Not perfect but perfectly happy

Katherine Rees

Katherine Rees

First published in Columns Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , The Whole Tooth

Most parents know the holidays are coming to an end as tempers start to become a little frayed and the house looks more like a war zone than a haven of peace and tranquillity.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great. Nearly seven weeks reflief from the hamster wheel of routine drudgery. Lazy mornings, no homework and all round general enjoyment.

But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and here we are staring down the barrel of the long push to 2015.

The X Factor has started which negates the need to work out how many weeks until Christmas, though I am slightly embarrassed to admit my calculation method.

This week, like for so many others around the country, has been all about getting ready for the great return to school.

With our eldest starting secondary school, there’s been more preparation that usual.

New uniform, sports kit, trainers for every conceivable eventuality, new school bag, sports bag and that’s before the obligatory trip to WH Smith to stock up on pens and nick-nacks that will doubtless rarely see the light of day. Several hundred pounds lighter and thankful for the fact that I’ve at least been working over the summer to subsidise it, and I think we’re ready.

Haircuts have been done, heads have been checked for summer nit infestations and they’ve even all had dental examinations.

Usually in the last few days of the holidays, I suffer with the affliction commonly known as summer holiday guilt.

Have I done enough with them? Will the “what I did in my summer holidays” essay, stand up against the supermum’s kids who doubtless will have spent six weeks learning a new language and exploring the work of the late- 20th-century romantics during visits to museums and art galleries, all while she holds down a job as CEO of an international conglomerate?

Last week, in one final push, I raised my game and the gloves came off.

It was an exhausting week of child-centred activities, the sort that I know I should do more of, but after five minutes, I’ve lost interest in and I’m checking my Twitter feed.

Day one, heavy August rain, I hid the TV remote along with the Xbox controllers and every portable screen I could find.

The boys were wrenched out of bed a little earlier than the usual mid-morning and we planned out a day of baking, painting and reading. After spending more than the equivalent of a month’s worth of shop-bought chocolate brownies on ingredients, and destroying the kitchen in the process, we managed to battle through activity one of “supermum holiday experience”. The prize – a tray of crumbly chocolate bricks that should carry a dental warning.

Next came painting to expand their creative sides. The kitchen which had previously been covered in brownie mix and scrubbed clean, was covered in newspaper so as not to cramp the artistic process.

It takes a stronger parent than me to watch as their offspring fight and argue over whose turn it is to use the sky blue paint, and not scream, shout and become slightly irrational about the amount of mess they’re making. After a “perfect mum” lunch of chopped- up carrots and rice cakes, we headed to the bookshop. With instructions for all three to choose something to stretch and educate them, we left with a book about the death and destruction of WWI; yet another joke book aimed at eight-year-old boy humour, and a book called Growing-up For Boys, which on later examination was entirely inappropriate for an 11-year-old who spent the next day asking me about STIs and shaving.

By 6pm, I’d cracked. The TV was back on and the kids were tucking into a Happy Meal – I’m not perfect, and I never will be.

Life is just about knowing where your strengths lie and I am at least a bit better as an “outdoors mum”.

We’re nearly there and they’re nearly all safely back in situ at school.

I'll draft the what we did in the holidays essays for them, it’ll be easier that way.

For now let’s just enjoy what we all love – Xbox, fighting and Twitter.

Teachers – it’s over to you.

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