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Last weekend of the holidays

April 21, 2013

The last weekend of the holidays. Easter seems an age ago, the eggs long eaten, the last scraps of coloured foil from trouser pockets scraped out of the bottom of the washing machine. One boy is back at his state school already and we are into the routine of gym bag, piano lessons, homework. The other has mooched about the house while I try to think up things he can do which don’t involve staring at a screen all day.

This Saturday morning the boys are outside, constructing what they call an assault course from the swings and slide. This mostly seems to involve one of them scrambling from one side of the climbing frame to the other without touching the ground, by means of ropes, while the other tries to unbalance him by fair means or foul. It’s blustery today, but just warm enough at last for them to be out there without their mother fretting about their lack of coats.

While they are happily occupied away from computer games, I am caught up in end-of-holiday jobs. I have scoured town for acceptable boys’ slippers. I have dithered about where on earth to sew name-tapes onto said slippers, and finally scrawled initials on their soles with black marker pen. (Will the matron tut-tut at my slovenly ways? Do I care?)

I have got the huge pile of laundry washed, if not yet ironed. I have taken delivery of a pile of new uniform to replace outgrown versions, and have reminded myself again that tonight I really must unpick the name-tapes from the old items and sew them onto the new, before it’s too late and I have to send elder son back to boarding school half-naked. I have remembered and forgotten, remembered and forgotten to take him for a haircut. Oh well, at this rate his sideburns will soon be long enough to cover his state of undress. 

Meanwhile we have invited friends for tea today, so I have spent some of the morning baking a lemon drizzle cake. A delicious smell of warm cake fills the kitchen. I love the smell of something cooking in the oven: it signals that I have Achieved Something with the day; plus I get to enjoy it later! That’s pretty much having my cake and eating it, isn’t it?



Saturday evening. I have just finished the pile of name-tape sewing – yess! – while watching a sappy film on the box, so my child will return to school decently covered after all. Like almost all mothers, I spend half the holidays longing for school to begin again so that I can have please God just five minutes’ peace: like almost all mothers, my heart sinks at the start of term. It should get easier, sending your child back to boarding school each term, but it doesn’t. If anything, it gets harder. I want to kidnap him from school, hide him under the duvet, imprison him with hugs and kisses. I can hardly bear to think what it will be like when I have to send both the boys off to boarding school. If we didn’t honestly believe that this option offered them the best and happiest opportunities for their education, we couldn’t stand it for a moment. 

According to the psychologist I’ve been seeing, I am a bit too ‘stiff upper lip’. I need to let it all hang out more, or something. Funny, because here on Dancing Beastie I feel like it all hangs out quite a lot. 

Talking of which, there is some cake left over for tea tomorrow. That’ll help fuel the afternoon’s ironing. And I might even let the boys have some.



More about boarding school can be read in New beginnings; an earlier take on school holidays features in Obviously, I’d never do this.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2013 6:12 am

    You are a brave lady. I could never have the courage to send my children off to school. Of course I also don’t iron (so what does that say about me! LOL!)…I just tell everyone it will stretch and unwrinkle as they wear it.

    I hope the time your children are at school goes fast and you will quickly have them home again.

    • April 29, 2013 4:11 pm

      If I were brave enough to have had five children, there’s no way I’d do any ironing either, let me tell you! 🙂

      • April 29, 2013 4:19 pm

        Too funny! I needed a laugh this morning. After a weekend at the cabin I have 10-15 loads of laundry to do today. I need to laugh my way through today’s chores for sure.

  2. April 21, 2013 10:28 am

    Ah the name tape torture! Especially if, like me, you really can’t sew. I mean really can’t. I know there are iron-on ones, but they don’t work for all items of school uniform.

    Living in a city with a big choice of private schools (some would say too big), we’ve never had to face the boarding school decision – and we probably couldn’t have afforded it anyway. My husband boarded at a very highly regarded Scottish boarding school and hated it, vowing never to send any child of his to board. I think the school he attended has changed enormously since he was there – it was a very harsh environment, but still, these sort of childhood emotional scars run deep.

    I don’t mean to sound Pollyanna-ish, but I have never wished for the school holidays to end, not for one second. As my children grew out of the boring baby stage I was consumed by the need to be with them when they weren’t at school. We had a succession of lovely au pairs, but I knew I was missing too much of their growing up. So when they were 9 and 6 I changed my work pattern so that I didn’t work during the school holidays, including the gloriously long 7 week summer holiday. Perhaps because I otherwise work full week outside the home, my time for myself is compressed anyway, so I have had to survive with less even tho I am a true introvert. Now that they are at university, I’m back to working full time.

