Thursday, 23 July 2009

Youpi c'est les vacances again

Despite being sick and peevish, and spending yesterday failing to fend off 'karate practice' directed against my head, I still think on balance the holidays are better than term time. I know! I didn't think I would be saying that either. This is WEEK FOUR OF TEN for me, anglo-saxons, you wimps with your six week holidays.

Given I am, as you know, relentlessly negative, let me set out the relative demerits of term and holiday for you.

Holiday Hell

- Packed lunches. Every. Fucking. Day. Handling "saucisson de jambon" a neon pink flabby luncheon meat made from horse penis. It's got to the stage where I get a Pavlovian gag reflex kicking in every time I open the fridge. In any event I might as well pack a whole pig's head in Fingers' lunchbox, it's not as if he even OPENS it. The child lives on air and stolen biscuits.

- Early finishes. All the activities I have signed my children up show a curious reluctance to keep them beyond 4:30. This is unfortunate, since by 4:30 I have usually managed nothing more impressive than desultorily clicking between four or five open windows and a short nap. Much as I try to impose my theory that the children have had sufficient stimulation during the day and can play peacefully for the remainder of the evening, I still find my presence is frequently required to remove fingers from eye sockets, vital Bionicle parts from the weepette's jaws, toothbrushes from the lavatory bowl.

- Driving everywhere. I feel like an extra from 'The Real Housewives of Anderlecht', loading my children up into my wagon of death and vaguely steering in the direction of whatever low rent activity they are signed up for. Even though there is virtually no traffic on the roads now Belgium is shut, I still manage to veer into the face of ongoing trams when fiddling with the GPS, or to park absent-mindedly in front of the police station exit. We are stuck on one CD in the car too, and I am beginning to hate Regina Spektor's new album as a result, which is unfortunate.

- The STUFF. Every week they come back with several cubic metres of carefully crafted, uh, tat - symphonies of pipe cleaners, polystyrene peanuts, loo roll tubes, feathers, clay. Casting a baleful eye around the room from my perch, I can see at least ten bulky creations - I particularly like the large blobs of clay with dried grasses stuck in them. The weepette is doing sterling work chewing up anything left within his reach, but I swear the stuff breeds overnight. I suppose this is my fault for signing them up for creative stuff. If they were just doing football it wouldn't be such a problem, but they have inherited my morbid fear of moving balls.

- The perpetual state of Two Child Stalemate (first identified in Waffle, 2009)

Me: Shall we go and do x (get ice cream, go to the park, go to the bookshop, look for dead things, throw slugs over the fence into Mauricette's garden)?

Fingers: Yes!

Lashes: No.

Me: I hate this. What am I supposed to do now?

They both stare scathingly at me, as if to say 'you are the adult, you work it out'.

Term Torture

- The endless tyranny of homework. Forgotten homework, misunderstood homework, homework covered in grease stains, the 8am search, muttering and fulminating, for rubbers and red crayons and always, ALWAYS pencil sharpeners.

- The ever present danger - nay, inevitability - of lateness.

- The last minute requests for €7,90 (exact money please), two yellow facecloths and a fragment of the true cross.

- The nagging unfocussed guilt at my failure to be a proper hothousing parent. For some reason my psyche takes a break from this in summer, presumably reasoning that the holidays are there precisely for the purposes of understimulating your children until they crack and finally agree to amuse themselves for more than 30 seconds at a time.

But I'll admit it - I rather like the holidays. I like the drifting, getting up late and still having time for a shower, eating pancakes for breakfast in front of the tv, having a half-arsed picnic dinner with the maurauding dog begging for crisps, not having to nag until the sound of my own voice makes me want to vomit.

Clearly, this could be summarised as follows: I am slack, and in the holidays slackness is allowed. I can revel in the rare feeling of social acceptability. Also, I think we all know that I would not be so sanguine if the CFO's parents weren't coming in 2 days to spirit the spawn off in their spanking new caravan (well, new to them. Apparently Fingers will no longer have to sleep on the table!) for a week. Let's see how the benign pro-holiday spirit holds up for two, doubtless rainy weeks in a Normandy village where electricity is viewed with suspicion and computers are witchcraft.

