A Month of (Silent) Sundays….and Summer Holidays

Oh dear. I’ve been incredibly silent these past couple of months.  So silent, that my blog is littered with ‘Silent Sunday’ posts and nothing else.

In case you were wondering if I’d fallen down a Pembrokeshire cliff, been drowned by Somerset rain, or fallen into a gin-induced coma thanks to 6 weeks of 8am-10pm childcare, fear not: I’m still here.  I may be slowly sliding into a small dark hole of boredom from lack of mental stimulation but I am still here.

The fact is I’ve simply not had the time to write.  Plus I deliberately gave myself a holiday from all social media for about 3 weeks.  My scattered brain and parched soul needed it.

I’ve not been short of things to write about, but I felt the need to stop posting and just live them for a little while. Space to think and just be is so important; it’s part of what holidays are for I reckon.

So what’s been ‘going down’ in our small world this holiday period?

Well, a mixture of much needed rest and recuperation, a wee bit of adventure and beach, plenty of sun, a gazillion tents, sketching, crazy-fun kids clubs, ice cream upon end, blissful no-agenda days and spiritual refreshment, mixed with a generous sprinkling of rain, arguments in the car, be-places-on-time days, short nights sleeping-under-canvas, and a large dollop of stress negotiating the new reality of hormonal eldest daughter.

Yes, but where did you go, I hear you asking?  Well, we spent half of our normal family fortnight holiday doing our favourite thing: exploring a new, beautiful part of the world, walking its cliffs and swimming in its shores.  Its name is Pembrokeshire.  We adored it.  After years of intending to visit, but put off by inevitable rain, we finally got to visit.  It lived up to its name more than we expected, but that’s possibly as we got 5 sunny days out of 7!  The beaches were simply stunning, uncrowded and made us feel like we were on a Famous Five expedition.  Here’s a selection of my favourite shots, taken in the area to west of Tenby:

Our trip to the quaintly named tongue twister, Skrinkle Haven (top left), how we stumbled upon it and how we got out, is worthy of a separate post (watch this space).

We returned very reluctantly, but necessarily, as OH was starting a new job (after 6 weeks out of work, even the best beaches won’t be sufficient reason to stay….)

The other half of our holiday, the first week, was spent doing something we’d never done before: going to a Christian festival/camp/conference thing called New Wine.  Held at Royal Bath & West Showgrounds in Somerset, a place renowned for its soggy summers and where thousands of families turn up and sleep cheek by jowl for a week, I wasn’t exactly ecstatic with enthusiasm at the prospect.  You see, I’m not the world’s best sleeper when it comes to noise, and despite being an extrovert, I really do like a bit of personal space, especially after a couple of days….. But, well, after years of people raving about how wonderful it is for their kids, coupled with good friends nagging us to go, we took the plunge.

Good word that.

Within 30 minutes of arriving, after the hottest July on record, the heavens opened.  Here’s my OH doing a valiant job of setting up the tent in the rain (with our wonderful friends and others).

New Wine Tent rain

The real English summer was clearly hiding in Somerset.

Despite that inauspicious start we had a good time, even if it wasn’t exactly relaxing.  Our kids had a whale of a time in their ‘gynormous’ kids clubs (I can’t tell you how many 5-7 yr olds my son spent his mornings with, being entertained by the most energetic, creative, zany twenty-somethings.  Thanks to them, my son now thinks the funniest thing is to try and burp the alphabet after enjoying a fizzy drink. Lovely.)  We enjoyed wonderful company.  I only cooked once.  I enjoyed listening to some fantastic speakers and worship sessions.  And had the privilege of encountering the new Archbishop, Justin Welby, whose wit, intelligence, wisdom and sheer down-to-earthness was inspiring.  But it wasn’t what I would call a holiday, so if we go again, undecided, it won’t be part of our family fortnight away.

Since then, I’ve been hanging out with the kids at home, taking them to swimming lessons and attempting to carve out a balance between getting out there to see people & places so we don’t kill each other get bored of each other, whilst ensuring I don’t remove that precious commodity of holidays: free time just to be.

You’ll note my wry ‘kill each other’ sentence.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit this to have been the toughest summer holidays childcare-wise. That’s because this year I got thrown my way two new phenomena that I had hitherto not experienced for 6 weeks. The phenomena could be described as Kids Going to Bed Later and Nine Year Old Daughter Suffering What I Call ‘Hormone Hurricane season’.

The former is largely down to my son who seems to get a burst of hyper energy after dinner that gets louder and more energetic at around 8pm. Cor blimey its annoying.  After a few weeks of letting him enjoy the freedom of the holidays and long summer evenings, our energy and patience (and sanity) got the better of us and now we try our hardest to ensure they’re in their rooms by 8.30, like good Middle Class Parents 🙂 Give him a book, audio book or pencil to do his 1,000 Dot to Dot thing (latest wonderful craze), and he’s amazingly quiet. But he’ll still be awake at 10pm most nights….

Anyway, that aside, the thing that has been most challenging, and shall we say ‘growing’ for me, has been my daughter’s moods that strike particularly hard in the mornings. She’s been showing the signs of the early stages of puberty for about 6 months through her verbal retorts and increasing slamming of doors. But this holiday has been like a hurricane in terms of force, sudden approach and unpredictability.

