…then guess what, kiddo, you ain’t doing it right.
Funniest thing…BBC radio newcastle producer just called me to schedule a phone interview for tomorrow about how I “handle finding something my kids to do every single day” for the summer.
Yep. Thats what she said.
“Mrs Peddie, you have FOUR KIDS. (Yes. Trust me. She said it in capslock.) “How do you handle finding something for them to do every single day during the summer holidays?”
When I said “I dont. We stay home for alot of it.” it blew her mind. She literally went mute and could not think of a reply. Finally she started muttering “Oh, thats verrrrrry interrestinggggg! Fascinatinggggg!” in her best In Depth Journalist Voice.
She could not process that we stay home and color and paint and sing and read and play outdoors and bake and craft and blow bubbles. She just kept saying “But, every day?”
For probably three weeks of it in total: We. Stay. Home.
We do, of course take a trip or two when Steffen is on vacation or we go away for a weekend. He takes two weeks off, then we usually take a week at the castle, just me and the kids. We do the odd day out shopping or at the movies, but those activities probably account for three days of our hometime. Yeah it was a bit tougher in the states, because its a 10 or 12 week break. But here, its only six weeks. Who can’t sort out their own kids for SIX WEEKS????
Then I further fried her synapses by telling her my older boys are expected to do their chores and then, for the most part, entertain themselves if they dont want to join in trips to the park, or whatever else we are doing. I try to work up some sort of a summer project for the bigs, loosely related to what I am doing for the littles. (For example, this year we are working on our Birdwatching Life Lists) Yes, they play video games to a degree, but they also read, cook, craft, draw, build, play outdoors, go out on bikes, go to the library, go see friends, or make videos and animations with their little flip camera and their computer. Neither of them have facebook, or twitter, or any of that junk. We have memberships the RSPB, The National Trust and English Heritage. We do those things, and research fun things online. Above all, They go out and be kids.
She could just could not process this. To be fair, she is very young with no kids of her own, and she grew up in one of those families that you see around every corner nowadays. They obtain their worth and validation by showing off what they can buy, get, or do for their kids. She spent her summers at “horse camp” and her brother spent his at “football and rugby camp”. She hated horses and he hated football and rugby. She told me so.
To torture her poor Non-Mom brain even further, I explained that as a former teacher, I run my days alot like a school day. In the morning we get up and have a look at the weather. We talk about the date, and anything special we have coming up, and how many days til school starts again. Then we eat breakfast, then have a story for the littles and reading time for the bigs. The bigs can read what they like. I try to pick a summer theme for the littles. This year its trees and insects and water. Then they can either play or watch tv for about 40 minutes, or if I have to go out this is the time of day we go. After lunch we have an hour (sometimes two! I don’t end it voluntarily…lol) of “quiet time”. Sometimes they fall asleep, sometimes they don’t. (Even the big boys have been known to conk out). Then we try to do art of some desciption and play outside in the afternoon. In the evenings, they are on their own. They have these nifty things called…toys!
Finally she asked me, in hushed wonderment: “But what if it rains?”
Well, who ever said there was anything wrong with a day of jammies, movies, popcorn, barbies, lego, and baking? Sheesh, lady!
I don’t get the big deal.
It comes down to this: If we take responsibility for a little forward planning, we will be ok for the summer. Kids should not have to be actively entertained with some big event every single day-or even on most days.
Let me say that again, in bold type this time:
You are not a bad parent if you don’t take your kids out to “Do Something” every single day!
A) EXHAUSTING, for them and for Mom or Dad, and B) they never learn to entertain themselves, and look around them. If a kid has every moment of their day planned for them, they never see anything except through a car window on the way to or from some event. In essence they don’t learn to play.
They don’t learn to appreciate days out at the movies or whatever, as special. They just think of it as a (very expensive!) way to pass the time. Its called summer break for a reason. You are not depriving them if you don’t plan every single second of that 43 days that they are home. Their days are so rigidly structured, stressful, and intense for eight months of the year, why, when summer comes, cant we just let them have a break for heavens sake? Take the time to teach them things they wont learn in school. How to build a fire. How to grow a tomato. How to hang out the washing. Make a pancake. Fold an origami frog. Sew. Take photographs. Be with them. Get to know them again, after eight months of hardly ever seeing them. Let the poor little devils breathe and decompress.
Let them be kids.
Now, let me be clear, I totally understand that six weeks in the summer and the two weeks at Christmas are tough to sort out for parents who must work. I honestly don’t know what on Earth I would do for the summers if I worked full time-Steffen works incredibly hard so that it isn’t an issue for our family. So, I can’t address that issue here. I daresay I would be hung from my own main mast if I expressed my real opinion, which is, “Until you know how you would sort that out, maybe don’t start your family.” Harsh? Maybe. But its personal responsibility, and part of being a parent is thinking about how you are going to care for that child, long before it is born-and frankly before it is conceived, and for every single day of its life with you as its caregiver. But if you are in a place where you absolutely must work maybe it isn’t time to have kids yet. If you are working because you want to, then you can probably afford summer daycare. If you don’t plan your pregnancy, reach out-there are options for help.