This year our summer holidays haven’t quite gone as originally planned. Telling a 4 year old and a 2 year old that the week away to visit family and stay in a caravan by the sea is no longer going to happen, was one of the harder moments of being a parent. As was settling into a new routine following a change of job for my husband that removes any guarantee that the children will have time with him during the week. So it is with incredible pride that I write how inspirational our children have been in handling this change.
Shortly before the school holidays, we had a family emergency that rather shook our comfortable, secure little lifestyle. As a result we made the decision to cancel our much needed family holiday and rearrange it for a future date. I was initially faced with the inevitable “why can’t anyone help us?” question from our 4 year old, but this was followed by something quite unexpected. Rather than huff and puff like I had done the evening before when discussing it with family, he sat with his 2 year old brother, wiped away a tear and explained to him that we weren’t going away, adding, “don’t worry, Mama and Papa will still make sure we have lots of fun!” I noticed a few days later that the flow of ‘X’s moving across his wall chart towards the holiday week which had been filled with stickers and smiles had quietly stopped. He’d taken it in his stride. My 4 year old, who doesn’t much like change and who values time as “just the 5 of us” above all else, had dealt with this situation with incredible understanding and maturity beyond his years.
Absolutely determined to make the most of our ‘stay at home holiday’ or ‘staycation’, my husband and I threw ourselves into keeping our children happily distracted. For the most part I think we succeeded. Amongst other things we had a wonderful trip to Snibston Discovery Centre, we made a return trip to CBeebies Land at Alton Towers, and we went to Mary Arden’s Farm. We started ticking off all the local parks listed on the council website that we had not been to before. We made it to the sea to visit one of my sisters and her family. Our children were happy. Relaxed and pleased to have had that all important quality time with us.
I learnt something important during that week that I have thought before but perhaps not put into practice with such determination as I did then. Yes, children are, or can be, adaptable, they get over things very quickly, they take delight in new activities and old ones revisited, and you don’t, at this age, have to spend half their inheritance to be rewarded with a grin on the smile-o-meter (my eldest son’s measure of how happy he is). More than this though, I learnt that sometimes you have to prioritise differently. You have to grab time where it’s available and not be afraid to rearrange plans, but make the most of a new situation. You have to ask for help, and if the help and support that is needed is not available, you should not assume that you will absorb the to-do list one way or another anyway, it’s simply not always possible. If you make a promise of fun to a child, then keep it. That doesn’t mean that plans can’t change, it just means you should make the most of them. And learn from children to exercise mind over matter, get on with making new plans, stay focussed and keep positive.
My husband returned to work after a good break to a new role that has increased his time away from us during the week. Our attitude, however, has continued unabated. We’ve had trips with friends to Compton Verney, Ryton Pools, Coombe Country Park and Rainsbrook Valley Railway to name a few. We’ve explored old favourites like Charlecote Park, and new places like the pick your own fruit and veg at Malt Kiln Farm. As a family we’ve been to the Bristol Hot AirBalloon Fiesta, butterfly spotting, and on snail hunts. Now with a fortnight to go, we are determined to finish the school holidays with a final flourish of joviality. Never forgetting for a moment that it is the time together which is most important of all.