On the first day of school this new year my daughters and I found ourselves at the campus gates five minutes early, and we weren’t alone. As we approached, we joined hordes of students literally running to the still-locked gates. Two weeks since the final classes of 2011, you’d expect some parents to be eager to get their children out of the house again. Except in this particular scene it wasn’t the parents pushing the kids out the door – it was the other way around.
Compared with the interminable summer holidays, two weeks at Christmas should, in theory, go by like a flash. Yet in our house the hours dragged like the low grey clouds across the sky. And that was only the second week. For the first week, our family was fortunate enough to enjoy a holiday by the beach. And while everything about it was divine, our 24/7 together without the distraction of friends and extended family had the effect of making our kids alternatively clingy, whiny and bored.
We returned home to a deserted neighborhood. I happen to love the city during the holidays, when everything moves slower – save for the traffic. For the kids it was like purgatory. The puppet show? It was okay. The museum? Meh. When my husband and I broke down and decided to brave the frozen playground, it was like ecstasy for our girls. All those little people, some of them familiar from parties and playdates past… we had to drag them home by their clipped-on mittens.
I always knew there would come a time in our children’s lives when their parents would no longer be enough for them. But I didn’t expect that time to come before the age of five. Are our offspring unusually social? Are my husband and I lacking in the stimulation department? Or, more likely, is two weeks just too much time to spend as a family?
That first day back at school was a relief for me, too. Two weeks away from work (and a quiet cappuccino) can be hard on an adult. Yet when I returned to pick up the kids in the afternoon I felt like we were reuniting after the wars. I’d missed them, albeit subconsciously.
The following morning was my toddler’s day at home with mama, but when she noticed me preparing her older sister for school and not her, she began to wail: “I NEED to go see my FRIENDS!” Maybe she smelled the desperation on me. Or perhaps she could sense I was fresh out of ideas for entertaining her. In any case, I called the daycare and booked her in for the extra day. It turned out to be a belated holiday present for both of us. Besides, the weekend – ugh – is just around the corner.
(Photo: Chad Baker/Ryan McVay)