Pro or anti holidays, reader?


Mwa said...

I think overall pro holidays. Also being a slacker. However, being at home it makes for infinitely less head space. So I'll still be grateful for the arrival of that first of September.

Unknown said...

I used to love school holidays just at the stage you are now - half way through. My children are no longer school age. You have no idea how wonderful that sentence sounds to me - my youngest left school this summer - no more parents’ evenings where the fake smile starts to hurt five minutes in. I am now completely free to be as tardy and messy as I like. So pro children leaving school.

oneof365 said...

I am not a parent (and shiver at the thought at the moment) but can understand that it totally must suck to have to entertain youth when you are used to being with adults. I am shocked that you get 10 weeks. Wow! In America we are lucky to even get 2.5. So, am I jealous of the time off? Yes. Am I jealous of having kids with the time off? Truthfully, no. But, I've never had kids so I don't know what it is like to have that undying love and to put yourself before well, yourself. Hmmm....I can't imagine. I think you have a great sense of humor about it though---LOVED the description of the lunch meat (mmmm horse penis!).



Sinda said...

The Two Child Stalemate - yes, we encounter that often. I tell them that they have to work together to decide, OR ELSE I WILL DECIDE. Then I mutter under my breath suggestions they both hate, like going to the library (sob. They truly hate it.), the grocery store, early bed time, etc. Hm, seems like I need to come up with more boring and horrible choices, but those seem to work.

We have 10 weeks off here, too - the children do, anyway - but my husband stays home and I escape to my office. Some days I'm jealous, other days I come home for lunch, hear the screaming, and turn right around and leave.

On balance, though, I have to say I love the day school gets out and I love the day school starts - equally. I just love change, actually.

katyboo1 said...

I was having this chat with myself earlier. I wonder why I am so unhinged by small children when I volunteered. I realised today in the park that my jaw is clenched. It has been clenched for a fortnight. No wonder I am eating Nurofen sandwiches.

Yes there is the whole lounging in pyjamas thing about holidays. This is good. As is the lack of structure.

On the other hand, they never bloody stop do they? Every frigging thirty seconds it's something else. I'm on my knees and it's only half past one in the afternoon. Gah.

I am essentially fed up with it all. I convince myself i will be truly happy when they move out. In truth I will probably be lonely and bored. Conclusion. I am a pessimistic, relentlessly unsatisfied cow.

L. said...

Like oneof365 I am still hung up on ten weeks. TEN WEEKS. This is not new to me but it still fills me with envy and despair every time I hear about it. Is perchance your Belgian firm hiring?

My children are under 3 so I haven't experienced vacations vs school yet. There are daycare and non-daycare days. Child 1 will be going to full-time daycare in the fall and I think I will find it a relief but also miss him. Child 2 is very new.

redfox said...

While Belgians certainly get more vacation time than Americans, I think the full ten weeks is for the children, not for the Jaywalker.

Waffle said...

Hang on a cotton picking minute commenters. The CHILDREN get ten weeks. I don't. I have to juggle my ridiculous working hours to collect them at the ridiculously early times their activities finish.

Thank you, you may continue.

bonnie-ann black said...

i have confessed previously that when i was raising my two nephews, i infinitely preferred the summer holidays -- but then, we lived in the city and we let the boys loose in the park or courtyard, keeping a sort of desultory eye on them with the cooperation of the neighbors. no organized activities, except the occasional trip to the local park for crafts or playing in the sprinklers. no organized sports. we were lackadasical about their cultural enrichment, social skills and cleanliness. i went to work daily, but my sister was home with them all the time. all i know is i cherished the lack of nightly homework hysteria, the casual preparation of mealtimes whenever we felt like it -- not having to have ironed shirts, trousers and jackets daily. we just shoved them into t-shirts and shorts and then out the door. even weekends were more relaxed because you didn't get the sunday night dread in the pit of your stomach. (well, i still did because i had to go to work on mondays but still....)

they're grown up now, of course and they have to go to work every damn day too. (i'm lucky to get 20 days vacation a year -- and can't take it all at one time either!).

