As a parent of school going kids one seems to have signed up for a continued cycle of learning and unlearning with the ebb and flow of the school year. Like it or not. During times of regular programming, one is content that our beloved progeny attend school, and are exposed to learning and play on various subjects.
Err, what I actually mean to say is that they are out of sight for those number of hours, in a secure environment, interacting with others of their ilk and hopefully also imbibing life’s lessons of sorts.
During school days, we have our days scheduled by the hour. The parent (mother, mostly, and contradictions welcome:) has the onus of planning and preparation – activities for the week highlighted, school clothes, shoes in order, school-lunches discussed and negotiated, assignments with their deadlines marked, etc…. The week begins with the ringing of the alarm on a Manic Monday, followed by a 5-min snooze and then the predictability of schedule takes over.
Until Friday, the day when the taut tension of the planned week seems to relax. Pace is slow, rules relaxed. Parental love and attention at its indulgent best. I have no inkling if my children are mindful of the same. Patience is a virtue abundant on most weekends.
Holidays though require a different approach. I hear vacation classes and stages in all discussions at the school gates. Numbers exchanged, recommendations sought and given. “I am going to be grounded”, a statement which shocked me when I was a non-parent. One which I may not speak to another today, but acknowledge to myself in guilt-soaked admission. Grandparents seem to be the flavour of the season then, next to babysitters. If things fall in place there is a trip to someplace – the excitement and planning keeps spirits buoyed before and after. If none of these, well we have a stay-home vacation.
I do realise that holidays are viewed differently by working parents and the stay or work-at-home ones. That said, no holiday can be spent without some amount of planning and preparation. So parents dears, buck up. I am no expert here and I am only sharing stuff that we’ve done over my three years of experiencing school vacations.
First and foremost, no sleeping in for the mother, or primary vacation overseer, if gender neutrality is being called for. Forward your alarm clock by one whole hour. Cooking still means pre-decided easy menus and finish these before everything and everyone else gets in the way. Yes, for the whole day. And you ought to have had your cup of tea or any other form of fortification before the rest of the household stirs. Now begins the fun.
You do have those coloured papers and paints or colour pencils handy? Don’t forget gum and scissors! Plan some projects well in advance. Today we will make so and so. If you have to refer to books or websites keep them handy. Sometimes it works, sometimes the project gets morphed into something else. Just chill, in any case, a half hour is max that it will hold their attention. The week before the holidays raid the library and get home a variety of books that will appeal varied moods and interest and ages. Personally avoid having anything cold that will give you a sore throat and affect voice modulation. You also need to shout at times.
Let yourselves loose in the garden, park. If they find a tree to climb, encourage them and send up silent prayers. Visit the swimming pool, one can splash away a couple of hours there. Other children make vacations seem very much bearable. So if that’s possible, make plans. Arrange mutual play-dates with other kids and parents if not at home, at the park, etc. So far, I have not mentioned TV but you could schedule that in too for half-hour intervals. Plan some household chores together – putting the bookshelf in order, dusting, arranging the flowers, etc. Board games, cards are fun too and inspire fun and competition at the same time.
How about a picnic even if you are going to eat in your own balcony or garden? Does dressing up for a tea-party sound cool? Learn a whole song or dance and practice it with all those rewinds and forwards. Talk, really talk to your children, sometimes we are so intent on doing and ticking the boxes that we gloss over this basic and vital connector. Answer questions.
If your kids are older, exploring your town/city is an interesting option too. Be prepared for this question – “What should we do now/next?” thrown at you at frequent unpredictable intervals. Jot down some answers – let’s wash our hands, drink some water, water the plants, build this puzzle, meditate with eyes closed and absolute silence… well, whatever. Sometimes play the Silence game – the one who speaks first is a donkey and will wear this tail. Actually, play it often.
Sometimes do nothing, get bored, let them think for themselves. It is then that pretend-pretend games like, “Juffrows (teachers) on safari” or “Bakers under the table” get played. Seriously, you have to push these kids of today at it. I remember my own summer holidays dark room and dabba ice-spice and cousins and a total absence of parents.
Last year, my daughter started with a daily journal for about 2 weeks, filled with drawings of what she did every day. At the end of that period, the images were highly reluctant. She also learnt cycling. We also used this time to fully potty-train my little one. Little steps towards being self-reliant. Without the time-constraints and demands of school days this was easier to achieve.
Enjoy some afternoon siestas with mandatory story-telling sessions to catch your breath. Too tired to plan, ask them for suggestions. Be a sport. Take it easy, make it memorable. After all, the best holiday memories are of doing nothing much – a break from our minutely scheduled lives. Remember about best laid plans of mice and men…Happy holidays!
Vibha, aka Chatty Wren, is a full-time mother to two delightful little girls. She blogs at http://wrenwarbles.blogspot.com about her life with her little ones, ups and downs of living in a foreign country and anything else that catches her fancy.