Leona O'Neill: Sound the 'school summer holidays' klaxon
The school summer holidays can be a testing time for parents, as Leona O'Neill knows all too well: she advise on how best to prepare for the "slow descent into darkness and chaos" that is having your children at home for two months
I WAS handed a sheet of paper by a smiling teacher the other day that made my blood run cold. It was a school newsletter – at the bottom of which, in big bold writing, was the date guaranteed to provoke head-in-the-hands, "Dear God, why me?" levels of madness in most parents: the day the school year ends and the summer holidays begin.
If I'd had a klaxon, I would have sounded it right there in the school playground, announcing loudly to those poor unwitting parents who hadn't glanced at the sheet and would remain oblivious until another pale, panicked parent informed them, that the date on that sheet will mark their slow descent into darkness and chaos.
I wanted to shout that three days after that date – when they have had just about all they could take of children complaining about the food, the boredom, their siblings, the heat, the rain, the nothing on the TV-ness and the realisation has kicked in that they have 60 more days of advanced levels of complaining – they will think themselves beaten, but not to give up.
I wanted to tell them that if they prepared themselves now, much like the doomsday survivalists we might laugh at on Channel Five reality programmes, they should be OK. Should be.
We all know what's ahead. Advanced preparation will soften the blow. Also, lowering expectations is crucial, as is wine. We must prepare ourselves for purchasing a week's groceries on a Saturday which will most certainly all be eaten by ungrateful, ravenous, perpetually hungry children by Monday mid-afternoon.
We must ready ourselves for rain, hail, snow, hurricanes, thunder storms, even winter to transport itself from December and arrive in July and last for two months, only to disappear and be replaced by near tropical conditions as soon as the school holidays end.
We must resign ourselves to the fact that we will pay double and triple the amount of money for holidays as soon as that bell rings to signal the beginning of summer.
And we will be grateful to get away on those overly expensive holidays, for there is something a little special about listening to your children fight, complain about being bored, tired and hungry in a location other than your own living room.
We must realise early on that our children are unreasonable and irrational. You may work full time or maybe you work from home. This is the truth, but much like Tom Cruise, our children can't handle the truth, and they will want you to be in full-on summer holiday mode, refusing to get out of bed before noon and complaining about going to the beach every day, even though you'll lose your job if you do.
Children don't care about such trivialities, they only care about ice cream.
And the complaining: Listen, do yourself a favour and build up your immunity to it. Instead of listening to meditation music at night to help yourself nod off, stick the earphones in and play back to back listener phone calls from the Stephen Nolan Show for a full month.
Come July 1, you'll have built up a wall of emotional resistance so strong that no amount of harping on about being bored will be able to penetrate it.
I wish you luck. For when those children pile out of those school gates, squealing with delight and swinging their school bags around their heads like lassos, we will face the toughest test of endurance known to man – the school summer holidays.
Stay strong brothers and sisters. It's only two months. We will survive.