They say the days are longer but the years are shorter. Maybe “they” didn’t take into consideration the summer break. I know I didn’t plan it perfectly for the kids; no regimental waking time and bedtime, no 7am swimming class, followed by art class and then chess, but I still thought we would sail through. Was I naive or just silly?
On the 276th day of this summer break, I faintly recalled my mum asking me during my own childhood, “When does school re-open?” Sorry mum, I feel you now.
Most of the questions that come from the kids - which by the way start as soon as they open their eyes - get the “hmm” reply. Yes, “hmm” that’s my favorite word these days. The questions are long, require great attention and I feel like I’m suffering from short-term memory loss.
Playtime comes at a cost
It feels like someone has told my kids that it is mandatory to take out every toy that’s in their room while they’re playing. Every little toy car, every action figure, dinosaur and animal, everything comes out or rather, is laid out on the floor; nothing’s left in the toy bins. I think they don’t want any of their toys feeling left out.
I had read that playing with Lego was an amazing exercise for developing creativity and resilience in kids and it’s good for their fine motor skills, etc. But, no one talked about how hard the clean-up is and, incidently, that stepping on one can remind you of labour pain.
Then there’s the Magna tiles, which I spent close to a fortune to buy and which I feel should be renamed ‘Mega Fights’, because of the number of fights that have broken out because either someone wanted a particular tile or someone’s “castle” got accidently knocked down by another. Every afternoon, a fight breaks out in the kids’ room exactly at 3.30pm when I’m trying to nap and it’s most often than not, the Magna tiles. To the credit of the creators, the clean-up is super easy, I think I enjoy it.
They’re such polished actors, my kids. The way they cry when the other one gives them as much as a gentle nudge - such amazing talent being wasted at home.
Food, food, food
Another thing this summer break that requires attention is the food. We need snacks every hour on the hour when we are home. My husband and I have had to literally re-budget during the summer break to make room for the endless snack supply.
Oh, and there’s bath time. Convincing them to get into the bath is a Herculean task. I read somewhere that instead of saying, “let’s go for a bath” 20 times, a better way is to ask them if their favourite toy needs a wash. That actually works. They are super excited to wash their 50 cars all at the same time. Pretend play starts and that can take 45 minutes. I can sneak in a quick phone call to my mum. Unfortunately, the wonderful parenting gurus didn’t tell me how to get them out of the bath without fights and tears.
Beach trips have been life savers. My boys can dig the entire day and not break into a sweat. So often we’ve spent hours at the beach and they wouldn’t even come and talk to me - happily excavating for treasure and just collecting shells. The trip back home is another story because there are always things being hurled around and our poor car gets wrecked with sand.
And we’ve made lots of trips to the bookstore and secondhand book stores to fill in our days. I love it when they just walk around the house with books in their hands and lie around reading or looking at pictures. It’s all great, until it is way past bedtime and they keep flinging books in your face to read some book which I haven’t read to them. Of course, dad doesn’t read as well as mum.
If it wasn’t the Times of Coronavirus, we’d have gone to grandma’s for the vacations and at least half the vacation would be sorted. Grandma would’ve been delighted to cook and read and simply take over the kids. But all we do is Zoom call her and that isn’t a great idea, because my kids have learnt how to share the screen on Zoom and show her random videos of how a bug can enter your body through a gash and lay eggs in it (sorry about the graphic details, but we’ve shared worse stuff with her). Poor grandma!
Very soon, we’ll be in grandma’s shoes. We’ll mostly get to see our children, our heartbeats, on the screen. They’ll be rushing to make a career, taking the quickest showers, reading themselves to sleep and we’ll be the slow ones.
After reading the 53rd book, when they finally sleep and I can see their little chests heave up and down, I can’t but wonder and be amazed at how fast they are growing and how beautiful they are. How curly the lashes are, how chiseled the cheek bones…how kind they’ve been to some kid who fell down at the playground today. How the big guy shared his special stuffed toy with the little one. How my days are longer but the years terribly short.
There are just 18 summers we have with our kids. As this summer vacation comes to an end, I hope I made it memorable for them.
-Fabiha Khalid is a mum of two boys, from India, who lived in the US for four years before moving to Dubai in 2019