Time to be.
I love my job as a teacher: it’s engaging, challenging and often fun…..but it’s simultaneously exhausting and all-consuming and, when you add in the rush and noise of family life, term-time often passes by in a never-ending whirlwind of ‘to do’ lists, pressures, and endless activity.
Then come the summer holidays. Those precious 6 weeks that feel like the fabulous prize for all that exertion. I never cease to be grateful for their existence and I doubt I would have lasted long in the profession without this time to recharge, refresh and refocus so that I am able to return to school each September reinvigorated and enthusiastic about the year ahead.
And whilst term time challenges me in many positive ways, it is in the summer holidays that I find myself settling into the pace of life in a way that feels natural. In the summer holidays I feel more at peace than I ever manage to feel in the manic term-time days. In the summer holidays, I become the person I was meant to be.
In the summer holidays, I can read books that provide some challenge to my brain cells and enjoy them (rather than forcing myself to read because I know I should, but with zero motivation or enjoyment). I have read two books so far this holiday, both challenging and both completely absorbing in a way that I had almost forgotten was possible.
In the summer holidays I manage to exercise regularly in a way I long to do in term time, but can never find the motivation to maintain. So far this holiday I’ve played tennis and run regularly with Faith; I’ve been swimming with my girls more times in the past 3 weeks than in the 6 months preceding them (swimming is an activity I normally avoid because I just can’t face the hassle of all that changing and hair washing and effort!) and today I even managed to tick off another activity on my summer holiday ‘to do’ list, when I went for a bike ride in the sunshine with my eldest daughter, Ana. (On a slightly negative note, I also appear to be eating far more than I do in term time so there has been no corresponding weight loss to go with my increased activity, but I am clinging to the idea that my general level of fitness must be improving at the very least!)
In the summer holidays I cook lovely home cooked food (at least some of the time; the rest of the time I eat too many crisps and a healthy smattering of ice-cream!) and I’ve also baked two lots of fairy cakes and a blackberry cake with Faith’s carefully picked blackberries. This may not sound like a great achievement to the bakers amongst you, but if you knew my baking history (think repeated Instagram images of cakes, cookies and pastry burnt to an inedible crisp and you should get the idea) then you will realised how proud this has made me feel.
In the summer holidays, I find the time to clean my house. Again, this might be a commonplace activity for the majority of you, but for me, keeping my house anything close to clean is one those elusive feats that only proper grown-ups manage. But in the summer holidays? Why, I could almost start to believe myself capable of living in a house that I am not embarrassed to let people in to: the bathroom is cleaner than it’s been in a year; I can see the carpet in my bedroom; and I have even begun to sort through the piles of hoarded drawings, party bag toys and stationery in my daughters’ bedrooms. I’m also midway through sorting piles of ancient, unworn clothing and taking bags to the clothes bank and I may even get round to organising the crazy shelves in the ‘wardrobe of doom’ where bedding, towels, clothes we never wear and a pair of ski salopettes last worn in 2003, reside. Don’t get me wrong, my house is still a far cry from the level of cleanliness I’d like it to be and that other people seem to manage effortlessly, but it’s better than normal and for that I am grateful and satisfied.
Things are far from perfect: I am unlikely to get round to painting the front door which I started stripping in Easter 2016; I may also not make my intended trip to Ikea to replace the bedside lamp that has long since ceased functioning, but continues to sit by my bed; and I may find myself putting ‘upload and print photos from 2016-17’ onto my October to do list, but all in all I feel calmer, more organised and freer than I ever feel during term time when the ‘to do’ list feels oppressively crushing and interminably long.
In the summer holidays, there may be rain, there may be arguments and sibling rivalries, and there may be low points, but I cherish what this holiday has given me: the chance to get back to myself and feel renewed.