First morning of the summer holidays. It’s blissfully quiet in the house. Kids are either playing on the playstation, staring at the computer screen, or texting on their phone. It’s been like that for at least an hour and a half. Guilt starts to kick in and I call an emergency meeting in the kitchen.
“This holiday”, I begin.
“This holiday, I’ve decided that it’s OK for you to spend some of your time plugged into electronic things. I do understand that life is very busy in term time and that in the holidays you need to be able to wind down and zone out a bit…”
Kids look at me suspiciously, waiting for the inevitable ‘but’.
“However”, I continue, trying to ignore bored toddler who has already started to kick middle son under the table.
“I’ve decided to limit this ‘plug in’ time to one hour a day. The rest of the time, when we’re at home, you can play outside, make things, read, or just be.”
I think they’re still listening. I’m on a roll, so keep going.
“It’s actually easier than you think. When dad and I were kids we didn’t have anything electronic to play with and we still had fun in the holidays. If we managed it, so can you… ”
I catch teenager rolling his eyes, and daughter starts to sigh. I call an end to the meeting, just hoping I’ve made myself clear.
Ten minutes later I find teenager on the computer. I’m about to explode, until I see that he is googling the question ‘What can an extremely bored teenager do in the holidays?” I leave him to it.
Daughter decides to paint her nails, middle son is figuring out how to build a model out of Lego and toddler is building a traffic jam with his toy cars. I feel quite pleased with myself. The talk has obviously had the desired effect and I start to have a good feeling about the holidays.
I creep upstairs and dare to pick up an as yet untouched summer read recommended by my bookclub. Forget the housework, I deserve a holiday too.
Turn to chapter one.
Suddenly hear a sawing noise. Must be one of the neighbours working outside. Hear it again. Toddler comes rushing upstairs shouting that he wants to ‘cut wood too’.
Realise the sawing isn’t outside at all. It’s in our house – or the garage to be more precise. Leg it downstairs and find teenager busy cutting a thick piece of wood with husband’s saw. A saw which immediately screams out the words ‘A and E’.
“You said you wanted us to make things…” says teenager, as I stand there pale-faced.
“Great”, I say weakly, eyes fixed on the saw. How can I argue? I did say I wanted them to ‘make things’. It’s just that I hadn’t really had wood and saws and the potential loss of fingers in mind.
I try to keep calm, wondering if I have any bandages in the house.
Toddler starts tugging at my legs, screaming that he wants the saw NOW. Middle son suddenly appears, demanding help with his model. Daughter shouts down the stairs that she can’t find the right colour nail varnish. Phone rings.
I ignore the children and the phone and the noise of the saw, and retreat to the loo, toddler hot on my heels. Mull over the situation.
Perhaps I was being a bit mean limiting playstations, computers and mobile phones to an hour a day in the holidays. As of tomorrow, I’ll up it to two hours…