I often encounter a strain of mum-culture on social media which encourages us to dread the arrival of school holidays – what a pain they are, and how awful it is to have your kids around, instead of safely ensconced in a classroom. Now, while I will agree that three weeks into the summer holidays our boys actually can have their awful moments, generally they are interesting and lovely little chaps, and I enjoy their company a great deal. It’s also come home to me recently that little by little, they are growing further and further away from us as they get older – which is quite as it should be, of course – and that has seriously made me appreciate these five days of holiday that pop up in the middle of every term. Here’s why I love half term weeks, these little oases of calm in the crazy round of school and work routines.
Firstly, they are the perfect length, and they come at just the right time. The boys have just spent six weeks at school, so they are ready for a break and are up for most things: a trip out, a day at home, or a ride to the shops on their bikes; anything that isn’t related to the classroom is generally greeted with enthusiasm. And because it’s only a week, as long as I mix things up a bit, they don’t have time to get bored of anything.
Secondly, there’s no major family event, cultural festival or trip away, with the massive planning and administrative burden these things usually bring. There’s no Christmas fortnight of food, presents, games, fun and general magic and wonder to orchestrate; there are no chocolate eggs, big roast lunch or rabbit-related atmosphere to conjure up; and luckily for me, none of our birthdays fall in half terms either, so no presents, treats, parties, and entertaining to sort. And while I do love doing all of those things, at their respective times of the year, it is also lovely to have some school holidays when all of that organising isn’t required.
And because there’s no pressure to co-rdinate any milestones of the year, I actually have time with the boys; time to play with them, talk to them, and get to know them again. They live in such compartmentalised worlds of school, hobbies, friends and home, and the older they get, the more marked this is becoming. Just having time to do some stuff together – baking, jigsaw puzzles, drawing, walking – means we have time to talk. I ask them questions about their lives and interests, and they feel relaxed enough to open up about the things that matter to them. For the older one, it’s friendships, Fortnite, and his first crush; for the younger one, it’s Horrid Henry, the Avengers, and Captain Underpants. It’s just lovely to know what’s making them tick.
When I started working for myself, I initially tried to battle through the holidays, working as much as I could around the children being here. It was difficult, and no-one got the most out of the break opportunity (see previous posts for more details: https://rlcwords.co.uk/2018/02/16/working-home-five-things-ive-learned-half-term/). Now I’ve got time when I’m not trying to fit a hundred other things in, I really look forward to them; not least because I’ve realised how few of them there are left, when the boys will actually want to do things with me the way they do now.
I’ve also realised that the best way to care for the bond we have with the boys is to connect with them in small ways like this, and do some of the things they’re interested in alongside them. So it will be my ongoing campaign to use these half terms – these little oases of calm in the ever-turning wheel of the school year – to pull our boys in a little closer for a while, before they start to grow away again; hoping that I will perfect this skill before they get harder to reach.