Back in the day, half term used to be about homework, unremitting tedium and Jason and the Argonauts on TV.
These days, half term is about filling your child’s time with so many educational, healthy and fun activities that they’ve barely got time to sleep, let alone spend a nanosecond slightly bored. If you work during term-time, this is your chance to banish the guilt you feel when the Daily Mail/a Government Think Tank tuts at you every day, if you don’t work, this is a golden opportunity to justify your decision to stay at home by waking up each day with a new craft material embedded in your hair.
I fall into the first camp, and therefore plan to spend half term throwing armfuls of money and “mummy time” at my children with such force that they are unlikely to emerge on the other side without concussion. By God, we are going to have fun together if it kills me. And them.
Here follows my week plan (and certain financial ruin):
Swimming in public pools is tantamount to drinking a stranger’s bath water. Are the health benefits of taking children swimming not completely outweighed by the knowledge that they are sucking up gallons of other people’s mucus…and worse? On the plus side, neither of the children salvaged any of the buried treasure they’ve raised from the deep before, such as toenails, strips of toilet roll, scabs and old plasters.
Family craft sessions remind us about the reasons we wanted to be parents in the first place, in order to share these special, creative moments with our kids and make memories in addition to really ugly ornaments and pointless nick-nacks. Sadly, the reality is that your child is far more likely to bond the cat’s tail to the innards of a toilet roll than they are to bond with you. There are two reasons why crafting sessions inevitably lead to family disharmony: glitter and paint. Together, glitter and paint are the single most devastating items in any household. For years after an ill-fated Valentine’s Day card making session you will be finding glitter in seemingly inaccessible areas of the house – I once found some on a tampon. A tampon that had been in a sealed wrapper (God, my kids are good). After the craft session you will end up with one passable Valentine’s Day card. You will have made it.
Tuesday: The theatre:
Taking children to the theatre is no longer about broadening their minds. It is now about broadening their collection of maribou feather-trimmed light-up wands, wings, swords and comedy ears, each costing £5 a pop. Sitting in a darkened theatre with an audience filled with tinies, I always fear that the constant strobing lights from the assorted accessories in the auditorium will set off some form of latent epilepsy in cast members on stage. How said cast concentrates is anyone’s guess – they have to spend nearly two hours gazing out at what must look like the combined emergency services from six counties attending a road traffic accident in the dark. Throughout the performance, nearby children will talk constantly, cry, crawl around on the floor and bang their feet against your seat. Challenging this behaviour with the children in question’s parents is as socially acceptable as attempting to kiss the Queen, with tongues, as you’re being awarded an OBE.
See Monday (craft). This is why you had children! This is motherhood! Be warned: children are interested in two aspects of cookery; licking the bowl and making cakes look as if they have been vomited up by a dog which has recently eaten a box of poster paints. Anything in between is hard work, and should therefore be left to mother. If your children are old enough to spoon the mixture into cake cases on their own, their cakes will come out of the oven looking like the sunken nipples of a 900-year-old mummy. You will still be expected to eat them.
Thursday: Tennis lessons:
Unashamedly, the dream is there: that the boy will make it big on the tennis circuit, make a fortune in prize money and sponsorship deals and therefore allow his mother to live in the manner to which she is desperate to become accustomed to. Talent-spotted at an early age, according to the coach my son is showing signs of early promise. Having (finally) sat in on a tennis session, it turns out that “early promise” appears to mean that he recognises what a tennis ball looks like and knows that one day it might be nice to hit it with that heavy bat thing. Dreams of early retirement, fabulous parties on the family yacht and the purchase of a moated castle have been reluctantly put on hold until the boy manages a serve without running into the net.
Slump into a torpor, allowing the television, the DVD player, the computer, the PSP, the Playstation 3, Wii, Pokemon cards and the Tamagotchis to take the reins. Easter suddenly seems perilously close.
Now you must excuse me. I am off to make the felt bird mobile which was in the Guardian Family section on Saturday. Thanks, The Guardian. Thanks a fucking bunch.