Today, August 20th, has been crowned the most stressful of the school holidays. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow my tips and tricks for a stress-free day and defy the odds!
These declarations do make me laugh a little. How anyone can single out a date to be the most stressful with so many to choose from, I don’t know. And what’s the benefit of knowing it – it’s not like we don’t already wake up with a sense of weary dread. Apparently, the summer holiday in general has been cited as the most stressful time of year – which is a “fact” I can get behind. But just one day?
But let’s say it is true and today is the most stressful – never fear! We can beat the system! Several weeks of stressful incidents in, I’m ready to share my wisdom.
Don’t go out.
This may seem counterintuitive – most parents find taking the chaos outside much easier, and normally I agree. But take them out to any of your usual haunts? Crammed with all the other desperate families, who all seem to be back from their holidays. I took my troop to “our” “secret” spot in the local woods and guess what – turns out it’s the favourite hangout of every family in the area, leading to some big turf wars between the children.
Bored with our usual, I tried a different park – only to find myself getting murderous and the children hysterical in the ridiculously long queue for the swings.
By staying in, not only do you avoid the crowds but the mammoth stress of “put your shoes on!”, a clear win in my book.
Don’t get dressed.
This will instantly save you hours of stress. Dress yourself if you must, but don’t bother with the kids – if they’re like mine, they’ll have shed them all again in minutes anyway.
Don’t play Craft Roulette
By this point in the holidays I know to steer clear of:
- Felt pen roulette – turns out some in our assorted box are definitely NOT washable
- Finger painting – again, some indelible ones have sneaked into the mix, plus my kids don’t stop short of painting with fingers. Before I can say “let’s make a nice handprint for daddy”, they’ve painted their arms, legs, faces and little brother a brilliant orange which sticks to their eyebrows for days.
- Scissors – great for developing fine motor control. And for cutting your brother’s hair.
- Glue – mmm, yummy!
- Stickers – my washing machine filter is crying.
Play games their way
No, of course you’re not supposed to move your Battleship mid-play, but do you want to get through this day or not? After hours, feels like weeks, of trying to teach the boys how to play by the rules “because it’s right”, today I’m just going to let them choose their Top Trump card when they know what the category is, even though every fibre of my being is screaming against it.
Keep your distance from water play
Nothing makes me crosser than an unwelcome soaking. I’ve given up trying to playfully join in my boys’ water play. You can only spray your mother’s behind with a water pistol so many times before she begins to eye the paddling pool with a stiletto heel. To think I started the holiday with such joie de aqua, happy to run through the sprinklers to make the boys laugh, to spend an hour adding warm water to the paddling pool jug by jug. A few hundred rounds of towels, clothes and wet footprints strewn across the floor has turned me off this in again-out again staple of summer living. Until next year.
Don’t go shopping
Whatever you need, it can wait. The supermarket in summer is like a zoo, full of captive parents having stuff thrown at them by de mob happy children who scamper about every aisle seeking their kin. You’ve heard of borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbours – what’s a packet of fishfingers, some waffles and a bottle of wine between friends?
Don’t expect to get anything done
One of the reasons that August 20th is thought to be the most stressful day is that going back to school fever starts to bite, with minds turning to all that needs to be done before the beginning of term. Don’t succumb to the mass hysteria – don’t expect to, for example, get all their school shoes bought and haircuts done in the same morning (as I do, every time).
Sort out your copper jar
This is my No. 1 tip for keeping children occupied all day. Yes, it may expose them to all the evils of the great Mammon – greed, theft, bribery, extortion, blackmail – and a penny might end up in the baby’s nappy, but my tin of coppers and foreign coins has been my saviour. Do you know how long “heads or tails” can keep a child occupied for? It could just get you through the most stressful day of the holiday.
So are you with me? Let’s take the stress out of stressful and just enjoy a ‘full’ day today!
You’ve got another 10 days to panic.