I was on BBC London 94.9 this week discussing the delights of the upcoming summer holidays and how on earth we’re supposed to keep our children busy during those eight long weeks.
It was a fun chat, talking about the problems of finding interesting things for them to do, while not reverting to simply throwing them in front of the telly or laptop for the duration.
Of course the big problem with the summer holidays is that dreadful four letter word.....work.
Unfortunately, I’m not a teacher, a lady of leisure or a fabulously successful boss of my own company. Therefore as a mere mortal I have to carry on working through the summer and childcare is always a big problem. When Molly was younger and I had a proper job (ie working for one company and going to an office every day), I had no choice. Other than the week or two I
took off for us to go somewhere, she had to go to the childminder every day.
Of course things are different now I’m self employed and work from home. Thankfully Molly is old enough to stay with me on the days I’m working from home and actually understands that she will have to entertain herself while I crack on with work. But of course there are still the times, for example when I’m out at meetings, when I need to find somewhere for her to go. Luckily there are a variety of her friends that I can force a play-date onto and, if needed, I still have my childminder available.
But let’s not forget eight weeks is a long time to fill and without the luxury of a bottomless wallet, we also have to try and make our entertainment on something of a budget. With my flexible working schedule though, I have promised that we will try to have at least one fun day out a week.
That might include a trip to the cinema, a visit to Hampton Court, a day’s shopping or maybe (if we ever get a summer) a visit to the seaside. There was also another guest on the BBC London show, a gentleman who runs themed summer camps for kids across the UK. They sound great, and Molly has attended a couple of these sorts of camps in Ealing in the past.
However, they’re not cheap and I’m sure there are many people who just don’t have the kind of money needed to send their kids to one of these. The conversation also turned to residential camps, and it was at this point my palms got clammy and I started to break into a cold sweat. You see, the conversation had started to bring back a memory that I really didn’t want to re-live, but I am going to be a brave soldier and share it with you now.
In 1976, my parents decided to send their not overly confident 11 year old (that’s me) to a residential summer school in Bournemouth. Apparently two weeks of fun and frolics were to take place with lots of kids from all over the UK. I knew only one other child there, a friend from home, but unfortunately she was put in a separate dorm to me and I hardly saw her. And when I did she looked like she was having a grand time with her new friends.
It may surprise you to hear that I really wasn’t very gregarious at that point in my life but I was also (as I continue to be) not exactly enthusiastic about sports and outdoor activities. Therefore my parents had really got it wrong as there was truly nothing I wanted to take part in, I was lonely and I cried every night. After a week we were able to call our parents (the age before mobile phones and constant communication), and I begged my Mum to come and take me home. Amazingly she said yes, and so a week early I managed to escape from what was, in my mind, not so much a summer camp but a prison camp.
I didn’t see my friend again for over 30 years as we moved to Brighton at the end of that summer.
When we re-met, she told me that she had envied me for years because my Mum had said yes to me going home, but her Mum had made her stay the full fortnight. Apparently she had despised it as much as I had, which of course I had no idea of at the time. I rang my Mum immediately to thank her once again for springing me from that awful place 35 years ago.
So the end result is that I would never push Molly into a residential camp over the holidays, in fact I wouldn’t force her into any activity that she wasn’t 100% up for, because the scars from August 1976 run deep within me. However, I will try my best to entertain her and find some fun, interesting and hopefully cheap things to do. If you have any ideas, please let me know!
NOTE TO SELF: Don’t worry, it’ll be September soon.