L. said...

Oh, all right. I know it is common to get six weeks (I think? At least I believe it is in France?) but ten weeks was just killing me.

Please allow me the liberty of blaming my stereotypical dumb Americanness on lack of sleep...

Clare said...

Definitely pro-holidays for the "slacker" reasons mentioned. Also NOT a fan of the "crafty" summer camps. Just picked my son up (in driving rain) and had to juggle him, my toddler, backpack and an armful of paper cacka (including a still-wet painting) back through the parking lot. Yesterday they made flowerpots out of...newsprint! Of course this immediately became a pile of mush and potting soil in the back of my car. Seriously-WHAT are they thinking?

Deebeelee on Twitter said...

PRO holidays - Big Time. The joy of non-uniform days, in both senses, cannot be expressed in mere words and I relish being able to dictate terms to the washing machine rather than it to me. No more 'brown tights, please, for the panto mouse' requests appearing out of mashed school bags 17 seconds before transport departs and no slinking off when there are calls for homebaking or sports-day helpers. Far too much parental involvement in schools these days - my parents were blissfully ignorant of my school career apart from results. Much better. Much missed!

screamish said...

i dont know about holidays. my life in france is governed by CDDss and every summer they kick you onto the chomage and every september they take you back on again. never mind the hole if the budget from bludger, what about the bastard bosses who use the social security as a way to make the state pay holiday pay for their employees?

oh yeah and the pigs head. i once came back from a red wined evening and let myself into my french ex boyfriends flat at 2am to find a pigs head in the kitchen sink. quite nasty when all you want is a glass of water to put your aspirin in.

The Spicers said...

We're halfway through our 10 weeks summer vacation and I'm now counting the days until school starts up. There is only so much going to the beach, the farm, and the pool that I can take. Camp is over and everyone is bored. Not to mention the ever-present 2 child stalemate...

Anonymous said...

Couldn't you just send them out to work instead? It strikes me that, even at below the minimum wage, ten weeks of child labour would be quite lucrative for you...

Z said...

I loved school holidays. Being free from the tyranny of the school run had a lot to do with it, also the lack of homework and regular hair-washing. And, in the case of my third child (the only one to go to a state school), no need for daily frisking for head lice.

Also, I used to make the children help with the housework in the holidays. And the cooking. Knowing no better, they thought it was fun. Hah

Anonymous said...

Being a teacher, I LOVE holidays! My own is old enough that I barely register her existence some days (and she mine), so I now have an entire ten weeks to indulge myself. Like you, I adore the unstructuredness, the sleeping in, the odd meals at odd times - but not the lack of a paycheque. Yes, we teachers may have the holidays, but we do not get paid during them. So there is a lot of budgeting done during every holiday break, for sure!

Anonymous said...

You've put it perfectly. The only thing worse than the holdiays is regular life. Or is it that the only thing worse than regular life is the holidays? I can't decide. It's worse whichever we're currently suffering through, anyway.

Or to put it more succinctly, hi-fucking-llarious. :)bravo:)

spudballoo said...

Oh God, I'm hyperventilating. My boys are 2 and 3...but it's only recently dawned on me that it's only a year til the Big One goes to school and then my life will be doomed by omnipresence of the presence of TERMS or, more accurately, HOLIDAYS. Crap, so no more throwing money at nursery to keep them for every minute that I can get away with then? Double crap.

I'm with you on the 'stuff'. Jeez, the bloody rubbish they come home with and then hoard obsessively. I know I should be touched/grateful/proud but mostly it's just a mess, let's face it.

They did hand prints on mugs last week, now messing up the minimalist loveliness of my 'good china' cupboard. Scream.

I'm a total slacker, but only on non nursery days (curses) and the weekend when I hadn them over to MrSpud. On nursery days I'm like a woman POSESSED, determined to get every penny's worth and every precious child free second that I can.

I'm a wonderful mother. Right up there with the gold medalists....

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