Leona O'Neill: Summer is no holiday for parents

As the school holidays get ever nearer, Leona contemplates two long months of attempting to keep her children entertained while rain lashes the windows. September can't come quick enough...

School's almost out for summer, much to the terror of parents everywhere

FOR whom the school bell tolls, brace yourself: Summer is coming.

Kids the land over will be racing through this week, eager to get to Friday

and the start of their long summer holidays. Teachers will be crawling on

their hands and knees to Friday and the promise of two months away from the


Parents, meanwhile, will be Googling 'build your own time-delay

technology' in an effort to put off the inevitable and 'how to stay sane in

the summer holidays' in preparation for two full months of having to look

after their own children.

Summer holidays are a lovely thought for some. For those who don't pay for

childcare, or parents of children who can entertain themselves in a

quiet, non-costly way.

For others, summer holidays mean forking out much

more in childcare costs, fielding complaints from perpetually bored

kids about how dull life is and dishing out money for various

activities to keep them entertained.

And then there's the rain. The rain that starts as soon as the school bell rings, marking the start of 'summer', and lasts until they are dragged out of their bed, blinking into the totally alien sun on the first day back in the classroom.

The whole thing is an endurance and enough to test the devotion of even the most loving parent.

If you happen to be a working parent of a school-age child, you'll know

this pain. And if you are, and you are not dreading the impossible,

stressful juggling act you have to perform for the next eight weeks, then I

think your pants might well be on fire.

It's not just the complaining or the ceaseless rain or them eating

everything in the house, or the demands for taxi services or even the

increased mess and advanced noise, it's routine being shredded to

pieces and anarchy reigning supreme.

Kids stay up later in the evening, eating into parent's down time, and they resist early morning wake up calls when mum and dad have to go to work, the zombie children in full holiday mode adding a completely different dimension of stress to the morning rush.

I suppose we should all just embrace the madness while it lasts. Before

long our surly teenagers will be off to university and our cute tweens

will not need to torture us with their incessant complaints of boredom –

they'll be off doing their own thing with their friends and wont need us

anymore, reducing our only function to a mere source of money to fund such


Summer turns ordinary parenting on its head, ramps it up to break-neck

speeds and inevitably makes us all realise the wonderful job our teachers

do and how much we depend on them.

As we're breaking up the 10th fight of the day over Lego, we'll spare a thought for them sitting in their back gardens in the sunshine, reading a book in blissful peace and sipping delicious chilled wine.

Soldiers facing the chaos of a war zone prepare

themselves in much the same fashion as parents contemplating the school summer holidays.

They gather information about the terrain, people, climatic

conditions as well as the political scenario and the causes of conflict,

they also prepare themselves mentally for the battle ahead, often


I find that the mantra 'September is soon, September is soon' works for me.

I'm sure it will all be fine. I'm sure we will all survive. And in the

meantime, there is always wine.

Roll on September when we, shuddering wrecks and shadows of our former

selves, can deliver these children back to the people whose actual job is

to look after them.

Then it will be us running down the road celebrating, swinging our coats above our heads like lassos and throwing our handbags up into a tree without a second thought, because we are free and we don't care anymore.

Good luck, fellow parent soldiers. I'll see you on the other side.

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