As I write, those of my children still at school have just broken up for the holidays and sun-filled weeks of carefree joy stretch ahead of them until September, after which they will go up a year and embark of the next stage of their educations refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead. Well, that’s the theory anyway. The reality of course will be squabbles, boredom, rainy days, lack of parental engagement, long car trips to disappointing places and, if we manage to fit it in, a trip to stay somewhere else where all these things will be intensified.
I’m being unduly negative of course and it’s likely that the holidays will be combination of these things and we will look back fondly on the summer break as we always do. Nonetheless, school holidays can be a challenging time for children and parents alike, what with juggling childcare, finding things to do and trying to divide our concentration on both work and home to an even greater degree than usual.
Those of us without childcare commitments can feel just as frustrated, having to hold the fort whilst everyone else disappears (though the commute improves so much it is almost worth it), waiting until the schools start again and holiday prices come back down to reasonable levels. The knowledge that everyone else is scampering around on a beach whilst you sweat it out in town can be a little irritating.
I think we should all embrace the summer and try to reap the benefits the children are supposed to get:
1. Let off steam. This may mean running about shouting, it may mean lying in bed until midday, it may mean hanging about in bus stops (probably not) or building a really massive Lego castle, but adults need down-time too. If Lego isn’t your thing, do whatever it is you would like to do if you had all the time in the world. I am talking about an all-consuming, irresponsible, constraint-free indulgence in your favourite activity.
2. Do something new. For children there can be quite a range of new things to try but don’t tell me you have experienced everything you could have done. Have you abseiled or walked the Ridgeway or painted a landscape or tried yoga? New experiences reset our brains, so that we not only have new things in our memory banks but new ways of processing and using the experience in our daily lives.
3. Be bored. When was the last time you had absolutely nothing to do and nothing to distract you? Remember those pre-mobile phone days when being in the back of the car or at the railway station meant just sitting there with only your thoughts for company? Or lying on your back in the garden, staring at the sky? You weren’t actually bored, you were experiencing real, slow, inner life.
4. Prepare to move on. I am not talking about new jobs necessarily but encouraging you to remember those days of starting in the next year up at school in September. We didn’t know what the year would bring but we knew we would have to work a little bit harder and get a little bit closer to the end point of exams or the next level of education. If your career has plateaued, perhaps a little nudge is required.
I hope you do get to enjoy some carefree joy and sunny days this summer, but even if they are thin on the ground, I am hopeful that, come September, we will all have had a little bit of a break.