I now have a child in Secondary School! With that in mind, it meant that this summer holiday was a period of change and transition. I had to ceremoniously cut the apron string and allow her more freedom that we were all used to. This meant a phone, keys cut and having to find a new parent identify. Am I strict mum? Am I cool mum? Still trying to work that one out.
What makes it all the more strange for me is that my firstborn is going to the same Secondary School that my brother and I went to. Twenty years have passed since I left, yet some of the same teachers still walk the corridors (as a side note, HOW YOUNG must they have been when I was there?) We have had lovely conversations around how life was in the “olden days” (!!!) and what I did at her age.
I am one of the many of my peer group that took full advantage of the housing crash to find a way back to where we grew up. The houses became temporarily affordable; now our children are following our footsteps through the nurseries, schools and shopping centres we once frequented.
History is repeating itself; so much so, that I now live on the same road as my lifelong best friend and our girls, born two weeks apart, are continuing the tradition of friendship. This made me think of me at the same age and the seemingly endless summers I had. It was a given that I would have unplanned days; be up every day and stroll over the road, often shoe-less as I thought I was a bit of a hippy, to my bestie’s house and stay there until my younger brother was sent to get me back.
Or, they would appear fresh-faced and eager at my door, and we find ways to keep ourselves occupied; I smile at the memories of making up dance routines to Paula Abdul, cake baking and generally “hanging out”. I can’t remember us never being available for each other (apart from the annual summer holiday to a caravan) and we would rush back to see each other, sharing the presents we had bought from “staycation” (before it became a thing”) catching up with what we have missed.
We just knew our time was OURS to fill.
Fast forward to this year, and as the summer holidays were coming to an end, it struck me the next generation had seen each other three times. THREE TIMES. Between work, childcare, play dates, activities clubs and family time, these two had only seen each other three times. Granted, each day was a FULL DAY and include at least one sleepover, but the coordination it took me and my best friend became laughable. It isn’t the first time I have to get a diary out to find out when we have spare time. That before the age of 12 years, my kids have a fuller and more varied social calendar that I have at 38!
I grabbed a cuppa with my friend of thirty years, and the mother of my eldest’s bestie, and discussed this with her. Where has childhood spontaneity gone? Can it be seen as a good thing? We had a bit of brainstorm and came up with some plus points:
1.) More disposable income leads to encouraging our children’s interests; not only are they having fun we are instilling commitment and hard work.
2.) Increased confidence so they are putting themselves forward for sports teams; from netball with weekly competitions to dance performance dance classes.
3) More Mums in the workforce, continuing our careers and businesses; leading to long days filled with holiday clubs.
Both our Mums had family friendly, term time jobs. It goes without saying that we have a practical motivation need to work; that even when you are self-employed it is hard to “take off the whole of the summer” (I worked 2-days a week apart from my two weeks holiday).
The thing that keeps coming back to me was “Am I over-scheduling my children?”
Are we being driven by the expectations that our kids SHOULD be doing all these things? Weekly leaflets in school bags from local activities. That a day of “nothing” is a wasted day? That value comes from being busy, constantly providing new and exciting opportunities?
It is about time we go old skool and let our kids create the schedule – to have unplanned days with a cupboard full of snacks in case the friends turn up. To give them the opportunities to get bored rather than hover over them with board games?
I can’t remember anything but fun during those days of summer; I want my girls to feel the same.
So, as far as I can, I am throwing away the diary for the next summer holiday.
About Clara Wilcox
Clara runs The Balance Collective. She is a mum of two with over a decade’s experience in recruitment and coaching. She offers career and return to work coaching for parents and flexible working consultancy and workshops for businesses. Find out more on The Balance Collective website or find Clara on Facebook and Instagram or connect on LinkedIn