Getting it right (sometimes).
The summer holidays are now in full swing and our family have been busy filling our days with activity. Of course the sound of my children moaning, arguing, complaining and repeatedly asking ‘but what are we doing for the REST of today?’ comes as a standard bolt-on extra to the ‘summer holiday’ package, but, in the main, we have been doing a passable job of having fun and enjoying these precious days off school.
And there’s something else…something new and exciting emerging. Across the events of the past week, amongst the noise, drama, forgotten essentials, unnecessary delays and urgent toilet trips, have been brief moments when it has felt like we’re doing OK. That, despite arguments and chaos, we’ve ended up in a good place, having fun and doing family stuff that other families seem to do so effortlessly.
I felt it on Sunday when we took the kids swimming. We rarely go swimming, mainly due to laziness, weekend commitments and – if I’m honest – a distinct lack of enthusiasm from me, but on Sunday we attempted it. Yes, we may have misread the timetable and arrived two thirds of the way through the ‘wet and wacky’ family session necessitating a super quick change and maximum activity levels during our shortened session; yes, we may have been expecting the delivery of our new washing machine in the 4 hour window from 1pm-5pm which led me to send my youngest to call her father out of the changing rooms when he had failed to appear by 12.58pm; and yes, we may have had extended arguments before we left about who exactly had lost their googles and who exactly owned the only remaining identical pair; BUT….somewhere in the midst as I swam across that pool pushing a child on a float and launching a plastic ball at my husband’s head with rather too much force and rather too much enjoyment, I felt like we had achieved some kind of ‘family time’ victory.
I felt it again on Monday when I took the girls and the dog over on the ferry to Hayling Island thus ticking off one of the things on my list of ‘must do’ holiday activities. Again, this expedition was not without its hiccups. I may, for example, have underestimated quite how far the walk to the ferry was from our house (2.2 miles each way, if you’re interested, but I didn’t think to look it up until AFTER we’d arrived home exhausted and broken); I may have similarly underestimated the distance to the second pub along the seafront on Hayling (1.5 miles each way, if you’re asking), having dismissed the first as being unadventurous given that it was literally immediately in front of us when we disembarked from the ferry. I may also have underestimated quite how hot it would be given that we had a greyhound in tow who is not keen on long-distance walking, or indeed heat, and who managed to consume every last drop of our water supplies as I reminded my children that his need for hydration was greater than ours despite their parched throats and aching limbs. BUT…once again, there were moments (note the plural here) as I listened to my chattering children marvelling at the wonders of the Hayling ferryboat and the beauty of West Hayling beaches, when I couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride at our ‘great day out’.
And I felt that sense of achievement again today when we finally managed to get the kayak I bought my husband for Christmas down to the beach and into the sea. This too, was an expedition that had its own complications. It is true for example, that we had to spend upwards of £100 this morning to acquire the necessary accoutrements (roof rack and buoyancy aids) to achieve our goal and our reluctance to shell out more cash (after my initial spontaneous spend on the boat itself) may have contributed to the delay in the expedition planning. It is also true that anyone who tells you, shows you, or convinces you that roof racks are easy to fit is either magic or lying. I can vouch for the fact that it takes at least 2.5 hours to get your kayak from its position in your garden, to its new home on the roof of the car. And it is true that giant, plastic, three-seater kayaks are very heavy and that carrying them from the car to the sea may involve much howling and gnashing of teeth (along with the occasional tumble over a ‘sea cabbage’). BUT…when we finally managed to take turns paddling our kayak along the beautiful Southsea shoreline with our girls, I felt that now familiar sense of achievement and, as I walked up the beach (kayak bashing painful against my ankles), I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that we seemed to be doing OK …..
…and now I think about those ‘effortless’ families and I wonder if maybe we aren’t all more similar than I realise. To me, it may seem that everyone else has it sorted and that we are the only ones floundering around in near constant chaos, but maybe it’s about which direction you happen to be looking in. Look inwards and you see tantrums, arguments, pandemonium and turmoil, but look out at the rest of the world and calm serenity seems to reign. So for now I’ll try to concentrate on looking out a little more, because when I look out I see that we’re having fun….
…and who could ever want more than that from their summer holidays?