd extra day when one or other of us will be with the children. That means that for roughly two-thirds of their holidays we’re relying on the fact that we are fortunate to have four recently retired, healthy and active grandparents willing to assist, all within reasonable driving distance. Haven’t got a first clue what we’d do otherwise.

Despite this limited time together, as always with parenting there have been times of immense testing. Admittedly the most significant challenge was child #1’s inability to listen to what we were asking him to do … only to discover after a few weeks that he’s actually partially deaf thanks to an ear infection. Oops! (We’ve tried to be easier on him since.)

But you know what I mean. The mealtime struggles, the complaints when it’s bed or bath time, the persistent pleas to be carried everywhere, the bickering between siblings over what to watch on TV / what to play with / where to sit …

I could go on, but you’ll have your own gripes to recollect. So before this all gets too depressing, let’s move on to something more positive.

Oh, that’s why I did it …

From time to time, the little people who turn our lives upside-down remind us why we ever considered doing this parenting stuff. It’s often the little things that melt our hearts.


Football (and artistic) genius!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have several such moments over the past fortnight, but the one that stands out is child #1 learning to carry child #2 (gladly there wasn’t too much trial and error involved). Forget the Olympics, the look or satisfaction when he manages to carry his sister for a dozen or so steps is pure gold.

Added to that, I’ve had the opportunity to myself launch into a fully-fledged second childhood. A trip to Legoland was the undoubted highlight, but we’ve also enjoyed a day with friends at Bristol Zoo and many other more cost-effective adventures (including a successful first foray into ten pin bowling!) which have all added up to me – plus the spouse and the kids – making great memories which I hope will live with us all for a really long time.

Confession time – I’m a judgemental parent

We’ve all done it. I’m probably worst than most, to be brutally honest. But sometimes the actions, attitudes or examples set by other parents leave a lot to be desired, don’t they?

Of course, if other parents saw us at our worst they’d completely understand that we don’t normally act/speak in that way. Or maybe we should just give other people a bit more of a chance. Food for thought, certainly.

Do you know what time it is?!

I should know by now that kids just don’t get the concept of a lie-in. They especially don’t seem to understand that holidays are a good time to get some rest. But after a few weeks of early rising children this summer, they’ve finally started to get it! I know that we’re much more fortunate than many other parents with the usual time of our human alarm clocks (rarely before 7am) but so far this week we’ve even been allowed to doze beyond 8am, occasionally even later – heavenly!

Now we’ve go something else to learn: how to re-adjust their waking times so they’re ready for school days when we’re trying to get two sleepy children out of the door with that golden combination – correctly dressed and on time!

So, to survive? Or maybe …

Whatever your parenting experience has been so far this summer, I hope that during the remainder of the ‘holiday’ you’re able to do more than just survive – and maybe even thrive.

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