It’s that time of year again. In two days time the children will break up for the summer. Here in the UK the summer holidays are only six weeks long – you’d think that would be easy, compared to the months they get in other countries, right?
Not for me.
The anxiety started a few days ago. The fear, the broken sleep, the crankiness and racing heart.
Tiredness makes it worse, as does grumpy children, and the end of term creates both.
Summer shows, birthday parties, day trips, farewell gifts, celebration assemblies, things to sign, uniform to buy for next year, moving up days, heat and humidity, have all taken their toll.
The children are fighting non-stop and Hubbie and I are like bears woken early from hibernation.
I know the irony of writing this after my last post. Maybe the contentment makes it harder. Because contentment for me comes from routine and time alone. Knowing where I’m meant to be and what I should be doing, and periods without responsibility or conversation.
Ultimately the thing that makes it hardest is the view that dreading the summer somehow makes me a bad parent. I come across it all the time. Mostly from parents who work, who are glad to have some time with their offspring, or at least away from the office.
Most of my acquaintances have public-facing jobs, which I guess makes them more likely to be extroverts. They like being around people, they take energy from others. Introverts? Not so much. Even people we love spending time with use up our energy and it’s only replaced by periods of solitude. That’s hard to find with two small children and a needy dog in the house 24-7.
I long for the 1980s – children running free in packs away from the house, like I did. Even now, if we lived in a town or a cul-de-sac with other children, then maybe mine would disappear to a friend’s house for an hour or two without me having to arrange it.
Already the children have started the, “Can we…?” and “When will we…?” questions. For half term I scheduled every minute and we were all happier, but I want my children to be free. I want them to be bored. I understand the importance of benign neglect. But there are no trees to climb where I live, no woods to explore, without driving to get there. They’re not old enough to ride around outside on their bikes (even if they could) and I live on a main road.
So it’s trips to the zoo and park and play dates and picnics, refereeing arguments because child A wants to do one thing and child B another. Trying to give them the freedom of my childhood in a world that dictates I must ensure their safety. Trying to stop them being clingy while remembering the psychotherapist that told me ‘dependence before independence’.
And through it all there are those other parents. The ones who say, “I don’t understand why people have kids if they don’t want to spend time with them,” or, “I love hearing my children play and talking to them. I miss them so much when they’re at school.” Or the dreaded look. The one that says, “What a horrible person you are for not wanting to spend 42 days straight with your beautiful children.” Even my doctor questioned whether I actually loved my children.
Yes I love my kids. Sometimes I’m so proud of them I could burst, or my love for them is like a suffocating hug.
I am a good parent.
It’s taken me seven years of soul-searching to appreciate those facts. But I hate arguments, and my children are currently at ‘tantrum four’ and ‘stroppy/sulky six’.
I gave up writing for the whole summer last year, so I could be present and attentive and all those things, and then couldn’t write again until January.
For their sake and mine, I need time by myself, to write, to read, to breathe.
But being a present parent, a helicopter parent, an attachment parent, call it what you will, means my children want to be with me ALL THE TIME. My son sobs if I walk the dog. My daughter wants me to watch her cartwheels endlessly. I can’t pee by myself, even now.
So, judge if you must. I don’t care. Well, not much. The anxiety is with me all the time, your disapproval can be ignored. My son will still go to nursery some days this summer even though his friends have all finished. My daughter has drama camp and church camp. The holiday is planned and sorted and there are times I can be alone.
And I’m okay with that.