As Cliff Richard famously crooned, “Everybody has a summer holiday.” But whether we are, “Doin’ thing we always wanted to”, or things we feel we have to do to fill the weeks and weeks of having children at home all day, is highly debatable.
And it’s not just, “a week or two”, as Sir Cliff tried to claim more than once in that upbeat ditty. It is six long weeks. Even if we do manage some fun and laughter for the first day, as the weeks drag on, and the sun is not shining so brightly, suddenly it seems like only our nightmares are coming true.
My first summer holiday as a parent took me by surprise. My daughter was only nine-months-old. I was stuck with her all day, every day anyway. When I heard more experienced parents speaking of their dread about the summer holidays, I thought it only effected those whose children had already started school. But then the holidays began and the preschool social calendar ground suddenly became a gaping void. And I realised that I had endless weeks to fill and nothing to do.
So this year I am ready. My kitchen table is buried in an enormous pile of flyers, magazines and leaflets for children’s activities that are on over the holidays. The free ones are at the top of the pile, and the most interesting ones I have even written in the calendar so I don’t forget them.
We are fully acquainted with every park in the surrounding area with a view to visiting them in a rotating basis throughout the week, so they don’t lose their appeal quite so quickly.
If the weather lets us down, we have maxed out our library card and gathered a stock of craft materials, somewhere under the pile of flyers on the table, for keeping busy indoors.
Not to mention compiling a list of top under-cover – free or cheap – places to visit when it rains. Museums are obviously a great day out. But do not under estimate the entertainment value of walking round your local aquarium store to look at the fish.
On top of all this, our diary is choc-a-block with play dates and picnics. We will turn up to the opening of an envelope just to find a reason to leave the house. In fact, if you are a friend of ours reading this and we haven’t pencilled in a rendezvous for August yet, please get in touch NOW.
If there was an age when summer holidays were a time for relaxing, it lies buried deep in the sands of beach trips past. I am a parent now – and the weeks ahead will be a strict regime of packing empty days with recreation to keep my offspring occupied until they are tired and ready for bed. And woe betide any ice cream vans who decide to park in my street playing Teddy Bears’ Picnic after 6pm. (It’s only a matter of time before I run out brandishing a rolling pin!)
Yet even with all this preparation, I am already starting to fear desolate afternoons that drag on for eternity.
If I do jump merrily onto a repurposed vintage London bus, waving and smiling, it will be one with a destination marked, ‘September’. The Autumn term is waiting there at the other end to make all our dreams come true.