The bee is summing up how I feel about the school break. It’s a constant reminder that the school hols are fleeting. I’ve blinked and pretty much missed them. How is it that they are ending next week? For the first time ever, I don’t want my kids leaving me to go back to school. I feel somehow lonely just thinking about it.
Of course, this is only because I’m currently in Stage 4 of the school holidays. By early next week, I’ll have morphed through to Stage 6 and all will be well with the world.
Stage 1 – Frantic denial
We know that there are six weeks of full-time kid-care coming up but we deny it throughout November and well into December. The kids finish school on the Friday and by Sunday afternoon we are frantically ringing around trying to find a carer to take them until we can put in our application for leave at work. Many of us bury ourselves so fully in the denial stage that School Holiday Denial merges with Christmas Denial (cue frantic phone calls trying to track down a leg ham / turkey / goose / chicken / whatever you’ve got that will feed 13 on Christmas Eve). If you find School Holiday Christmas Denial merging with New Year Denial, it’s time to make some frantic phone calls to find some professional help.
Stage 2 – Happy relief
Some time just after Christmas we sag in a heap, only lifting ourselves out of our summer stupor to smile mildly at the kids showing off in the pool. We are so utterly relieved to not have to get up in the morning to do the school run that we happily put up with the kids “look at me, mums” all day, every day, forever. “Look at me, kids” you languidly call back. “I’m doing absolutely nothing here on my sun lounger and I couldn’t be happier.” This kind of happy lounging goes hand-in-hand with a new kind of fantasy: we have staff doing all the jobs we’re not doing right now. So many, many staff.
Stage 3 – Latent adolesent frustration
Sadly we can’t sun-lounge forever and the combination of a few days of rain, an oversupply of Christmas presents and an under-supply of workable storage soon finds us quietly climbing the hand-smudged walls while we face the reality of No Staff, Not Even One. The Happy Relief stage is a distant memory as we break up fight-after-sibling-fight, screeching, “why can’t you all just get along” and retreating to our room with an immature door slam. Once allocated to the children, Time Outs are now the exclusive domain of mum. “Don’t talk to me, I’m in Time Out,” we call from behind the closed door. “But Jane is hogging the red teeeexta,” they wail. “Use my blood instead,” you hiss. “What?” they call. “Nothing, I’ll be right out…”
Stage 4 – Strange bliss
Somewhere between the sun lounger and the sibling rivalry we find a shaky peace. With a bit of luck, Stage 4 is the longest stage in the school holidays, although sadly many of never make it here. The kids have realised that whinging is getting them absolutely nowhere and that if they want to see their mother outside of her bedroom they are going to have to agree on a sibling truce. All that lying down in Time Out has finally cured your term-time ADHD and you can stay still long enough to read at least a chapter of your holiday book. The kids play harmoniously, you read luxuriously and supply food at regular intervals and the holidays tick by nicely. You start to think that you’ll miss the kids when they go back to school and whole minutes can go by before they ruin that fantasy with an outbreak of “he did / she didn’t / I wasn’t / she touched me”. You start planning Family Time and having Family Meetings to make Family Resolutions. You are a Unit.
Stage 5 – Re-entry panic
As school gets closer we start to panic. We’ve completely forgotten how school works and the kids don’t even remember what grade they are in. “I’m going to be in Year 3, no wait, 4… maybe 2… something.” The thought of having to get up in the morning before 9am is horrific and every time you see the words “lunch box” you are filled you with fresh terror. Home schooling starts appearing in your sepia-coloured dreams again, but the thought of having to oversee the Maths curriculum soon sees the kids trying on their uniforms, a sight that leaves you teary and in need of a quick Time Out. For better or worse, this Unit is going back to school.
Stage 6 – Back to normal
First day back and you’re up with the larks at 5.02 am putting the finishing touches on the school bags, lunch boxes, uniforms and handmade welcome-back-teacher gifts. This is the year where you are going to get it right. This is the year where everything will run smoothly. This is the year that if the school gave out merit awards for Families Who Get It Right First Time Every Time, your Unit would be boss. By 7.37am you have everything ready to go and a saucepan of wholesome porridge bubbling comfortingly away on the stove. By 9.02am the kids are woken by the smell of burnt porridge just fast enough to use the fire extinguisher to douse the flames. You’ve fallen asleep in a lunch box, your head gently nestled against an organic-vegetarian-gluten-slash-sugar-taste-free frittata wrap. You still have egg in your hair when you schlep the kids into Front Office for a late note at 9.42 am. “Sleep in?” the admin woman asks smugly. “I’d love one,” you chirp merrily.
What stage are you in right now?