Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Nine Circles of Summer Holiday Hell

This blog has totally gone on the backburner this summer, while dealing with five children and the school holidays has pulled me further away from doing the things I'd normally do.

At the start of the holiday this didn't worry me.  I have done this a million times before (OK, about ten or eleven, but who's counting?), and I know how it goes.  Initial euphoria as school breaks up for the next seven weeks, followed by the realisation that seven weeks is a bloody long time to entertain everyone for, and the certainty that once the end is in sight I will be too exhausted and broke to care anymore.

This summer has been a bit of a disaster if I'm being honest.  What is it that people say about the best laid plans?  Well, mine have definitely gone awry and we've settled into a kind of groundhog day-like routine that has become my own kind of hell.

And Dante was right, hell does indeed have nine circles, and this summer holiday has been no exception.  So just in case you have been lucky enough to bypass this yourselves, here they are for you enjoyment.

1.  Children's Television (Limbo)

After the early excitement of having so much time on your hands, followed by a brief interlude of wholesome and worthy parent-led activities, it's normal to turn to the electronic babysitters to facilitate some downtime. Unfortunately what I'd forgotten about this (the luxury of child-free days now my lot are all at school) is that everything is on a loop.  A bloody long, mind-numbingly annoying loop.  Of cartoons.  If this was like watching every series of say, House (Mmm, Hugh Laurie's piercing blue eyes...) back to back, then it would be perfectly acceptable (oh, yes!).  Instead it's more like a box set style assault on the senses. A terrible, colourful, loud assault.  Oh, and it includes Scooby Doo (yes, they still really do show that).

Come, stand in the sweaty pit of balls while taking a photo.

2.  Soft Play and other "fun" days out (Lust)

When you are a parent, you might dream of all the wonderful days out you are going to have with your children "making memories".  What happens when it's raining (usually week two of the holidays) is that in the quest for memory making you'll be tempted to enter the greasy pit of despair known as Soft Play.  All you lust after is some hot coffee and an hour where your kids are jumping all over something that isn't your own soft furnishings at home.  What you get is two hours of being begged for fruit shoots, taking children to the toilet, and chasing them round the pit of stinking balls (you even have to stand in it FFS *boak*).

See, they'd all bogged off here, leaving me behind, shouting.  FML.

What's that?  Oh the weather's better?  Then you best head for a National Trust place and make those memories! (finally).  Except when you get there the kids are all so crazy on sunshine and fresh air that they run off in opposite directions, so you spend a large amount of time shouting for them to return thus destroying the peace and calm that you hoped to enjoy.  You lose your temper and go home.  Never mind. You've never liked their tea shops and homemade cakes anyway (oh, tea, lovely hot tea... *sigh*). You have taken some pictures for the Insta-sham though, so you can pretend it was good.

3.  Food, food and more food (Gluttony)

As the holidays get fully underway you may notice that there is one place that you seem to spend more time in that anywhere else.  Your kitchen.  Why am I always feeding people?  Why is everyone so hungry all the time? Are these Velociraptors or children?  Can walking barefoot over the crumb-ridden floor be classed as a pedicure? These are all the types of questions you may ask yourself. Then, to add insult to injury, the teenagers (who seem to be able to manage to fetch their own food - bonus!) open the fridge, roll their eyes and exclaim "why is there never anything good to eat in this house?".  Yes, it's time to move onto the next circle in your trek to the center of summer holiday hell.

I never usually buy these, except for when six year olds come shopping with me

4.  Supermarket shopping with children (Greed)

Normally supermarket shopping would involve a swift visit, list in hand, for some everyday essentials and would cost less than the annual GDP of a small country.  When you have to take your children shopping in the holidays the following will happen instead.  You'll forget the list.  In fairness you won't need this anyway as six year olds are remarkably good at "reminding" you of what you really need to replenish your kitchen cupboards with.  This includes seven types of biscuits, Pom Bears, cola and an ungodly amount of sweets. Oh, and a comic.  As you wander round the aisles, desperately trying to remember why you came here in the first place while attempting to herd your children away from yet another Shopkins display, you look down at the almost unrecognisable contents of your shopping trolley and consider that it might have been easier (and cheaper) to attempt shopping with a couple of baby goats in tow.  Then, as you finally leave, they all have a meltdown because you won't buy them Pokemon cards.  Aces.

