Half term is a break from school and other activities and is generally a week in length. In the authors household, this means no preschool and none of our regular clubs and activities. Our hypothesis is that half term is sometimes great, sometimes draining, sometimes challenging, sometimes rewarding. There is no predicting what a day will entail.
Take a toddler and a preschooler and cancel all normal routine. Ensure, however, that at least one of Boybug’s classes are still running, leaving Girlbug to sit at the side unattended with only an iPad and some stickers for company.
Take them on day trips so no one can nap. Feed them mountains of cake to “see them through” to the later-than-usual lunch. Over-estimate your family’s “outdoorsyness”, but keep going until kids are frozen, muddy, snot-faced and teary eyed.
In the week prior to half term say “we should catch up over half term” to every adult with kids that you see, regardless of the fact you have no way of contacting them once you’re not all standing around in the playground. Organise play dates to satisfy your need for adult company and coffee, but end up refereeing whose turn it is with the buggy.
At least one of them will be ill by day 3. But we will keep going.
No cleaning will get done, as there are no naps. Toys will be a jumbled mess, laundry will sit in the machine for days. There are no clean bowls at breakfast. No shopping will have been done because of all the day trips. On day three they had beans on toast for dinner, by day four its beans with breadsticks. Only when coffee supplies run low and/or Girlbug runs out of pants will we venture to the supermarket. There are no parent and child spaces, and the queue for the cafe suggests something better than the mass produced muffins (yup, even supermarket trips are now punctuated with coffee and cake).
Even though the school run was literally only four days ago, getting out the house for a play date at 10.30am feels like an impossibility. Once out we discover that Girlbug does not like any of her friends outside the confines of preschool. Boybug sees other people’s houses as a challenge, and likes to make them aware of their inadequate childproofing strategies.
The irregular nap schedule of boybug means he’s up at 5.30am each day, Girlbug seizes the opportunity to sleep in till 9am, meaning even though I’ve been up for hours, we’re late for everything.
At least one friend or friend of a friend has posted on Facebook how hard half term is. The general consensus is they should like their children more. Somewhere else someone has posted how great half term is. The general consensus is that they are either showing off or lying.
Soft play is a no-go because it’s busy and full of “older kids”. The kids now expect one outing and slice of cake per day as an acceptable minimum. The excess of juice and nature of the outings means we’ll have at least one accident, even though Girlbug has been dry for a year. There will be no spare pants unless we’ve been to the supermarket. There will also be at least one alfresco wee, which will probably go in her shoes.
We will have lots of fun though, relax a little, take some risks, lose the routine, break the rules.
Half term is shaping up to be the hypothesised “mixed bag”. We’ve had some lovely moment, but everything is a little disorganised and, at times, fraught. We have done no laundry or hoovering and struggle to get out of the house.
The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, and call for further research to aid in the planning of future half terms. It is currently unclear whether the phenomena listed persist with school-aged children, or for families with more than two children. While the results can’t be applied to the general populations, the authors strongly suspect (or hope) that other parents have similar findings.