Summer can be a long 6 weeks for parents. That’s a whole month and a half where you need to constantly come up with ways to keep the kids either amused, engaged or at the very least quiet. But you made it. You made it through the big holiday. You made it through the trips to the zoo. You even made it through those last strapped-for-cash-at-this-point trips to the textile museum and/or model village.
So now the adorable little kneebiters are likely back in some form of formalised education or childcare where for at least five hours a day they’re someone else’s challenging opportunity for personal growth. Here’s how you can tell they’re gone.
Consumption of groceries is WAY down
This will vary wildly depending on how many drains on your resources (children) you have living with you over the summer period. We have three of them and during the summer they run a constant relay from television to fridge. A huge part of parenting in the summer holidays is trying not to let your kids de-evolve into worker ants looking for sugar. All the sugary treats are gradually relocated up to higher shelves or, better yet, elaborately concealed in other parts of the house.
Now that they’re at school the difference is like night and day! We can keep a multi-pack of KitKats for at least 2 days before it vanishes. Jaffa Cakes have also rallied back into pre-summer numbers. It’s not just edible items either. We’re seeing encouraging slow-down in the usage of toilet paper too. This is thankfully in direct correlation with a marked reduction in anonymous floaters.
Without the formal eyes-front, fingers-on-lips discipline of the classroom, children can begin to slip into a sort of feral, multi-directional conversation battle that lasts until one of them gives up or resorts to fisticuffs. Playing host to such a set of charming behaviours can often start to become, and I may be understating this slightly, rather stressful. When unrest can be started by a mere glancing touch of the foot or encroachment onto the wrong sofa cushion, managing to keep the peace can be emotionally strenuous. It also gives the home the cosy ambience of a busy pub kitchen during the lunch rush.
Once the children are thrust back into the bosom of education, the home begins to settle. Small woodland creatures no longer cower in fear behind the rose bushes. Perhaps most importantly of all it is now possible to sit through an episode of The Great British Bake Off without having to pause it every 47 seconds to attend to food and drinks orders, skirmishes, running taps and things that need wiping.
The stairs, pummelled to within an inch of their tolerances, now quietly creak back into shape.
Things stay clean longer
Keeping a house clean and tidy when children are living in it is a struggle at the best of times and often you feel like you’re no sooner done than its messy again. That’s a given. Par for the course. Tidying when they’re all in the house 24/7 is pure lunacy. It’s like raking leaves in a hurricane. The rate at which they create mess easily overtakes the rate at which we can put it all back in its place. Trying to match that kind of pace is a fools errand. Ultimately we find ourselves kicking things under sofas and flinging Shopkins and whatever tat has come home from McDonalds into whatever drawer or cupboard isn’t overflowing already.
But, now that they’re out of the house between 9 and 3 every day I can begin to regain some sort of order. I begin to fantasize about labelling the Kallax by age/category without reminding myself this never works for long. We can clear the layer of barbie shoes and hair bobbles away and return an hour later to a floor that is still as we left it. It’s even possible to start doing the deeper cleaning jobs like flipping the sofas over to see if we can find the NowTV remote (we can’t).
You’ve rediscovered hot drinks and full meals
When the children are in the house, the ability to stay rooted in one spot for longer than 98 seconds is a logistical impossibility. As a result, the to and fro of bogey removal or switching shoes around onto the right feet can be rather distracting. At least once a day I make a steaming hot cup of tea, only to return an hour later to find it has become a sad room temperature disappointment. Likewise, eating food can also be challenging and I find that many meals, especially lunch end up being a mixture of whatever the kids decided not to eat off their own plates and whatever they mercifully chose not to nab from mine.
In term-time though, there’s an almost supernatural calm to the house. I can put the kettle on, stand gawping at my phone until it’s boiled, then make a cup of tea and drink it HOT! I can leave the boiling hot beverage ANYWHERE I WANT! When not immersing myself in the joys of hot tea, I can fill a plate with all kinds of treats without attracting a cluster of children like pigeons around a loaf of bread. I am able to eat a whole pot noodle without beady eyes boring their way into my fork hand.
Don’t get too carried away though because…
That’s right. Despite a summer relatively free from coughs, sneezes and tummy grumbles, within days of returning to school the children have picked up some unwelcome biological passengers and dropped them back at the house. I don’t know if it’s some sort of junior fresher’s flu but without fail, the week that all the children excitedly start making new friends is immediately followed by the one where they’ve got a temperature and the washing machine is doing overtime.
Nevertheless, despite all the benefits of a quiet house and additional time to get things sorted, it’s nice when they roll back in and provide a welcome distraction from the fact it’s less than 90 days until Christmas!