The P Word

Muddling my way through parenting

Archive for the tag “holiday”

Holidays are here!

I’ve got a severe case of end-of-term-itis. In a good way. The holidays are here. The sun is shining. Spring has sprung. Things are looking up.

spring

Why am I feeling so chipper? Well, I’ve just had a long weekend which included plenty of sunshine, trips to the park and a screening of Rio 2. Just for a bit of life-life balance, we’ve now got a couple of days sans enfants as my wife and I work (and capitalise on the chance for a babysitter-free evening out!) while the kids spend some quality grandparent time with the in-laws.

But I could look at recent events differently. In many ways, much of the past few weeks and months have included the hardest challenges I’ve faced for some time. At times I’ve felt quite low, resulting in tweets like this:

I’ve chosen the tweet above because – however exhausting, challenging and impossible parenting can seem at times – my children also have a great capacity to restore me to myself. All they have to do is give a simple smile, a hug, or demonstrate the ability to lose themselves in fits of hilarity – all of which can quickly draw me back into a more hopeful world, allow me to throw off the other worries and stresses of life, and bring me joy.

Amazing, aren’t they?

Last Friday was a case in point. School pick-up on the last afternoon of term is always a celebratory time, but we’re lucky enough to have two children who adore school (of course helped by spending time with their friends). I’m not expecting it to continue forever, but aged 7 and 4 I’m just revelling in the moment. The most striking sign of this is that it’s almost impossible to get my son to come home at the end of the school day. The classroom door is his gateway to the playground and, given the choice, all he wants to do it race around with his friends until darkness falls (with occasional breaks for food). And not much beats seeing him at his happiest with the friends he loves.

You see, just like my son in the playground, today I’m choosing to seize the day and celebrate life with unbridled optimism. Long may it continue.

Happy holidays!

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How was your Christmas presence?

The play on words between ‘presents’ and ‘presence’ is often too tempting for many vicars to avoid when planning their Christmas Day sermons.

With no apologies, I’m going to plagiarise that cliché (if such a thing is possible) and apply it to parenting for a brief post-festive pause for thought.

Christmas presentsHowever much we may plan ahead for Christmas, it’s probably fair to say that most of the time spent thinking and doing in preparation for Christmas is centred around trying to buy presents for our family and friends.

Once the presents are bought and the plans of where you need/want to be on particular days are sorted, the planning of how you’re going to actually spend your time is likely to be well down the pecking order.

But what makes the biggest difference to our kids?

Sure, the people we’re with for Christmas will matter, and what they unwrap on The Big Day will hopefully bring a little happiness.

But if we want to make a lasting difference for them then we’ll focus on creating memories. We’ll play games that end in side-splitting laughter, we’ll have the time of our lives racing around the park (and probably get drenched on the way home!), we’ll read endless bedtime stories until the story-teller’s voice or eyelids give up, or we’ll sit and talk about the latest animated blockbuster that we’ve just enjoyed together. Or maybe – as I’ve recently seen posted by a friend on Facebook – we’ll fall asleep cuddled up together on the sofa.

I’ve talked in a previous post about allowing our kids to take the lead in setting the agenda and how/when we play together. Perhaps there is no greater opportunity than the Christmas holidays to allow your kids to set the tone and take a new approach to how you spend your time together.

Please don’t read this post as a guilt trip if you’re feeling like you’ve not been very ‘present’ in creating memories with your kids during the past few days (heck, if an afternoon snooze to sleep off a lunchtime tipple is criminal then I’d be incarcerated every Christmas!). But with whatever holiday time you’ve got left this festive period, it’s never too late to do some more fun/silly/crazy/memorable things that will enrich your child’s life and enhance your relationship with them.

You may even feel prompted to make a New Year’s resolution to give your kids more ‘presence’ in 2013. But if you do, please make sure it’s one you at least try to keep!

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

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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