We’re halfway through the summer holidays – a good point to reflect on more time spent with the family, different sibling relationships and being a good enough parent, says Alex Molton.
So, we’re over halfway through now. I am uncharacteristically organised about the return to school this year (uniforms bought, stationary purchased, new water bottles clean and ready for action) despite having worked most of the holidays so far. Perhaps it’s one of those ask a busy person situations.
Actually the holidays have gone by pretty quickly this year. Son#1 is starting to ask when they are going back to school – he always complains that the summer holidays are too long – but the other two are loving the lack of routine, later nights and lazy mornings. I do think it’s one of those examples of the different characteristics children are supposed to have according to where they are in birth order.
A friend recently sent me a video someone had made showing the different ways each of their three children act in different situations (emptying school bags, taking off shoes, clearing the table etc) and I have to say, for our kids it was spot on. Having watched it about 15 times, laughing out loud to myself every time, I then sent to all of my friends with 3 or more and they seemed to concur. Broadly speaking child #1 is allegedly more serious, focused, academic and mature; child #2 is more wild and rebellious and struggles with rules and routine but is a peacemaker; child #3 is outgoing, sociable and attention-seeking. Of course, it’s not as simple as all that but the plethora of research out there on the issues seems to show there is some basis for these principles.
Being the longest uninterrupted time with the children all year, I think the summer is often revealing to parents about where their child is at and what they are really all about. Son#1 has taken an unexpected lead role in our household this holiday – organising his siblings, keeping everyone on schedule with agreed screen times and even cooking for the family. It’s been wonderful to see him enjoying more responsibility, but without being bossy or overbearing.
As expected, son#2 has spent much of the holidays in his room playing Lego, reading and listening to audiobooks. He is a far more solitary animal and like OH and me, needs time alone and peace and quiet to recharge. However, he’s also come out of his shell more this holiday and been taking trips around town alone or with his brother, unphased about getting lost or any challenges he might face on the way. As he starts high school in a few weeks I am hopeful it means he will swim rather than sink during those first few tricky weeks of learning a new routine and meeting lots of new people.
Unlike her brothers, our daughter really struggles to entertain herself and likes to be occupied and busy with lots of plans. But as the holidays have progressed she has started to realise that actually she can do things alone happily for short bursts of time and has started to show more signs of independence, making herself lunch or playing football in the garden on her own. Fingers crossed this newfound confidence continues as the wet and windy weather begins and we are all stuck in a bit more.
With OH madly busy at work, and friends away, we always find the summer tricky and can struggle to find things to do which we can all enjoy. However, we have had some lovely but simple moments this holiday; lots of family movies with buckets of popcorn (Men In Black and Groundhog Day were surprise hits!), some cosy days out with the dog and more relaxed and chatty family dinners, with no-one rushing out of the door to meetings or activities. It’s been wonderful to spend more time with the children one to one playing board games, watching old sci fi tv shows or enjoying a late evening dog walk in the cool. They have also found ways to have fun together, which, given that the age difference between son#1 and my daughter is five years, is no small accomplishment.
But mostly it’s been really reassuring to see that they are ok. Despite the interruptions of Covid, our lack of grandparents, cost of living worries and all of the other stresses that come with modern living, they are in a good place. As a parent I don’t think you ever stop worrying about your children, but it’s important to stop and look and appreciate all of the positives, to see them as they really are and to celebrate all of the hard work that goes into raising a family. And to know that whatever the world seems to insist on telling you, you are doing enough.