At first, I didn’t respond too well.  I let my emotions be roused and riled. That so didn’t work.  Things would get much worse.  By the end of last week, I was wrung out with exhaustion and considering checking into the nearest hotel for the weekend to escape (you ever done that?!).

But thanks to some wonderful advice from my even tempered OH, and my own mum, I’m starting to learn how to handle her better and help her identify when she’s hitting that ‘horrid feeling’ as she calls it.  Acknowledging this, the ‘horrid feeling’, and comforting her in that rather than tackling the latest cause of irritation, has been the defining difference. Seeing it as something that is as hard for her as us has been a turning point.  Things have been a lot better as a result and we’re enjoying each other again 🙂

At the end of last term, I wrote a couple of posts espousing the joys and importance of long school summer holidays.  You may be tempted to pass me a wet wipe to wipe the egg off my face 😉 But no, I still stand by my opinion. It may not have been as easy this year for me, but that’s not the point. The kids need the break from school pressure to perform and adhere to Chronos time.  It’s me who has to work out a way of coping with it – and that includes happily allowing them to watch TV or do whatever keeps them happy for an hour a day to keep my sanity.

So, as we come limping into the finish line and I see the Term Time Train appear on the horizon, I feel a mixture of emotions.  Sadness, gratitude and relief.  Sadness for my kids that the carefree, no agenda days are coming to an end, for children who so badly need much more of those than they get these days; sadness that clocks will rule the roost again, I’ll have less time with them, and I’ll inevitably have to resume the role of Umpire of their Day.  All this tempered with relief and pleasure at the prospect of having time for the stuff that gives me pleasure: reading the paper in peace, writing, swimming, cycling and starting new projects (like the charity fundraising website Jumblebee I’ve been setting up at the kids school). And, of course, gratitude. Gratitude for having enjoyed some fantastic trips and adventures that refreshed my body and soul, time off the treadmill and away from the kitchen and time with my precious family.  I take none of this for granted when I know so many people have to work through the holidays or can’t afford to do half of what we did……

FamilyShot.Summer2013

So, how was your holiday? Have you gone grey from the experience? Or are you watching that term-time Train approach over the horizon with relief? Do you relate to the pre-pubescent storms my daughter is struggling with? Advice very welcome…

5 thoughts on “A Month of (Silent) Sundays….and Summer Holidays

  1. I’m pleased for some routine to return but yes I’ll miss them and I’m sad this first summer in our new home has finished. Oh well, there will be lots more! Glad to got to do loads this summer, those beaches look amazing. Mich x

  2. Lovely to have you back, I’ve missed your posts! We stupidly went to the NFI youth-version of New Wine (New Day) when my first was 10 months old, as staff running workshops. I hate camping at the best of times, but this was absolute hell. He was crawling but not walking, and he woke with the dawn every morning. There was nowhere to go at 5am to entertain him. It didn’t start well either, as it took us twice as long to get there as google maps had told us it would, the baby was crying for the last hour while we crept along in a queue and then we had to set up the tent in waning light and pouring rain. We left early when my husband got sunstroke. Not been back since… I did love going to Taize in France when I was younger myself, but it is easier to put up with the trials of camping when you don’t have to look after small people as well.

    As for the hormone storm, I imagine I would/will react in exactly the same way you did! I struggle to see my 3 year olds tantrums as cries for help and cuddles and instead respond as if he is purposely antagonising me… Glad to hear you turned a corner and I hope it will get better from here on in!

    • Ah thanks, J! I hadn’t realised you were a Christian till I read your guest post on Suzanne’s blog about living abroad in Oz (which i never got round to replying to – loved it, esp as my OH is from Perth, Oz). Your trip to New Day with a crawling baby sounded like a nightmare. We never went camping with our kids until they were 5 for that very reason. Thx for commenting – I was wondering if anyone would read it as it was so long!

  3. Well, it was a very long blog post (hard to cull when been off line so long!), so deserves a long comment!! Round the corner from Tenby is alot more rugged and wild. New Wine? Hmm, well maybe I should add the line that I wouldn’t go back to New Wine again as part of our holiday. It wasn’t a holiday. And I found it really rather too long…..shame, as if it was 4 days i’d book it tomorrow. And yes, I’d love that blog post on handling hormones. I’m thinking of writing another one in a few weeks/months, but I’d love to hear your take on it. Sx

  4. Wow Siobhan, what a summer (In more ways than one!). I’ve never been to New Wine but contemplated it many times, sounds like you’d recommend? I’m not convinced I could camp in the rain for a whole week though!

    We love Pembrokeshire as have family not far from there. A couple of years ago we spent a went in Saundersfoot, just me and the OH – exploring beaches and hiking – beautiful place 🙂

    As for pre-pubescent hormones, we are flying high with it at the moment and I have found the best tack to be ignore where possible and don’t be riled by their constant need to wind you up. We have turned a corner with the middle child this summer (thank goodness!), largely thanks to a better structure where discipline is concerned and more consistency. I will eventually write a blog post on it!

    Phew that’s a long comment!

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