A Love/Hate Affair

April 8, 2013

As a kid, I loved summer holidays. Mind you, I loved school too. All the same – sleep till 7.30, then spend the rest of the day reading books, sleeping, meeting friends, and, if one was very lucky, going swimming – what’s not to love?

So in a sense, I don’t get what the hullabaloo is about these days? Why all the stress over keeping the kids “busy”? When I was a kid, kids kept themselves busy. These things don’t change – why do we fret over it so much these days?

I’ll tell you why. When I was a kid, my mother wasn’t working. She worked for a short time as a teacher, but even then, she was home when I was. So, though she didn’t have to do much to keep me busy (at least, that’s my version of the truth), she also didn’t have to worry about having someone reliable around to watch over us, she was right there. After all, even six or seven is too young to trust. I couldn’t dream of keeping kids that age at home all day long unsupervised. All sorts of crises might ensue.

When you’re the mom who’s working outside of the home, it’s a different story. Keeping kids at home all day means having a reliable someone around to watch over them. Sending them out means having a reliable someone at hand to ferry them around from swimming pool to friends’ homes to tennis class (or whatever) and back. And this reliable someone might need to know how to drive too – at least in our case, neither swimming pool nor tennis court is walking distance from home. Most of the activities aren’t walking distance, unless you choose activities entirely based on distance from home.

This year, we had a choice of two summer camps. One at the current daycare, one lane away from home and very easily walkable. The other, at the old daycare, a good long drive 10-km each way through dramatic traffic jams. Guess which one we chose? The far away one, of course. Why? Well, the activities looked more interesting. While convenience is important, it’s also important that the kids do something at least remotely interesting and meaningful at summer camp. The nearby summer camp looked as if it was designed for 3-5 year olds and nothing had been done to enhance the program for the older kids. Spending an extra 3k per head for drawing and crafts for almost seven-year-olds just didn’t make sense.

And, of course, we love their old daycare.

So we undertook to do the long drive each way, one of us dropping them, the other picking them up.

All very well and good. Then their tennis coach announced that the weekend tennis batch they’d been part of for the last two-and-a-half years had disbanded itself for the duration of the summer holidays, so could we please put them into the evening tennis batch? Our options were 3.30-4.30 (not an option) or 5.30-6.30 (siiiiiiigh). So now not only do I have to do the long drive to the old daycare right after work five days a week, I also have to do it early enough to do the even longer drive to the tennis court and make it by 5.20 or so, three days a week. I have been offered the option of shifting my own tennis session to the same slot so that both things get done at the same time (and it saves me quite a bit of driving too) but I don’t like it. 5.30 p.m. is not my time for tennis. I’ve been going for tennis 6 – 7 a.m. three days a week for about seven years now. Evenings are for office work, or for time with family, or for housework. It’s too big a mental shift for me. So I ferry them to tennis in the evening and ferry myself to tennis the next morning, regularly, every other day.

If you think I’m having a hard time of it, don’t think Amit is getting off lightly either. It’s his job to take the kids swimming at least twice a week. He’s doing it in the early morning hours, dropping them with their breakfast at daycare by 9 a.m.

And then, of course, since our weekends, which have been booked for tennis for the last 30 months or so, both Saturday and Sunday morning, have now been unexpectedly freed up, we had to go and fill them up with other activities, didn’t we? Couldn’t just grab the opportunity to lay back and take it easy for a bit, could we? No – not in the summer holidays, no way. So now we have tabla class for Tara 9.30 – 11.30 on Saturday and Sunday, and a drawing class for Mrini – just to keep things interesting – on Saturday afternoon, 3-6 p.m.

Phew! I don’t know about keeping the kids busy – this summer holiday is sure keeping the parents busy!

But on the other hand – if they don’t go for all these things during the holidays, when else will they ever get to do it? School days, it’s a struggle just getting through the day plain vanilla without any toppings. When school reopens, swimming is going to go out the window for sure, and I really doubt that tennis, tabla, and drawing classes can all continue as per the current schedule. One or more of those activities is going to have to be dropped, or else I have to give up work and spend at least half my day managing my kids’ timetable. Choices, choices.

Anyway, there’s one thing I love about summer holidays. The kids don’t have to be in a school bus by 7.15, which means I don’t have to get up at 5.45 a.m. I’ve been sleeping till 6.30 and on Sunday, due to the change in their tennis class, I slept till 7! And not only that, after dragging myself off to get dosas for breakfast, I went back to bed from 9 – 9.30! Amazing. Three days a week I still get up at 5 a.m. to go for tennis, but now, four days a week, I can sleep till past 6. Since I make a determined effort to get to bed around 10-10.15 p.m. on most days (and it really does require a determined effort) that means that for the entire duration of the summer holidays so far, I’ve been getting close to eight hours of sleep four times a week (and seven hours the other three days). I hate to admit it, but it has made a huge difference to my energy level during the day. I used to feel sleepy while driving to work at 8.30 a.m. Now I’m awake even when I get to bed at 10.15 p.m. Of course, I completely agree that sleeping that much is nothing short of slothful and excessively lazy and a complete waste of time. Who can afford to spend eight hours a day sleeping when there’s so much to do? In fact, it’s one reason that I absolutely refuse to consider moving my tennis session to the evening. I’ll only spend the morning hours sleeping, making it eight hours a day all seven days of the week, which is nothing short of criminal. True, I need the sleep, but still – one can’t give in to every single thing the body demands. Look at the number of people who regularly get by on five or six hours of sleep, after all. Or less. Seriously, they have so much more time to get things done.

So no – this state of bliss can’t last long. But that’s not to say that I’m not enjoying it while it lasts. After all, a summer holiday comes around only once a year, so we might as well make the most of it. Or at least stop complaining about all the driving.

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