However you’re facing it, half term is often a logistical nightmare and you get by the best you can.
Is it half term already? How did that happen? It feels bizarrely as if Christmas was eons ago and yesterday all at the same time. Any sense of post-Christmas taking it easy went out the window after day one back at work. Half term arrives with both a sense of having not planned at all for it and one of relief that there’s no school run for a week.
Of course, half term with teenagers is way less taxing than with primary aged kids. They sleep most of the morning and only emerge to complain of a lack of food before settling down to wall to wall K-pop. It’s harder if you have younger people who get up at the crack of dawn and need to be entertained and kept off screens as much as is humanly possible. First-time parents tend to set fast and firm rules about things like screen time, sugar intake and all that stuff, which is noble. If you have more children, standards tend to drop somewhat because you’re so busy just keeping the whole family thing going that you don’t notice a nine year old helping themselves to the occasional packet of jammie dodgers…
In our house it is a full-time job keeping tabs on what is going on in people’s lives. One teenager might be online to Childline about school issues while the other is having panic attacks about Spanish subjunctives and the nine year old is branching out into editing websites while learning yoga poses.
Half term allows some down time to research home yoga sessions on the internet and try to rally the rest of the crew to take part. Only son is also branching out into skipping and does a lightning speed criss cross thing which is amazing to behold. There’s inevitably a half-term project to complete based on Harry Potter. We’ve already made quidditch balls out of papier mache, but I deflated the balloons too quickly and the big ball – apparently called a quaffle – has imploded so we’re having to repeat the whole exercise. The only problem is we are currently looking after my mum’s cat while she is away and the living room, where the Harry Potter balls are drying, is the scene of the Great Cat War. My mum’s cat growls any time our cats come near, even though – or maybe especially because – our cats are her children. One of our cats has taken a great interest in the quaffle and keeps rubbing itself against it.
My mum’s cat has arrived with a full array of posh sachet food and cheesy treats which the other cats are eyeing with some interest and a growing sense of injustice that somehow they are somehow in the wrong house.
And people think nothing much happens when you work from home. Lately I’ve been helping out a neighbour with a few things. She had the Virgin people fix her tv so I went over to let them in with my laptop. Then her son was off school and she wanted me to make sure he wasn’t sleeping the whole day so I tried my hardest to wake him up by throwing stones at his window and climbing over the fence into the back garden [nearly impaling myself on the wood]. A bit of a tall order trying to wake a teenager when you can’t get in the house. I failed.
Now that I work from home half term is much simpler than in the early days. I recall numerous tearful occasions of plonking children in half term clubs that they hated. The only one that was remotely successful was a drama one daughter one did with her friend and I never managed to get a friend to do a club with her again because they all had a patchwork of grandparents, relatives and friends who were covering or other clubs which catered to the needs of their other children because, of course, many clubs are narrowly focused on one age group or one interest and very usually only run from 10am to 3pm.
I’ve checked out all the information schools send home and the cut-to-the-bone local authorities’ Children and Families online listings. In the end, due to the cost when more than one child was involved I resorted to all manner of ways around half terms and holidays, including signing up for a vast array of free trials for clubs and I was lucky to have my amazing mum not far away. You have to get by how you can until there is general acknowledgement that this is a whole society issue and not just about the lifestyle choice of a few individuals. Happy half term!