When children are very young, they are generally happy to do what you want to do in the holidays. It might take a while getting everything together. As soon as one child is ready to go, the other may have taken all their clothes off or require an urgent nappy change. You may spend several minutes looking for a small, but urgently needed plastic toy for the journey, but generally you are operating under a form of benign dictatorship – you dictate the destination and small people tag along. When you have teenagers or even seven year olds with strong opinions, things change. No-one ever agrees on the destination and many even question the whole going out thing and believe they will be much better off watching back to back Jane the Virgin all day. Even if bribed to go out for an hour or two they take hours deliberating over clothes, moisturising legs etc, so that you have half an hour to get anywhere before everything closes. Seven year olds hate anything that teenagers want to do and protest loudly [I HATE charity shops, do we really have to go into Poo Look AGAIN, etc, etc], and older teenagers suddenly announce that they need to be dropped off somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
I am firmly of the belief that getting out – even for an hour – clears the head and gets rid of pent-up energy and is a benefit all round. So last week we had several outings, involving swimming, nature [including an attack by hissing geese] and charity shops. There was a slight problem with the charity shops as they were actually closed by the time we got there. Daughter one had been meaning to get her friend a “cool” present for his birthday and we ended up in Tesco due to the 24-hour opening policy. We were getting fairly desperate and I was eyeing up the marker pens and a disco ball. In the end, we found a spectacular golden cake and a philosophy book and daughter three had her first chicken and bacon sandwich since she turned veggie. Everyone was happy. Even only son, who had opted to stay in the car with daughter two and sing the Eurovision back catalogue.
An advantage of getting to places near to closing time is that you tend to get a discount. We’ve arrived 20 minutes before closing time for a nearby nature park and got in free. On the most recent outing we got there an hour before closing time with a picnic – mainly due to the fact that daughter one, who is often the last one out, had stayed at home to revise. The park has a strange mix of animals – highland cows, emus, tarantulas and enormous pigs. We found a spot to picnic near a lake. Immediately two very loud geese loomed. They can spot a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich a mile off and they were determined. I have previous with geese and they always come off better. We withdrew and found a bench behind a bush where only son thought he was being pursued by wasps. “I HATE nature,” he announced to the trees and flowers. There then followed a long chat about the need for bees – for it was a bee he had seen – and the interdependence of nature. Only son was not entirely convinced, but he finished his lunch and started dancing down the path, doing some of his hip hop moves, on his way to the meerkat enclosure.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.