So, summer holidays nearly over. These were the first that have posed a challenge for us. Last year, despite Lois being at school, Liz negotiated a month off in August before starting a new job. Before that, they were both in private nursery or Liz was off on maternity leave. So this year it really hit home what all the fuss was about!
There was no discussion really, because the solution for us was rather clear. I, with the flexible job being my own boss, would be off for the summer. Actually, that’s an oversimplification. We booked holiday club for Wednesdays, we had a week away glamping, and I had the in-laws up for a week. But the rest of the time was down to me. And I can honestly say there were times I’d wake up in a panic in the weeks running up to the final day that I hadn’t booked them on a week dancing course, or enrolled them for surf school (do they take 2 year olds?).
The reality was both worse and better. Not having to get them out of the house by a certain time was a huge bonus that made mornings much more enjoyable than ‘normal’ school days. There are plenty of other people in the same boat, so organising things with friends was easy and even if it was just inviting them round it was exciting for the girls. On the downside, it seems that Lois and Carrie have yet to develop that bond that means they never fight… (when is it that happens??). It’s just an age thing of course, but there were times when what was needed was a separation of the two, which hardly ever happened but was very welcome when it did. (Note to self for next year…).
The biggest challenge for me was that I actually wasn’t off work for summer. I just had to be cleverer about fitting it in. Because summer is my busiest time as a freelance architectural photographer, it meant working evenings and weekends, cramming stuff into Wednesdays and hoping the weather would play ball (much of my work is weather-dependent), and calling on grand-parents for help. (My folks moving from Suffolk to Whitley Bay a couple of years ago does turn out to have some benefits!).
The time has flown by. We’ve visited the Hancock Museum, Rising Sun Country Park, Northumberland Park, the aquarium, Seven Stories, Beamish and the beach (quite a few times). We’ve been rock pooling at St. Mary’s Lighthouse, on the ferry to South Shields, and picked-our-own strawberries. And played with Lego (a lot).
The highlight, however, was Jollydays glamping, near York, for four days. No TV, no electricity. Sitting round a communal campfire every night toasting marshmallows and meeting people. Kid’s up late, and running around in the woods. And, for them, the highlight was the park on the site. As far as play parks go nowadays it was crap. Two swings hanging from a tree, a broken ride-on digger and a wooden playhouse full of leaves. But that was the point of it, because the place was about creating your own entertainment. And it worked – they would have spent all day there quite happily if we hadn’t been dragging them off for cultural experiences like Castle Howard. It really rammed home for me that what kids need nowadays is not always more and more interesting, outlandish and (probably) expensive ways to be entertained, it’s less interesting ways, where they develop the vital skill of entertaining themselves.
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography