The cut-yourself-some-slack-guide to surviving the summer holidays
This guide was going to be called something altogether different with lots of great ideas of where to go and what to do this summer. Then I decided, ‘Hey! I’M not qualified to write this. Let’s stick to what I do best.‘ Then I couldn’t actually remember what that was. So I just wrote this. Because the secret this summer, which many of you clever parents already know? Is LOW expectations. (Also, Netflix. And gin.)
Start off slow. Unless you’re a rookie or have amnesia, like I apparently did on the first day of the summer holidays last year, EVERYONE knows you don’t do ANYTHING on the first day. Aside from loll around in your PJs, watching Netflix and eating custard creams (the kids can join in too, if they want). This has an ulterior motive, aside from the fact that you’re cream crackered. It helps to build up what comes next. Because after a few days of this, a trip to the supermarket is an exciting prospect for your kids. It’s all about setting the activity benchmark LOW. If you start off with an actual day out, where the hell are you going to go from there? Remember. The summer holidays are a marathon. Not a sprint.
Listen to your kids. Yeah, I know, why should you? They never listen to you, right? But if your child says ‘I don’t want to go to a castle, it sounds boring,‘ don’t hear, ‘Oh you DO want to go. You’ll really enjoy it when you get there.‘ Because the chances are, they won’t. And they’ll be a royal pain in the backside whilst you pay £30 for the privilege.
Make sure activities are age appropriate for the WHOLE family. Sorry older kids but if you have younger siblings, you ain’t doing squat this summer holiday but going to the park and watching Ben & Holly. I’m kidding. (I’m not.) It’s a fact. Two year old brothers and sisters change the dynamic and make everything blooming hard work to do. Parks are your friend. Any open space WITH a fence. Castles with fenceless moats and roaming ducks with NEON signs on their heads saying ‘Follow me to the fenceless moat!‘ Not so much.
Keep it simple (and free). There’s SO much free stuff to do wherever you live. Kids aren’t in the habit of knowing when you have/haven’t spent money and they certainly aren’t in the habit of turning around and showering you with gratitude for spending it. So get on the free shizzle train and save your money for all the gin you’re going to need to consume to survive all the free shizzle. Parks (check out London’s Royal Parks for a really special park day out). Fruit picking (ok, you sort of have to spend money here but also, you have got to eat.) Splash parks. The Summer Reading Challenge. Camping in the garden (always a hit for them AND you, because you don’t actually have to go camping and can just wave occasionally from the window). Cheap cinema tickets (most cinemas run school holiday programmes at discounted prices). Here are 20 more ideas that I allegedly came up with last year (there’s that amnesia again).
Keep it local. You don’t have to travel miles to have a good time. Although I do love a car journey, because that’s at least 3 hours of the day sorted where everyone’s strapped in and I can enjoy a coffee with my tunes turned up. (To drown out the bickering.)
Make a lucky dip jar. I love this idea given to me by a parent on the FB page. Get your kids to pick some things they’d each like to do, put them all in a jar, and then each day pick out one thing and go off and do it. Another great way to keep it simple (because I bet the stuff your kids come up with is stuff like flying a kite, making a sandcastle, eating an ice cream…)
Be realistic. One ‘proper’ day trip a week is enough. Don’t let the social media ‘We’re having a better holiday than you‘ pressure get to you. People tend to post pictures of themselves doing something fun, not pictures of the other six days of the week when their kids are staring at Netflix, whilst the parent bangs their head against the wall and wonders if they can drink gin yet. (God, I wish people posted more pics like that, don’t you?) Don’t compare yourself. We’ve all got our own challenges, number of kids, and different aged kids. Just figure out what works for your family. I have three kids and after yesterday? I won’t be attempting to go anywhere with all three of them.
Keep safety in numbers. For you, I mean. Hanging out with other parents and kids? It’s good for the soul. Your kids enjoy the company (assuming they like the kids you’ve chosen to hang out with) and it’s sanity-saving for you to have other adults to talk to (and drink gin with).
Take some time out FOR YOU. Don’t feel guilty for wanting and needing this. Some parents might say they relish every minute of the summer holidays but for every parent like that, there’s at least 100 climbing the walls and feeling anxious/ stressed/ overwhelmed/ crap/ drunk (delete as appropriate). It’s full on and I don’t mind admitting that one day in with another 48 to go, I’m SCARED STIFF. So, plan some time out for you. Because there are points in the holidays where no matter how much fun you’ve been having (HAHAHA), you just need to get away from one another. Put the kids in a holiday club or ‘lend’ them to grandparents/ childless friends who don’t know any better/ the postman. You’ll all be better for it. You especially.
Don’t rush. The earlier you get going, the longer your day is, THE LONGER YOUR DAY IS. Got it? So what if you’re not getting out of the house until midday? At least now you’ve only got seven hours until bedtime. Wink wink.
Get a job. If numbers one to ten leave you in a cold sweat and feeling worse now than you did before reading this, you could always get a full time job. I’m more than a little bit tempted…
We can do this! Because we have NO choice! HAHA. If you do want to do a day trip, some of our personal favourites are Leeds Castle (tons to do for the kids and has a walled moat!), Kent Life (compact with a great playground, petting corner and soft play), Greenwich Maritime Museum (completely free and HUGE), Jump Giants Trampolining Park (best fun I’ve had in years, although shot what was left of my pelvic floor), The 02 (lots of free shizzle), Kidzania (not cheap so this is your one paid activity for the week) and The BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour (possibly the most enchanting thing I’ve ever done). And we’ll definitely be watching a few films (or 20).