Here we are at the midway point of the school Summer holidays.
The reason for my lack of posts (and I don’t usually feel called to justify any absence from my blog, but this time it’s important – to me at least) is a commitment to being present for the duration of the hols, not working whilst they are around. I am all too aware how working from home it is easy to be distracted or pulled in different directions when blogging or emails or writing or phone calls or whatever I am working on spills outside school hours and into the time when my boys are home. With big boy going up to secondary school in September, it was important to me that this holiday counts.
We have all done it… crossing the days off the calendar, counting the sleeps until a holiday or event. Excitement builds and expectations are high when school holidays are approaching and with the unpredictable English weather and so many other factors (such as work and other commitments), it goes without saying that the school break is not just an endless series of highs.
I had hoped that this week we would be away, but things don’t always work out as planned. We have been based here at home, doing necessaries such as purchasing new uniform, getting check-ups with our new doc and a visit to the orthodontist.
Yesterday, for example, we had to go get big boy checked up and assessed for a brace on his teeth. Though up early, we were out of the morning routine and even a 10.30 appointment was a struggle to get to on time (yes, we were a little late)! Once there, the mischief began, my frustrations rose, but greeted by the calm and kind orthodontist all that turned around and we left with the good news that T does not have to return for another two years. He will, inevitably, need a brace when 13, but until then it will not be necessary. We breathed a sigh of relief. Our next plan was to head to the park, but the grey skies opened before we made it that far.
There has been a lot of rain these past two days and yesterday there was also some disappointment on my part. I like to think of myself as spontaneous (ha ha), but when the little plan I had in my head did not work out, I started to feel sad. Thinking on my feet, I drove to the cinema first instead of the park and booked tickets for the next showing of Inside Out. The next show wasn’t on for an hour and the rain started to come down harder. There is little to do by our local cinema, but the boys spotted a car they wanted to take a closer look at, so we strolled over in the rain. The fish and chip shop had just opened and the comforting smell of fresh fried food entered our nostrils. Buying fish and chips at 11.30am was not part of the plan, but when one of the boys suggested fish and chips for lunch, I said YES!
Waiting for the fish to cook, big boy asked me, “Mum, do you remember when we had the best chips in the world and that MASSIVE sausage?” I did. It was a dark night on Clacton seafront… another Summer holiday idea that had not quite gone to plan, but a moment in time that was clearly etched on big boy’s mind. Smell really is the most evocative sense.
Back in the car with fish and chips on our laps, rain pouring down, windows steaming up, I felt such a mixture of emotions. I felt disappointment at the bad weather when I wanted to be out of doors; I felt relief at the news from the orthodontist; sadness that were were not in the sunny holiday location I had hoped for and then, as I often do, I turned my thoughts to gratitude. Here we were, the three of us all together, in the warmth of our car, watching the rain pouring down outside, safe and dry on the inside, eating delicious fish and chips about to go see a film that we were all looking forward to. And in that moment, my sadness turned to joy and I felt grateful that we are able to make memories such as these, even (and so often especially) on the days when things don’t quite go to plan and we improvise and have a different kind of fun instead. The film affirmed my thoughts in the car and yes, in the darkness of the cinema I laughed and cried and felt confused and then appreciated the film very much. You will understand (I think) if you see it.
Today, lesson learned, we went out in the little dry window between downpours to the park. I took coats and a ball, that was all and after the three of us had a little kick about and the rain revisited, I started dragging my heels and remembered to feel grateful for this time with my boys and then ran to a tree to make the best of it, watching squirrels dart about and small boy climb and big boy play ball with the other lads who cared much less about the rain than I did. And when small boy had enough of being out in the wet, he came to shelter with me beneath the big tree and watch squirrels too. And when the squirrels ran up the trunk and disappeared into the tree, we picked up sticks and acorns to make the very best of what we had to hand and played noughts and crosses in the rain and I felt so happy.
So many hopes and expectations… we set ourselves up for so much disappointment when things don’t work out as planned.
We may think we need the perfect circumstances to have fun and be happy… we do not. Simple pleasures = joy as well.
A wet and muddy park with a few sticks and stones can be just as much fun as the sunny island beach where we first invented a way to play one of our favourite games without pen and paper. It’s all a matter of perspective.
The more we allow ourselves to feel gratitude, the more there is to be grateful for. Let’s keep it real for what’s left of the Summer hols.