    Assailed by all the current media chatter about women returning to the home and rediscovering the true value of homemaking, to say nothing of the blogsphere being awash at the moment with crochet blankets and knitted dining room tables, I recently asked my now university student children whether they felt they had missed out or even suffered by me not being at home all the time. I got pitying looks, and a brisk talking-to. The gist was that they had loved us all being together during school holidays, but if it had come to a choice between me being at home full time or us being able to afford their private day school, they would have taken the school option without a second thought. They absolutely loved their school – it has given them so much, and they gave a lot to the school and wider community in return. Of course as their parents we have been the main influence in their lives, but they would not be the fine young people they are today without their fantastic schooling. And I say ‘fine young people’ objectively, because it’s a comment we often get from people about our children.

    So I guess I’m working my way towards saying that while I probably couldn’t do it myself (but who knows, in a different situation) I can understand your difficult, heart-sinking yet convinced decision to send your children to boarding school.

    And just think – university = no more name tapes!

    • April 29, 2013 7:41 pm

      It’s wonderful that your children really enjoyed their education. If we lived in town (and we have indeed thought about moving back to Embra just for the schools) it would be lovely to have our children coming home every night. But our boys love growing up in the sticks, even if it does mean being away from home during the week. There’s no perfect solution, is there: likewise for whether or not to go back to work (‘first world problems’ as I believe your daughter would say!).

      Anyway, must dash, I’m off to knit a dining room table 😉

  3. hmunro permalink
    April 21, 2013 12:55 pm

    … and to think I was proud of myself for finally cleaning the bathroom yesterday! Wow, DB. I admire both your devotion to your family and your incredible stamina. I’m not so thrilled with your psychologist, however. I think you’re perfect just the way you are.

    • April 29, 2013 7:48 pm

      No, she’s really a very cool doctor. And I am deeply imperfect. As for stamina: it’s limited, but carefully targeted!

  4. April 21, 2013 3:00 pm

    I don’t know how you do it all, DB. I was so relieved when our two were old enough to do their own ironing, as it is NOT a task I relish. 🙂 I can sympathise with your divided feelings about boarding education. Of course you want to do the best for your children and if you believe that means boarding, naturally you choose that. But parting from one and soon two for weeks at a time must be very hard and many years ago, when DH and I seriously considered the same choice, we finally decided against it. The main thing must be whether each child flourishes in the environment we choose for him or her and from your posts it’s clear that your two are doing just that.

    • April 29, 2013 7:50 pm

      In the end it comes down to whether they are happy and fulfilled. As long as that is generally the case, it’s worth it. Just.

  5. April 23, 2013 11:01 pm

    As I’m not a mother I can’t comment on it from that point of view, but I do remember all the palaver for my own mother of sewing on name tapes. In fact, I still have a couple from my primary school way back in… ahem, well a long time ago!

    The swings look fun. I remember my dad shortening the ropes on mine, year after year, as I grew. 🙂

    • April 30, 2013 7:02 pm

      Funny, I remember my dad doing that too. One of those essential ‘dad’ jobs, I suppose.

  6. April 24, 2013 8:17 am

    I remember that feeling too, though the girls didn’t go away to school. I used to both long for, and dread, the first day of term for the same reasons. Your cake sounds amazing! I feel like making one now. And I thought ‘stiff upper lip’ was something that all mothers specialised in??!! 🙂

    • April 30, 2013 7:04 pm

      Cake is one of the staple food groups in my opinion. 🙂
      I think my stiff upper lip has been wobbly ever since first giving birth: I was with cousins this weekend and we were talking about things that make us cry, and I mentioned The Railway Children and started crying just talking about it!

  7. Erika W. permalink
    April 24, 2013 2:41 pm

    I am in my 70s and I still have a little sliding-lid box of my Cash’s name tapes inherited from my grandmother’s sewing stand. There are also some left over from my husband’s school days and these came in handy to mark our children’s gym clothes over here in the USA, with the initials turned under.

    It is only a very few years since the last toweling nappies wore out– wonderful for tea towels!

    • April 30, 2013 7:06 pm

      How funny: I’m a generation younger than you, but I too re-use old family name tapes and towelling nappies! Must be something to do with being a child of wartime children, perhaps: we grew up very aware of our parents’ childhoods, with rationing and re-using and making do. Not a bad thing to learn.


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