Ah summer holidays, longer days, slightly better weather (it is Ireland after all), lie ins (well getting up at 8.30am rather than 7am) and the constant task of trying to keep my energetic, curious and occasionally annoying kids occupied. Let me preface everything by saying that I am the eldest child of two secondary school teachers so basically I had access to both parents for the entirety of my childhood summers. This, when added to the fact that I only had to share my parents with my sister, had given me a kind of skewed, utopian expectation of July and August. Basically I got to hang out and play sports with my Dad for two months solid while my sister had my mum all to herself. In particular the tennis courts and pitch & putt course of St Anne’s park were favourite (and very enjoyable) haunts. When our “sunshine holidays”, as we used to call our trips abroad, were over I had the luxury of another 5-6 weeks of quality time with exclusive parent attention in Ireland to look forward to. At the time, little did I know how lucky I was.
This contrasts significantly with the world of “professional” parenting where annual leave days are more treasured than golden nuggets and the first thing that comes to mind as June rolls to a close is the number of summer camps which are available. Hey are the boys interested in archery? Sure it’s a two week camp in August, let’s stick their names down and give it a lash!! Also the fact that we have 4 children means that we are constantly overloaded when looking to occupy them, to use a rugby analogy we are constantly on “scramble” defense rather than “man to man”. I don’t know if you have ever tried to manage four under 10s of varying abilities on a pitch & putt course but it’s full of “watch where you’re swinging that!” rather than “get in the hole” and more time is spent searching for children than golf balls!
So now I have the situation where our “sunshine holidays” are over (Brittany seems like a distant memory despite the fact it was 10 days ago) and I am the sole source of entertainment, distraction and nourishment for my children. For some strange reason, the boys don’t seem to have been enrolled in as many Summer camps as previous years. I seem to recall (although I admit my recollections may be subject to unconscious bias) endless weeks of GAA camps, summer schools, golf camps, tennis camps, DCU camps but we only appear to have a rugby camp this time round. Now I’m not sure if this is because (a) I’m just not as organised as my wife (the traditional summer camp enroller), (b) the dates didn’t suit our other commitments, or (c) it’s part of some wife driven conspiracy to throw me in at the deep end! So the boys and Ella (2) are with me pretty much all the time with no respite in sight, suddenly that precious hour and a half of housework when Ella was asleep and the boys were in school is a paradise lost (only to be regained in September), who’d have thought I’d get so emotional about housework!
In my own mind I thought that perhaps having three boys aged within 4 years of each other would somehow mean that they could occupy one another and keep each other out of trouble! Indeed this has occasionally been the case, but only for brief periods of time before somebody has somebody else in a headlock or more commonly, somebody is rolling around on the ground exaggerating an injury and squealing as if they only have seconds left to live (only to jump up with glee once the offending party has been punished). The premier league has a lot to answer for!!
Another issue with having 3 boys who have inherited their father’s (and dare I say it their mother’s) competitive streak is that they all want to win all of the time. So first of all I have to invent a handicap system which gives Oscar (6) the same chance of winning as Lochlan (8) and Aaron (10). Now when it’s a team event like football or tennis I simply buddy up with Oscar and that normally ensures a tight contest but if it’s a singles event like golf or dare I say it a board game like Monopoly, Game of Life, Hotel, or Risk (the best way to alienate your children known to mankind) then it becomes much more difficult and complicated. Invariably one of the boys will storm out of the room when it dawns on him that he is in a metaphorical hole he can’t escape from. Sore losers, oh yes every single one of them (when I’m losing I just tend to use my greater knowledge of obscure rules to get back in the game).
So, in desperation I am bringing the gang to the Gleneagles Hotel in Killarney in order to recapture excellent holidays of past years (kids clubs!) and to meet up with cousins. The catch, Niki is only joining us for 4 of the 6 days so I will be on my lonesome for the journey down to Killarney (be kind to me Adare) and getting them settled into the holiday apartment (please let the oven work unlike last year). I foresee a lot of “go have a run about and I’ll see you for dinner-time”.
Pray for me and in any event how much screen-time is really too much?!