OPINION: Have fun and relax should be the whole point of half term

Ruth Davies and family enjoying the half term weather on the Norfolk coast

Ruth Davies and family enjoying the half term weather on the Norfolk coast - Credit: Ruth Davies

We had a rather slow half term compared to our usual, jam packed to the max, school breaks.

I’d previously decided, after lockdown number one, we needed a bit more down time in general.

I’d realised when you stop, allowing yourself to simply exist without commitment, it can actually be quite enjoyable. However, time moved on and it seems I swiftly forgot about the days of doing nothing, perhaps so enticed by the invitation to live again I couldn’t help myself, but this school holiday, without intention, I hadn’t made as many plans and found myself at loose ends from time to time.

I went into the week feeling panicked about the lack of 24/7 fun in the pipeline.

I wondered what on earth we’d do on the days when I hadn’t arranged to meet friends, go to an attraction or have guests staying? Obviously we had all those things happen as well, and with the holiday being just nine  days it didn’t leave masses of free time, but there was enough of it to worry we might be bored.

It's a topic I’ve spoken about with a friend many times as we coordinate our diaries for a meet up every time the kids are off.

Do we really need an all-singing day is what we ask each other, coming to the conclusion (always) that no, we don’t; kids just want to hang out in each other’s company and so do we. Then, like robots, we book something wildly expensive!

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We always talk about how when we were little ourselves a big day out was a very rare occurrence. Both our mothers were single and both of them struggled financially at times.

Big trips every holiday, let alone every weekend, just couldn’t have happened even if it had been de rigueur to have them, as it seems to be now. We weren’t in the minority though. It just wasn’t fashionable to DO as much, and there probably wasn’t as much TO do!

Once or twice a year we’d get taken somewhere like the zoo, and, if we were exceptionally lucky, during the summer holidays on a play scheme trip, we might get to go to Pleasurewood Hills.

We remember those days vividly and with great spirit because they didn’t happen often. Perhaps the experiences were all the richer for that too? I could tell you the names of girls I sat next to on rides. Girls I once knew from a play scheme, Badgers or the Brownies. I can still feel the trembling hand of another as I sense memory moments on pirate ships while we whizzed together high into the air on an adrenalin filled moment of excitement. My children, by comparison, have moaned in the past that they cannot be bothered to go to X, Y or Z again…

“You don’t know how lucky you are,” I tell them. “I just watched TV for eight hours a day most of the holidays when I was your age. Not only did I do that, but I had NO brothers or sisters to play with either, so stop arguing with each other!”

It does, of course and as with all children, fall on deaf ears. They don’t know how lucky they are but I probably had no idea how lucky I was either, being taken to the zoo at Easter and getting to go to a theme park in the summer. Most others probably didn’t even do that!

So… even though I’d dreamed of planning it, or not planning it as the case may be, and thought we’d be a bit less diary filled going forwards, it never materialised. Until now.

Alas, Omicron paid us a visit and took down one of our troops… my husband Jonny made it to the last day of term then, in every teacher’s nightmare scenario, he tested positive as the school bell rang. That put paid to some of the stuff I already had planned so I decided there wasn’t much point making any more.

Jonny, thankfully, didn’t feel unwell.

The rest of us, testing daily, didn’t succumb and we found ourselves watching family movies and playing board games. It was good. Very good. We all enjoyed the moments of calm and, I think, enjoyed the fun charged plans when we did have them, all the more!

We did make it to Pensthorpe, a theatre trip, one cinema, a couple of swims, the farm and friends coming to stay.

I took moments individually with each of them giving them the sort of love bomb they all need at times, living in such a large family, and it was busy enough actually. It was busy enough.

When Florence goes back to school and her pals are talking of their trips to Dubai or skiing, she’ll join in the conversation and mention her brilliant day at Wroxham Barns. Or maybe she won’t – she wasn’t keen on that joke when I made it the other day.

But whatever, she’s well rested, we all are, and we had a great break all together.

Ruth Davies has a parenting column at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk