Groundhog Day

Christine Kempell can’t believe it’s term time again

Is it time to go back to school again? Where did those two months go? They slipped by in a haze of jim-jamma laziness, late nights and sleep-ins. I was full of good intentions to forcibly adjust their nocturnal body clocks, thereby easing them back into that 5.45am alarm shock, but sadly, it never happened.

With the beginning of term looming, my kids are more likely to still be wide-awake and full of beans while I’m yawning away and sloping off to sleep before them. I had meant to start chasing them up the stairs at around 8pm at least a fortnight ago in preparation, but after weeks of burning the midnight oil, they look at me now as if I’m crazy. Of course they’re not tired at 8pm. Not yet, anyway! After a week of those painfully early mornings though, they will be begging me on their jamma bended knees to tuck them into bed-ee-byes at a decent time. It’s just a shame every year that before the status quo is established once more, we have to go through all the mood-swings, tears and tantrums. And that’s usually just from me.

We get up ridiculously early here in order to get our kids into school for the 7.30am start, and for what reason? It can’t be for the purpose of avoiding the heat of the day, as us parents will wait patiently in the playground surrounded by a pool of our own sweat for at least the next couple of months. All I want is one extra hour before that dreaded alarm goes off, it’s not too much to ask, is it? Even if your kids were enrolled in a summer camp course over the holidays, and were still ruled by the alarm clock, it feels like a lie-in to get up at 7am. That’s why I love the holidays as late nights and lazy mornings are a luxury. It’s another challenge, however, to keep their brains active for the duration of the long vacation.

Many a sworn oath of mine is broken on an annual basis when it comes to keeping my broods’ brains ticking over the endless summer break. Tell me I’m not the only mother who doesn’t keep up the book reading, the handwriting practice or the mental maths repetitions. I always remember to do it towards the end of the holidays, but it’s not easy shouting out times tables when you’re fighting in the queues for schools shoes, especially as I’m embarrassingly fuzzy on the answers myself these days. (Curse those tricky sevens!) I’m sorry to say the only vaguely educational activity my kids did all summer was swap watching Hannah Montana for Horrible Histories.

Is it worth investing in those shop-bought exercise books, only for them to be found, at the end of the holiday, languishing unloved and empty at the bottom of a suitcase? Or is it better for my kids to try and beat Granny and her cronies at cards, which involves equal amounts of numerical dexterity as pages one to 76 can impart. Granny and her gang are all wicked card sharks, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit players who hold no stock in making allowances for tender ages. Charades contains many beneficial educational qualities plus interactive skills, and there’s a whole heap of fun to be had getting Uncle Albert to act out Camp Rock in his cardie and slippers. Perhaps I should get Uncle A to test them on their seven times tables too, as he’s got a sharper memory than me, judging by his recollections of historical significance. Or maybe it’s better to just play sometimes and catch up with family and friends.

I know people in the UK who complain that their holidays are too short at just five weeks, and their kids have barely mastered the art of doing nothing before they’re whipped back to lessons again, kicking and screaming. There’s no moaning about short holidays over here though, as by the time September has rolled around our kids are so sick of slobbing around in their jammas, they can’t wait to see their friends and get back to some kind of regimented order. I feel a pang of conscience that I should have spent more time honing their skills at long division, but my girls return relaxed and rejuvenated. At least they are looking forward to finally going back to school after so long. Well, apart from those early mornings of course.

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