Taking stock of our entertainment skills


A DAD'S LIFE:Was their every waking moment laced with laughter?

TOMORROW THEY return. They head back in the door to new teachers and old headaches. I do feel sorry for them, nobody ever forgets the dull despair of the end of summer holidays (especially if you’re a teacher, he chuckles), but at the same time the relief is massive.

No longer will every day have a unique, individualised flavour. No longer will each day be predicated with the question: “So what are we doing tomorrow?” For the next few months, my loves, every day will be pretty much the same, broken up only by weekends where we will encourage you to let us sleep as late as possible while you catch up on Sponge Bob and iCarly.

The two-month window where we exist to serve their entertainment needs is closed, for the remainder we must still of course serve them, but the emphasis returns to the more practical. Dietary requirements, clothing, educational support. Sustenance and heat, pretty much. The rest is up to their teachers.

So, as they return to the arena that is primary education, I feel the need to grade myself on my own performance over the summer months. Did I provide the magical experience that they deserved? Will they look back in years to come and reminisce fondly over the hard yards their doting father put into ensuring their every waking moment was laced with laughter?

Will they heck. That’s their mother’s job. I’m just happy we got through the whole thing without any major blood loss. Having said that, it is important to take stock, so that we as parents can better prepare for the next summer onslaught.

Nice things what we had

We took them away. We cheated a little and squeaked in the trip right at the end of June, thus missing a couple of the last days of school but also avoiding the air carrier doubling our fare simply because they have every parent in the land by the holiday cajones. In doing so, we allowed the kids a week with their extended family in the sun, surrounded by beaches and pools and pizza. Happy, happy days. This was idyllic, but could easily have slipped in a prolonged capacity into the next category, which appears down the page.

We also enrolled them in a couple of obligatory camps. Ours were “crafts” and “horse” respectively. As a result we have a large number of ceramic, tile-related “pieces” spotted around the house, which I’m pretty sure the kids have forgotten ever making but which were presented with such a flourish on their return home that we, as sap parents, are unable to bin them. The only thing we got to take home from horse camp were excrement-streaked clothes.

On days when cloud cover broke for a half hour, they were taken to the beach. I can’t take credit for this. Even on a hot day I’m a beach curmudgeon; there’s nothing more irritating than sand in sandwiches. But shivering in the face of a roaring Atlantic, wrapped in fleeces and mittens, convincing yourself that it’s beach weather? Not for me. The missus was the main beachgoer and motivator in the face of all climactic disasters.

Still, when it’s written down, it does appear that their needs were taken into account over the summer months and efforts were made to ensure an enjoyable time was had by all. This would make us look like caring, considerate and thoughtful parents were it not for the next category.

Mega meltdowns what we had

They took place everywhere and knew no time too early or late. In fact, early and late is when they are most inclined to occur. And usually with an audience present.

Favourite places for meltdowns to occur include: the car, the supermarket, the back garden, the kitchen table, an airport security check, a motorway rest stop, public toilets, any restaurant, the supermarket again, leaving people’s houses, leaving anywhere, waiting in the car for people to decide they need to go to toilets on a staggered basis and then forget the rest of the family is waiting in said car as they settle into an involved game of Lego in the spare room.

Meltdowns are not exclusively the domain of the child, though they do have first dibs on them because they see them as a useful tool/weapon. For the parent, they are unforgivable but unavoidable and all the best ones start with, “Don’t you dare tell me to calm down, I am not losing it . . . ”

In a certain, semi-psychotic way I will miss the summer meltdown. But soon the season of the Christmas meltdown will be on us. In the meantime, over to you múinteoirí.

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