It’s a long weekend here. How’s everybody bearing up? If you’re working parents, like us, then school holidays — while lovely — can pose quite a challenge.
They may even involve some kind of shift pattern, with multiple parents and grandparents working as a tag team to entertain and look after the kids. It can be quite a juggle.
Take yesterday. My dad — good old Shen — took Michael and James to soft play for a few hours in the morning, which gave me the chance to meet a friend and work client for coffee to discuss some editing projects and the state of the world in general.
That’s the usual way with my favourite work clients, actually. About 45 minutes of general blether and gossip before a very rushed 10 minutes of ‘we’d better talk about what we’re meant to be talking about’. But it’s great and I’m very grateful for these friendships.
Then it was off home for a couple of hours at the computer before heading to soft play to pick up the kids. Is Adventure Island not the best place for a parent of young children, by the way? I don’t know what we’d have done with toddlers without it.
In charge for the afternoon, and wanting to make sure the holiday didn’t pass without some good quality mammy time, we went to the pool. As always, loads of fun was had. Much jumping in, splashing and shrieking. It was lovely to watch but I felt quite nostalgic too.
My kids are still small — Michael is seven and James is four (that’s him pictured in the Dory goggles) — but they seem so grown up and independent already.
Both have been going swimming since they were tots and both are having proper lessons. Michael in particular is pretty good as he was going to lessons in Tarbert for about a year before doing a two-week block of Swim Skills Two in Stornoway. He’s now on Swim Skills Three. James is also having swimming lessons in Stornoway, on a Wednesday afternoon, and just loves it.
But my water babies are not babies anymore. Gone are the days of literally having to hold onto them both in case they went under.
Now, apart from James occasionally wanting to “go on the boat” — which means lying on top of me, holding on to my straps as we attempt to swim together while mostly submerged — or play crocodiles in the baby pool, they are quite happy doing their own thing.
I have done the parenting job, as far as swimming is concerned. They don’t need to hold onto me anymore. And that felt weird!
Why am I so nostalgic already? Because the baby stage is past, I guess, but also because I can see into a future where they are properly grown up and I will wonder where the time has gone.
Everybody says that it passes in a flash.
When you have small children, it is particularly hard work and when I was in the thick of it – it really is much easier now — I found it hard to relate to that advice of “make the most of it; it’ll be over before you know it”.
I found it hard to understand the friend who, with two older teen daughters, said she would “do it all over again”. It was all just hard, hard, hard and seemed relentless.
But there was one comment that really stuck with me. “The days are long and the years are short.” From that moment, I began looking at it differently.
One of my Facebook friends posted something on her page this week that was so poignant I have been thinking about it for days.
Her daughter had just passed her medical school finals and is also getting married next month.
“This concerns me slightly as last time I looked she was only nine. Did I blink for an extra long time?” Katherine… I hear ya.
It is passing in a flash and the time seems to go even faster when we’re in the midst of that mad juggle and playing tag with childcare.
When we came in from the pool, I handed the kids over to my husband and went back to the pool by myself for a few lengths (putting on a wet costume… eeeeeew).
I went straight back home afterwards. “Just in time!” came the shout from upstairs. “He’s picked out a book for you! It’s a Gaelic one… hahahaha!”
I have only a little Gaelic so it takes me a long time to read a Gaelic book. It probably also sounds hilarious. But it’s one of our traditions — that James picks the story and that I read it to him.
He climbs onto the bed beside me, with his milk, and we have a huggle — half hug, half cuddle, and his own word (it’s a good one isn’t it?) These are the most precious moments.
Today? We’re back to the juggle. As I write this, James is watching “Scooby Cooby Doo” on Netflix and Michael is on YouTube (he loves these young American YouTubers) with headphones on.
But we’ll go out later and make some more memories. It’s chaos, being self-employed with a family because there are no boundaries really. Work time always bleeds into personal time — but it’s important to mark them off sometimes because, it’s true, the years are short.