For children who need structure and certainty, the summer holidays can be difficult. For the parents of children who need structure and certainty, ‘difficult’ doesn’t even begin to describe the test of patience, problem-solving and endurance that the summer holidays represent.
The sudden removal of a dependable timetable often induces a sense of panic that everything is going to start falling apart. So those anxious about food will start to obsess about it:
’I'm starving mummy, I need a biscuit, no I need three, can I have four?’
‘We’ve only just finished an enormous meal.’
‘What’s for dinner?’
‘That was dinner’
‘What’s for dinner tomorrow then?’
Those with fears of abandonment will try to drive everyone away:
‘I hate you, I hate you so much, you suck, you are a big loser and you are fat.’
And those with what are innocuously known as ‘control issues’, will enjoy throwing a spanner in the works just at the moment when the sandwiches are made, the buckets and spades are packed and everyone else is sat in a hot car:
‘I’m not getting in and there is no way you’re going to make me, here take my phone, take my DS, this is the worst day of my life and you are fat and I hate you.’
‘Come on, let’s just get to the beach and then you can dig a big hole.’
‘I hate digging holes and I hate you and I hate this family and I wish I didn’t have to live with you.’
With the pressure for holidays to be a well-earned time of super-enjoyment and relaxation the less secure members of our families will see this as a chink in the armour and try to drive a hammer drill into it. I have long disassociated the words ‘holiday’ and ‘relax’ and have learnt to make the most of the moments when everyone is contented. I find surfing therapeutic, it is absorbing and the only communication required of me is the occasional thumbs up or a sweeping gesture in the direction of the red and yellow flags. Cycling is good too, as long as I precis a ride with ‘It is no use chatting to me because I won’t be able to hear you and no we don’t have any food in the rucksack’. I also recommend booking a joint day off with your partner, during the autumn term. You will have to put up with the inevitable ’mummy and daddy are going out without us, that is so unfair, they never take us anywhere’ but it is good to regroup and stroll and to remember what you love about each other, without being interrupted. And don’t feel guilty, as David Cameron said, ‘everyone needs a break’.