When they were younger I used to love having my kids off school for the holidays. Their organised activities would take a break alongside the demands of academia meaning that we could do whatever we wished whenever we wished. It was a chance to visit museums, play in the park, climb a mountain, go for long cycle rides and picnics. It was a time to do new, fun stuff all together.
These days my kids each have their own ideas of what constitutes fun and it rarely involves me. I have found my own ways to enjoy myself, but having them off school impacts my day in ways that they seem unable to comprehend. They assure me that they do not need me, get annoyed with me if I am perceived to interfere with their plans, yet expect me to respond to their whims when it suits them. Their demands for food seem never ending, and if I am here then I am expected to provide.
This week, the February half term break, has always been a challenging holiday to make best use of. The lingering, winter weather is unpredictable and many places of interest have yet to open their doors to the public for the season. We plan a trip to the seaside later in the week but may struggle to spend much time outside without risking being blown or washed away in the current stormy conditions.
When my husband takes time off work he likes to be active. Not for him a lazy afternoon, curled up on a sofa with a good book. He will not take a computer away with him so is without the sudoku puzzles that occupy his down time at weekends. Having paid to go away he will want to be up and out and doing. He will be cross if our boys spend too much of their time on line, for that they could stay at home. He wishes us all to make the most of our time away.
When I think of an ideal short break I picture books, writing, long walks and good food. I enjoy people watching, experiencing new places, idly chatting about the minutiae of all that I observe. I want to store it all up and then savour the sights, sounds and experiences that I have absorbed at my leisure.
We had a still and sunny day on Sunday after a long period of wild, wet weather. I suggested that we take a walk and two members of my family opted to join me. It took us over an hour simply to get out of the house, worse than when I had toddlers to organise. The walk was well worth doing, enjoyable and relaxing, but I question why such a simple activity seems to require so much effort to make happen.
Yesterday, for reasons that I can no longer remember, I had organised dental check ups for myself and my boys. Why I thought this a good way to spend a morning off school I do not know. Once more, getting everyone out of the house was the challenge, mainly because I have a pathological dislike of being late. I would hate anyone to think that I consider my time more valuable than theirs and therefore that they should be willing to wait for me. I managed to get us to the appointment on time but arrived stressed. It was not a good start to the day.
This morning I am grateful to have the chance to relax. My husband is at work so, until my children emerge from their slumbers, I have a peaceful house. I can settle to write.
My writing has taken a short hiatus after a busy few weeks. Much as I have enjoyed entering the various challenges that I have chosen to take part in, these have not always fulfilled their initial promise. A story I wrote last week was read only a few of dozen times in a field that attracted a couple of hundred votes. My effort was not even considered by most. When the numbers start to matter it is time to step back, I see little point in me writing if it is not purely for my own pleasure.
I have new ideas though, for stories and for how I wish to present them. I also have new ideas about how I will manage the evolving dynamics of my family. It is good that we have a few days away to look forward to. I will have a room with a balcony view of the coastline and no requirements to cook for a couple of days. I may not be able to devote as many hours to my books and my writing as I would wish for, but I will have the opportunity to feed my imagination and replenish my soul with the beauty and power of the sea.
I will also have the opportunity to talk to my family about how they treat me. I find it so much harder to find those sorts of words than the ones that I write down.