There’s something about the school holidays that brings things into very sharp focus for me. During term time, the kids are diluted by all the other stuff that’s going on – school by day, a play date here, an after school club there, and as a result its less common for all 3 of them to be under one roof at the same time.
When we holiday away from home as a family, there’s an intensity to it, sure. But on the whole we’re excited, distracted by all the new and different experiences – we’re lifted by the novelty, making the most of it, making memories to look back on.
But when we’re at home, and it’s the school holidays, it’s another kettle of fish altogether. There’s no buffer, no padding from the reality of 3 kids under one roof, 3 kids with all the energy that’s usually expended in the company of their friends, within the structure of the classroom.
And it’s in these moments that I really get it. That I am a parent. That I Have Kids. That my husband and I have willingly created this reality.
Don’t get me wrong, I caught onto that fact a while back. Each one of them was a wanted, cherished and welcome addition to our family as they arrived in turn. But when school’s out for a couple of weeks or more, when they’re bouncing off the increasingly grubby walls of the house, when I am responsible for making sure all that energy is expended during the 14 or so hours they’re awake, when I am the main recipient of their utterly relentless chatter, that realisation is a little more raw, and I am a little more startled by it than I am during the rest of the time that school very kindly does a whole lot of that stuff on my behalf.
And its during the school holidays when my kids seem to really get to get to grips with the reality of having siblings. Their interactions with each other take on an intensity, for good and for bad. This intensity just isn’t there in the same way when they’re at school, when they are absorbed and distracted from one another by their own classmates, their own playground games. My heart lifts when I overhear them engage one another in some complex imaginary game that goes on for an excitingly long time. For as long as that lasts, I am reminded why having 3 kids close in age seemed like a Good Plan, that we might be doing an ok job of raising them. I reflect on what lovely kids they are maturing into, how its great to witness them at play with one another, revel in them getting bigger, more independent, becoming friends with each other….. And then, as quickly as it lifted, my heart sinks as the angry screams start, the taunting, the teasing, the psychological warfare – and I am brought face to face with a different reality, forced to contemplate their less charming attributes with a clarity that their school days offer me some protection from.
I love the promise of the school holidays. I always have a little buzz the day before they break up. But the reality is always a little different. My idealised expectations always have to make a slightly unwelcome shift, as being home with the kids forces me to see them a little more clearly. Their beautiful moments are a little more beautiful, their angelic-ness glows a little more, but on the flip side, their less appealing moments are similarly magnified. It makes me think of the promise at the end of The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto to always hold sacred the gift of seeing our children.
I think that’s what the school holidays force us to do. To truly, deeply see them. In all their flawed glory.