5.  Back to school Shoe Shopping (Wrath)

Almost as soon as the school run becomes a distant memory, you suddenly realise that it's time to replace the school shoes of every one of your children.  Rats.  So off to the shoe shop you trudge, reluctant shoe shop hating offspring following, with only one aim.  A pair of shoes in the correct size and style for at least one child. Let me tell you, the wrath of several mothers all arguing in Clarks over a single pair of Lexie Jo (Inf) in an 11E fitting is not to be underestimated.  Even if you manage to claim your prize, you are bound to discover that the shop has nothing suitable for the other children until their next delivery comes in, either that or there is just this one pair - which happen to cost £48.  That's without V.A.T? (sadly I'm not even kidding). As I say, Wrath.

Boom!  I am the best at shoe shopping.  See my Lexie Jo (Inf) size 11 and weep.

6.  Never ending questions (Heresy)

So seven weeks with five children ranging in ages produces some interesting discussions as the boredom sets in.  From the constant "can I haves" and "can you get me" to teenage disagreements and their complete inability to see things your way (the correct way obvs.) and argue back at any cost.  People talk about loving their houses filled with chatter and laughter in the holidays but my house has just been filled with people asking something of me every minute of the day (usually something I don't like, agree with or want to do). It's not fun, it's just bleeding well NOISE.

7.  Sibling Fighting (Violence)

It's fair to say, where there are siblings there will be fighting.  This is probably one of the most inevitable parts of any school holiday, but with seven weeks filled with rows ranging from "she's looking at me!" to actual hand to hand combat over who's turn it is on the XBox, it can make you feel a bit on the edge.  Options for coping with this include leaving them to it and hiding in the kitchen with a family sized pack of Picnics or you could just use the distraction to get on with some of the other exciting holiday jobs you have to do...

8.  Labelling uniforms (Fraud)

One woman, fifty plus items of uniform and a set of sew in name tapes.  There are more difficult things to deal with, surely?  Well no.  After the first three name tapes take you nearly an hour you realise that your fingers are bleeding (never been very good with needles), your neck hurts and you have a dead leg from kneeling on the floor for so long surrounded by the sea of uniform.  So, out comes the Sharpie.  Your old friend.  This speeds the process up no end, but you know that ultimately you will lose half of the uniform as the pen will wash out eventually, or you'll have to sit down at half term and do it all again.  Oh well, at least you've freed up some time for your final descent into hell...

9.  Holiday homework (Treachery)

Who knew that schools set homework over the holidays these days?  Not only did it come as a bit of a shock to me that there would be no let up from reading schemes, holiday diaries and Spanish vocab practice but it seems that my kids forgot too.  "Have you done your homework?" I ask the teen girl.  "Oh yes mum, in fact I have hardly any this summer" came the reply.  And so I believed her.  Until the tsunami-like bedroom turning over incident, where she couldn't find the actually very important GCSE coursework prep sheet explaining in quite great detail what she needed to do this summer.  With less than a week to go.  It makes me wonder if there is any point in believing anything they tell me at all.

And there we have it.  I've reached the center (or the end?) of hell.  I may be down, but I'm not out.  And the good news is that I can at least escape.

And how did Dante escape from the center of hell?  By climbing down Satan's ragged fur, which sounds a bit grim if you ask me.  Fortunately it's a bit easier to escape holiday hell when you are a mum at the end of her tether.

You just have to wait for the sign.  The universal sign of freedom that signals an end to this madness.

Bingo!  There it is.  The universal sign for parental escape.

For as soon as the Parentmail pings into your inbox you know that you've made it through to the other side. Another year.  Another not so perfect summer holiday.  But, next year will be better.  I'm sure.


  1. hahaha! I found myself nodding along to all of this until the end! My girls were the lucky one's they didn't get any homework! hehehe

    1. Ahh, thank god it isn't just me! You were lucky with the homework! Thanks for commenting. x


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