It’s half term week for us. Some families have already had their half term break, some families are still waiting for theirs to start. We are facing ours.
When I say facing, it sounds negative. School holidays, for us and me are a mix of pleasure, and frankly pain. We have a little boy who struggles to adjust to the change from the more strict routine of the school day to the more relaxed holiday time. It’s taken me a long time to realize and process that my ideas of what school holidays should be, are actually not working.
Other people get excited about “no school run”, “no early wake ups”, “chilling at home”, “days out”, “relaxing at home”, “letting the kids just play”. I don’t anymore…
Some of that does happen for us and we do enjoy it, but to be honest, my small son doesn’t cope with dramatic changes in routine, and whilst he loves being at home, and I love having my kids at home, switching off into “holiday mode” that other people relish doesn’t work for us.
He likes routine, and familiarity. He likes knowing what the plan is, and for the day to follow a pattern. He needs a lot of stimulation physically, so we can’t sit around all day just watching TV and playing games. He thrives when we stick to a day that is planned and carried out in a way he knows will work for him.
I have pretty much been in denial about this, because for me, the holidays need to be about relaxing and breaking from routine. My tween also needs to be able to relax and it’s hard to juggle her needs, my needs and the needs of her brother, which are all very different. A lot of our holidays have been hard and emotional and we haven’t really coped very well. I have faced them with dread.
But we have a lot of school holidays left to face, until my children leave school and need less of me to manage their time and capacity so we are trying to do things differently.
Whilst other people are sharing about their kids having sleep ins, and sleep overs, late nights because they don’t have to get up early for school, and relaxing, we are sticking to routine.
If we don’t stick to routines we end up with sensory meltdowns, a small boy who gets frustrated, bored and anxious because he isn’t able to manage the transition from school term time to holidays. When you look in from the outside, you may not get what we deal with. If you don’t have a child with sensory or other needs, you certainly won’t get it.
We don’t have to get up for school, but we get up and get dressed and eat breakfast like we normally do. As much as I would love to lie in bed and let my kids have hours of screen time so I can relax, it doesn’t work for my small boy. He needs to stick to his routine. We won’t be doing late nights, or messing up the bedtime routine we have to fight so hard to keep smooth. We won’t be spending all day in our pj’s watching movies. He needs exercise and time outside.
We will plan our days. They will be a little like school, in that he will know what is coming and what we will be doing, and we will stick to that. We will be up and about and keeping busy. Not much relaxing for me (we have made plans for the tween, so she can relax and not be tied to the routine we plan for her brother all the time) but as a parent, it’s my job to manage life for my kids, so that we all thrive as a family. The husband and I have had to have frank conversations, about managing work (we both work) and life. I am very fortunate in that he also has my back and is prepared to help me with the holidays so that it’s not all on me, because I do work less in the holidays, and am at home more. He understands how stressful it can be. We don’t have a lot of family support, and I don’t expect our friends to pick up the slack. We pay for some childcare to help me to be able to juggle the holidays too. We sacrifice to make it work, for him, and for all of us.
So whilst we are on holiday, it requires a lot of careful planning. Days out with friends who know us well, to places we know our boy loves or will enjoy. A pretty strict routine at home, and whilst we do factor in relaxing time, it’s not the major feature. Lots of crafts and activities he likes to keep him busy. Lots of exercise and fresh air, whatever the weather. Minimal screen time.
We have to make the holidays work. I hate sending my kids back to school feeling like it’s been awful to have them at home. The revelation that once again we need to do things differently from other families because what works for them really isn’t working for us, is hard to face but like most things, once I accept it, I get on with it and try to make the best of it.
So, no chilled lie in time, lazy mornings or relaxed days for me, but I hopefully get a happier and more relaxed son out of it. He feels happier and more relaxed when we work around what makes him tick and cope. Part of being a parent of a child with sensory issues is helping them to blossom and manage life. If facing the school holidays differently is how we need to do that, then that is what we will do…