School vacations are another one of those life events that are romanticized and idealized, filmed in soft focus and edited to make them look great. What a great time to relax and unwind, to let the kids hang out in their pjs all day, to let them just play. A week free of schedules and time constraints, a time to let the kids be kids, (after all, they won’t be young forever). It’s practically Hallmarked. But like weddings and Mother’s Day and other oft presumed evocative occasions, the pressure to enjoy the school break can induce panic and guilt and feelings of less-than-worthiness.
Or maybe it’s just me.
Surely there’s something wrong with me that I don’t like school breaks? Waving to other parents on the Friday before a week off, I hear odes of joy at not having to pack lunches for a week. Choruses of “Oh, it’ll be so nice to just hang out in our pajamas and do nothing!” Secret nods and winks of relief at a week off from the school run.
I feel like a failure. Chucking an apple and a cheese sandwich and some sliced veggies in a lunchbox, even schlepping to and from school, is, in my world, an infinitesimal price to pay for the few hours of freedom that school brings. Not only can I cook and clean and procrastinate writing my novel in peace, but my children are learning! They are tiring their little bodies and brains out. How is that not a win-win situation?
School breaks, in the winter, (so all of them in Denmark), when everyone else is away, and you have no family around to break up the monotony, and you live in an apartment, and you have er…active children, well, school breaks can suck. I start off with enthusiasm and good intentions, armed with activities and projects and recipes. But inevitably, my week-long holiday usually goes something like this:
Day one: Plan on letting the children sleep in (as I normally have to wake them on school days) and having a lazy day at home. Demons appear to have replaced children overnight. Demons awake at 6 am, rifle through bins of Lego. Plead with demon spawn to allow me time for one full cup of coffee before I help to build another Lego Star Wars ship. Seriously contemplate bribery involving Lego Death Star if they stop pawing through Lego long enough to finish more coffee. Start project of my own as they are playing relatively happily. Just as I am elbow deep, battles begin.
Day Two: Change tactic. Plan full on day of adventure. Organize museum trip, ice-cream, dinner out, scootering. Drag children who wish to stay home again to build yet another Lego starship out of the house kicking and screaming and sulking and whining. Enthusiastically point out exhibits of no interest to children because they don’t contain Lego.
Day Three: Desperately call around to see who is still in town for a play date. Learn that everyone else is sunning themselves somewhere with warm with a kids clubs and Mai Tais. Cry into coffee mug and nearly choke on tiny piece of Lego that is floating near the top.
Day Four: Realize that though nothing sounds more like a circle of hell than food shopping with two unwilling children in tow, it must be done. Try to bill it as an adventure, a family outing, helping mom out, pitching in, doing their part. Fail in every regard. Become indignant. Resort to the “when I was young approach”. Suck it up children. Suck. It. Up.
Day Five: Realize that today is the last day of no school and go into super mom frenzy! There are cookies to bake! Thank you cards to write! Science experiments to do! Board games to play! Referee a fight over which game to play. Yes, we can play Zingo if we can play Monopoly as well. Attempt to not leap over table and strangle 8.5 year old as he accuses you of counting incorrectly again. Land on Mayfair where his little hotel bankrupts you…every time.
Days Six and Seven: Spend two days cleaning and doing laundry and more food shopping and all the other things you didn’t get a chance to do during the week.
Day Eight, back to school: Wake snoring children up at 7:20. Make extra pot of coffee. Swear never to spend another school break without plans again.
Life is not unlike Monopoly. During school holidays, you don’t get to pass Go. You don’t get to collect your $200, which would normally replenish you for your next tour around the board. You go directly to jail. Far from the blissful, lazy days of your imagination, large chunks of the day are spent physically separating children, trying to squeeze in the daily chores while still spending time with the kids, convincing them that someday they will be grateful they have a brother, and avoiding the pitfalls of a carpet full of Lego. My children like the idea of playing inside, but I know it only lasts for a limited amount of time. Then they start to bounce off the walls. Literally. They beg and plead to stay home and play, but if they aren’t taken outside and run, they start to chase their own tails. And that is not good for anyone.
I spend a lot of time with my children. Far more time than I should, sometimes. I don’t need school breaks to maximize Mommy and Me time. I get plenty of Mommy and Me time as it is, thank you very much. So it was with great relief that I threw some apples and cheese sandwiches into their backpacks yesterday, made sure laces were tied, zippers were zipped, cheeks were kissed and sent them off to school. Until the next break.