I know that most parents find the school holidays a torturous experience which can leave them staring longingly at the bottle of Merlot at 11.30 in the morning, but oddly I find them quite liberating. Those who know me will confirm that my daily lot, is one of running harem scarem between one appointment and the next, desperately trying to keep all the balls in the air and the children out of A&E. So once bereft of the usual, frenetic routine the Hieatt household slows to the ambling pace of a senile tortoise. The key to surviving the holidays appears to be having absolutely no expectations whatsoever. This is not as easy as it sounds because it requires letting go of everything, to the extent that the children closely resemble amazonian cave dwellers who've been dressed by Oxfam! Hair is unbrushed, faces unwiped and their feet closely resemble those of Hobbits. Absence of any routine means breakfast can span several hours and can comprise of almost anything. This morning it was Pasta with Parmesan at half eleven. Friends and their offspring seek us out like a a Mecca for Lost Willpower and Disorganization, and join in whatever shenanigans might be underway. The washing machine grumbles contentedly all day long full of grass stained socks, in perfect harmony with the shudders of the dishwasher as it works its way through the continuous stream of plates, tea mugs and every knife in the drawer, liberally covered in Nutella. There are no plans until something happens, there is no shopping until some one's hungry and the house echoes with the noisy play off my offspring and most of the children in the neighbourhood.
I used to plan school holidays to be full of activity like a military manoeuvre, until I realised that it simply made the children tired and whingey and rendered me monosyllabic with exhaustion and red eyed with frustration. Now, the children usually spend the first three days of the holidays noisily protesting their boredom until the realization sinks in that their Mother is not actually going to do anything about it! Thus, left to their own devices they start to entertain themselves. Occasionally they ll query, more out of habit than necessity whether we are "going to do anything?" and ""Have we got any money?" and once informed that it is negative in both cases they amble off on increasingly grubby feet to find something to do.
We have now sustained this for ten days! All the neighbourhood children pass through every few hours, eating loaves of bread and jam, gossiping and leaving all the doors open. I follow after them picking up lost socks, trainers, sports caps and mobile phones to be left by the front door at the end of the day for collection. The dogs snuffle enthusiastically at any new arrivals and are rewarded with a near continuous supply of biscuits and toast crusts. It was at least an hour the other day before I realised that the labrador had his snout firmly wedged inside a jar of peanut butter that some generous visitor had given him.
But all of this is only possible due to the wonderful windswept Spring days we've been enjoying which means that the children can roam free range between each others houses until well into the evening. At that point whichever parent draws the short straw, gets their living room invaded by the tangle haired mob who commend ere the remote and demand endless popcorn refills. It has to be said that this is of course very slovenly, low maintenance parenting. But if one is willing to completely resign oneself to the possibility that your eight year old may be seen in the street looking like an Eastern European Street Walker after a morning experimenting with blue eyeshadow, or that your teenager may eat breakfast at two in the afternoon and that might well be left over pizza from lunch then you will find all is well with the world. If there is nothing to achieve then there is little possibility of disappointment?
Granted there may be the odd fleeting moment of anxiety when you realise that you can't actually remember where you last saw your offspring ,but then you simply remind yourself that they will home-in like pigeons when they are hungry. You will find yourself in a Zen like state of being, trailing aimlessly about with a dust pan and brush between the last departure and the next arrival occasionally muttering "I really should try and get some things done" only to find another day has passed and you are no nearer to achieving the slightest thing and yet painlessly, one step nearer to the holy grail of Back to School. So, as my teenage son would say, "Take a Chill Pill" sit back, stick the kettle on for your 14th cup of tea.. and ENJOY!