By Karen Charlton
We’ve reached day 17 of the Easter school holidays. Sitting down to write and I am hovering dangerously close to writing one of those posts from the front line that people just shouldn’t write.
We began our school holiday jaunt with a short trip to Carlton, staying in an apartment just north of the Melbourne CBD. If we had Superman’s X-ray vision, we would have been able to stare through the walls of the kitchen to the dome of the State Library on the corner of Latrobe and Swanston. Instead, we woke to this view on Easter Monday, the city almost completely deserted of traffic due to the public holiday.
Sipping my tea on the balcony, I imagined it might be Paris or London, with the streets curving gracefully below me. We walked the Carlton Gardens, bought the lightest, most delicious homemade gnocci from Lygon Street, and browsed nearly every bookstore within the city grid.
I must have said to the boys, pointing in the direction of Cardigan Street – oh, no less than a dozen times – that’s where my writing school was. Is. It was (is) difficult to know which tense to use.
We went to places we have always wanted to go, but have often put off. Because, you know, they are my children after all. We tend to be realistic about where we can go and how much we can legitimately expect from them. Leash free beach? Yes. Art gallery? We didn’t get past the front door (it was closed. Who knew?)
We’ve done a few tours of school holiday duty now, and we’re only beginning to get a bit of a rhythm going – it’s more of a Ramones type rhythm (I wanna be sedated), but it has a regular beat which makes it manageable in the short term. Swimming or tennis lessons are a great way to fill the mornings and use up some excess energy. Shopping for the kids’ clothes, visiting relatives and friends, a few trips to the park, plus some days at home telling each other how bored we are, and we’ve pretty much filled our days. 16 days appears to be my limit (see paragraph one).
Having a short trip booked or farming out the kids for a few nights to grandparents makes our school holidays far more manageable. I love my boys terribly, but as soon as we all unhinge from our regular schedules, all chance of adult activity or conversation is quickly swept to the hemlines of the day, including work, which can cause some stress. Giving the kids some external stimulation makes our jobs easier. Not having to look after all three of them for 24 hours is as good as a holiday for me.
This trip to Carlton was officially dubbed the “Getting off the island” tour, a phrase I stole from Hugo and Elsa, who I must point out live on an actual island, and refers to that moment when you take a break to get some perspective. It stops you from going stir crazy.
I’m using creative license here and appropriating it for parents; for mums and dads, it’s that moment when you stand at full height, step over the Lego debris on your floor and get some space between you and ‘the island’ (your home). It might be a trip to the gym, or a cafe, or to work. This is important during the school term, but it’s even more important during that intense school holiday time when everybody is starting to get into each other’s faces (and cups of tea … the ultimate invasion).
For me, I won’t feel like I’m fully ‘off the island’ until Tuesday afternoon when the big boys will be at school and kinder simultaneously. Hamish’s kinder teacher calls this “non-bonding time”, and is just what I need about now.