I hate school holidays. They absolutely kill me. They deprive me of my routine and my sanity and I really don’t like it.
During term time, between the hours of 8:30am-3pm, five year old Focker #1 becomes someone else’s problem. I can offload him at school 5 days a week, knowing full well that he is going to be cared for, educated and exercised before being returned to me in a disheveled but happy state at 3pm. During that time I can dedicate all of my energy and attention to keeping Focker #2 happy, rested, nourished, and out of juvenile detention.
For most of the year, this simple routine works really well. Unfortunately for me and pretty much every other parent of school age children, some clever bastard decided that every 10 weeks or so, school will shut down for a couple of weeks. The reason for this complete and utter madness continues to evade me.
The loss of my precious in-term routine, coupled with the constant (and I mean CONSTANT) demands from a bored Focker #1 has sent me into a downward spiral. I’m grieving for my in-term routine, and much like grief, I’ve discovered that there are five very distinct stages to coping with the school holiday process.
Stage 1 – Denial
Not just a big river in Egypt (daaaaaad joke). This stage kicked in around weeks 6-8 of the school term. As much as I didn’t want to think about it, the threat of the impending holiday break started looming large on the horizon. Instead of acknowledging the coming break and planning some outings and activities, I covered my ears, assumed the foetal position, and made “la la la” noises any time someone tried to ask about my holiday plans.
Stage 2 – Anger
I’m sure it varies, but for me this stage started at around week 8 of the school term, and carried on into the first week of the holidays. I found myself angry at lots of different things. I was angry at the education system for daring to suggest that our kids and teachers needed a break. I was pissed at the weather for being so goddamned awful that we were pretty much housebound for the first full week of the holidays. I was (unreasonably) annoyed at my wife for daring to head off to her Kung Fu Panda free office every day, leaving me to suffer through the day with the fockers. I was cranky at all of the people who were smart enough to arrange an overseas holiday to a tropical destination with their kids during the holidays, and then Brag-Book about it. I was furious at the pimply teenager at the indoor trampoline place for daring to suggest that Focker #2 wasn’t old enough to be there (she wasn’t, but I was fucked if I was going to be the one to tell her that she couldn’t join in with her brother). Most of all however, I was angry at my kids. Again, unreasonably. After all, they’re just kids, but jeezus those little fockers know how to push my buttons. Oh, and I’m also angry at Lego, kinetic sand, playdough, and those plastic toy musical recorders. For obvious reasons.
Stage 3 – Bargaining
Going hand in hand with the anger, is the bargaining. Bargaining has taken on many forms for me during the holidays. Promising the sleep gods that I will stop with the foul language if the kids sleep past 6:00am. Making pancakes for their breakfast in exchange for the promise of good behavior at the supermarket later that morning. Dangling the carrot of a trip to the zoo in exchange for them picking up their own toys. Baking a cake and letting them decorate it themselves in exchange for a mandatory midday nap. Threatening to take away iPads as punishment for behaving like a couple of pork chops whilst shopping, only to experience a spectacular backfire later that day when they’re driving me nuts and I can’t fob them off with a bit of ABC For Kids.
The problem with bargaining is that inevitably promises get broken. The result? Anger. And suddenly I find myself looping back to Stage 2 again. It’s a truly vicious cycle.
Stage 4 – Depression
I’ve spent the past week in this stage. Not clinical depression per se, but definitely feeling more than a little bit blue about the prospect of having to endure another full week of weather induced cabin fever, and dealing with the niggling between siblings before normality resumes. I’d also be interested to know whether there are any studies that link frequency of stepping on lego with one’s mental health. I know it has done nothing for my disposition over the past few days.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
Eventually, after expending a not-inconsiderable amount of time and emotional energy in Stages 1-4, I’ve come to realise that the school holidays will happen whether I acknowledge it or not. I’ve realised that being angry at everyone and everything, whilst cathartic at times, doesn’t really solve anything. I’ve realised that I can’t just bargain, bribe and blackmail my way through the school holidays and expect it to not blow up in my face at some point. Most significantly, I now understand that allowing myself to feel blue about school holidays does nothing for me, my children, my wife, or the general population.
All of these realisations leave me with only one option.
I now accept that the school holidays are here to stay – at least for another week. With this acceptance comes a sort of inner peace, and a realisation that the school holidays don’t have to be a completely miserable time. Sure there are some rough moments, but overall it can also be a good opportunity to spend some quality time with both of my children. To collectively extend our middle fingers to the weather gods and get out of the house. To go for walks in the bush and on the beach. To organise play dates with other equally exasperated parents and their equally as annoying kids. To immerse myself in the experience the madness of indoor trampoline places in peak hour. To join the masses of SUVs, prams, mums and screaming kids at the zoo. To find some perverse pleasure in the searing pain of a piece of lego underfoot at 6am.
I should also accept that term 4 will be done and dusted in less than 10 weeks, and school holidays will be upon us once again. I should get ahead of the curve and start planning activities and outings now. I should book an overseas holiday. I should. Instead I’m going to hang out here in Stage 1 for a little while longer yet and hope that holidays get cancelled this year.