This is a post about how to survive summer with your kids. Ok, that's a bit dramatic. We are not supposed to be just surviving, just enduring our kids and the NINE WEEKS of summer holidays we are gifted with; we are supposed to be cherishing them, making sure they are memorable. I get that. Also, no homeworks, no packed lunches, no baby wiping school uniforms at 8.50am or spending all night looking for the overdue library book that you received your 3rd letter about returning (hypothetically). I will not be missing that stuff. It's so nice to have slow lazy mornings. But. Here's ALSO the thing.
*Some* of us (me) need a bit of reassurance about how to keep our sanity in check when facing NINE WEEKS of summer holidays with kids. We just do. We enjoy and love our kids deeply but the days can be long and demanding.
So, for myself and any other parents facing the same slight anxiety about it all, here are my top tips for surviving the summer:
1) THERE IS SAFETY IN NUMBERS
Find your compadres, your fellow panick-stricken parents facing the same NINE WEEKS. Call them up (or create a whatsapp group because who makes arrangements in words with their actual voices these days) and plan ahead to be together for at least one day of the week. You may want to create several groups so you cover a couple of days of rotations - a general friends group, a school parents friends group, a group with people that all have the same colour of hair - clutch at straws for groups, you get me? Kids have this miraculous way of entertaining themselves with other kids around. They mostly have no idea what they are doing, running from one play thing to the next, but somehow they seem to be able to pass time playing so much easier with company. Take turns going to each other's houses (whoever has the best toys/garden/coffee and cares the least about their house being tidy should really take one for the team and offer more) and make sure you overstay your welcome and linger around until dinner time.
Really though, don't be afraid to initiate this - your friends will be up for it.
2) THE 1/3 RULE
Do not beat yourself up about screen time. I repeat - DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT SCREEN TIME. We have enough stuff to consider and feel guilty about in a day, so if your 4 year old has watched 3 hours of opening egg videos this morning, it's fine. He will not get rickets. I generally try to divide the day up into thirds (in no particular order): 1/3 outside of the house (doesn't have to be outdoors although outdoors is the best, but just getting out for a change of scenery), 1/3 doing something planned (a game, a craft, swimming etc), and 1/3 who cares. Remember, life revolves around the WHOLE family and having EVERYONES needs met - this includes YOU and your needs, not just the kids'. So, if you need to spend £2.99 on a new iPad game because it buys you an hour to have a peaceful poo and devour a bag of malteasers without having to share them then I consider that money well spent.
3) LET YOUR KIDS BE BORED
I am always amazed at how kids can always find something to do. You do not have to be their personal entertainer and have every minute of their summer holiday planned. Ask them what they'd like to do, give them a say and who doesn't love a summer bucket list?! But also allow them some time to be bored and create their own fun. Have their art supplies, games etc within reach so they can access them themselves. If your kids need a little direction, you could even create a boredom jar with ideas written down on little slips of paper just to prompt them along. The point is, it's OK for them not to be entertained all of the time. We are not supposed to the fount of ideas of all of the fun things to do.
4) REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT A WAITRESS
I would say that about 70% of my day involves food. Buying it, preparing it, cooking it, clearing it up, throwing it out, washing it, cutting it up, picking it up off the floor, hiding it. You know the drill. Aside from this aforementioned, never-ending food admin - food is a money pit. There is real potential for food bills to sky rocket during the summer months because if your kid is anything like mine, being in the house means we are only ever a 10 minutes interval away from hearing "I'm hungry" over and over. Nobody can afford that upkeep or has the time or energy to attend to that all day so this summer I'm setting some food boundaries. We will have our three meals a day, but I am also setting 3 bowls on the kitchen table at the beginning of the day - 2 bowls of healthy snacks (fruit, veg, crackers, raisins etc) and 1 bowl of treat snacks (crisps, animal cookies, chocolate buttons). Levi will have all day to dip into them when he is "hungry" but when they are gone they are gone. It will be a good lesson on rationing.
5) LET YOUR HOUSE FALL APART
This is a tricky one for me because I am a neat freak. When things around me are tidy, my mind is tidy. I struggle with mess and clutter, BUT I am learning to let things go. If you want to exercise point 3, you are going to have to endure point 5. Kids who are happy to entertain themselves need the freedom to take stuff out and have it strewn across a room without someone pointlessly tidying things away around them. When it comes time to pack things away for the day, get the kids involved - stick on some music and have a tidying up dance party. Remember you are also not a cleaner - it's everyones job to make sure stuff gets put away.
6) DON'T BE AFRAID TO KEEP A BEDTIME ROUTINE
I wish we were the kind of family that could let their kids stay up late in the summer so we could all chill out in the garden until the sun goes down with the comfort of knowing that they would probably just sleep on later the next morning. We are not that family and those are not our kids. Even if Levi was up til 11pm, he would still be up at 7am the next morning and the rest of the day would be a cranky tired mess. It is perfectly OK to stick to a good bedtime during the summer. When kids are well rested they are so much easier managed, the same goes for us. You are not a mean parent for prioritising self-preservation. Get your rest, your summer sanity depends on it. If your kids sleep in after a late night, good for you and I hate you.
Ok, so what else would you add to my summer survival tips? We are in this together. Also, does anyone want to start a whatsapp group? Who's got the biggest house?