Roisin Ingle on . . . the summer schedule


I’m trying to remember what I did in the long school summers. I know we spent a lot of it down on the strand eating roast potatoes out of tinfoil. And I know I spent some of it in Herbert Park waiting for the Johnston Mooney and O’Brien men to throw down loaves of warm bread, of which we ate half ourselves and half went to the ducks. And I definitely spent some of it waiting outside the chocolate factory on Gilford Road for boxes of slightly damaged (but no less tasty) chocolate covered marshmallows to be left out as rubbish. I met a man the other day who swears that when I was 10 we were “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” for two weeks of one summer, so events like that must have happened. But there was no plan, as such. No schedule. No spreadsheet.

I have my children on a total plan. A packed summer schedule. There is a spreadsheet involved, although I refuse to have anything to do with it. I have joined in with the planning but I draw the line at spreadsheets. I made my own version in a plain old-fashioned Word document. Their father has a printed page with tables full of days, venues and times and around the edges is scrawled his impenetrable annotation.

The Plan tells us exactly what they are doing from the end of junior infants next week to September 1st, when they become senior infants. Senior. Infants. I wonder when we’ll stop calling children infants. Or if it’s just part of who we are. Or if it will change, one day, or overnight, like the Inter becoming the Junior.

I wonder if my five-year-old daughters know they are on a schedule and if somewhere in the middle of it they’ll ask can the schedule be scrapped and can they just have a normal summer holiday where they get up every morning with no clue of what they’ll be doing that day. Maybe robbing an orchard. Collecting insects. Spending a whole morning making mud pies. I definitely spent a lot of the long school summers making mud pies.

But for them, there is The Plan. First they will do GAA. That camp comes with a sports strip included which was the clincher. And we live near Croke Park so it’s important they know these things. After that they will go back to their old Montessori school for two weeks of summer camp. And I’m hoping Pam, who runs the school, will get them into reading books for pleasure instead of just for homework because I still remember that happening for me and I want it for them.

And maybe she could teach them to tie their shoelaces. And there’s other stuff I haven’t managed to show them yet.

I’ll make a list.

After two weeks there they will be much improved. They won’t know of the improvement but I will. I’ll buy them proper lace-up runners instead of ones with Velcro straps and I’ll feel proud as I watch them tie them up.

What then? Well then they are going to a summer musical camp in DCU. They will sing and dance and learn how to be panto dames. Oh, yes they will. And afterwards there’s a chance to be in Aladdin. But I won’t force them. I’ll see if it takes their fancy. Then there is a week off. A freestyling week. We will schedule some “play” “dates” and go to see Joseph the musical and maybe make mud pies, but I don’t know, it’s a bit messy, so maybe just pretend ones. I don’t think I was ever at a GAA/singing/dancing/ shoelace-tying summer camp. But these are very different times. We parents both work for a start, and for a finish there are so many brilliant things for them to do out there you think you must try them all. (The Irish Times will run a guide to summer camps this Friday if you have any holes in your own “schedule”.)

After all the camps there is the actual Irish holiday where the days will run into each other and there will be adventures and nothing will be planned. There will be ice-creams for breakfast and unexpected visits to funfairs and general adventures. Recently I listened again to the late Jonathan Philbin Bowman’s RTÉ Thought For The Day where he spoke of taking his son out of school for spontaneous adventures, for activities that weren’t on any schedule and I think how in the future I am going to be more like him. I’m sure my children will enjoy all that’s organised but I get exhausted just looking at The Plan and next year I plan to make it less full. I will leave room for adventure. The unknown. For days when there is no timetable and we don’t have a clue what is going to happen next.

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