Eighteen Summers

I was sucked in by the sentimental meme doing the rounds Love your kids, make this most of this summer you only have eighteen blah blah blah, heck I even reposted it. I then winced as I thought of a friend who didn’t get eighteen summers and as I watched my nineteen and sixteen year old daughters falling off zip wires and running towards me over a park yesterday I realise now what a load of tosh it is.

When my girls were little I was the annoying mum who counted down until they broke up from school and I had six delicious long weeks with them. I do realise how fortunate I was to feel like this and to have the opportunity to be at home with them. To some people the school holidays are a logistical nightmare as they try to balance work, childcare and guilt. I also know now understand that some parents would rather be at work than at home trying to occupy the children. Believe me, I get now! I’m older, less patient and have a very challenging young foster daughter. I’m almost even sorry for all those gushy Facebook posts!

I do look back on those summers as a golden time. We didn’t have lots of money and I was bewildered when people used to complain how expensive the holidays were. We used to pack up a picnic most days and head out with friends to local parks. We had a favourite spot which you had to hike to get to through mud and scratchy grass. We’d set up camp under our old oak tree and the children would climb it, then they’d scale the hill and slide back down on bits of cardboard, they’d climb the old ruins and explore the hole we liked to call the dungeons (jury still out on that one). We walked up the stream and built dams. When it was raining we’d put our kagoules and wellies on and do exactly the same. We had picnics in the garden, or under the table inside. We build dens out of old blankets, we trawled the local museums and the glorious Yorkshire countryside. We holidayed every year in Devon, eating crab sandwiches and fish and chips on the beach. Sheltering in our beach tent from the rain, swimming in the sea with Aunty Brenda and her friend Gwylis. We knew the holidays were coming to an end when we could smell the Himalayan balsam flower in the woods telling us that the seed pods were ripe to be popped. I just loved every minute.

The thing is I still do love being with them and I’m fortunate they seem to like to be with me. The relationship and bonds we have are strong and we’ll always be drawn back together. This is the summer after Lily’s first year at uni and the summer after Iris has finished her GCSEs. I’ve got almost three months stretching ahead of us. It’s different to when they were little, I have to agree a time we need to leave the house by the night before, they’re not that keen on getting out of bed. (I spend a lot of time shouting up the stairs and complaining about the mess) but we still have those magical days together. They do cost a little more these days too. I somehow have bred two girls who love shopping and lunching out! One is a super shopper, I trained her so well. She can attack and work a shop just like me and gets just as excited as I do by a new dress or shoes. The other is the one who loves a lunch date. The problem is she’s a creature of habit so once we find a place she’s likes we stick to it. I go to Jorvik every school holiday and know the script that the puppets speak as we travel around. We then go to the same place for lunch, order the same pulled pork wrap we always do and then on to a different cafe for cake, if they don’t have the chocolate orange one she loves we don’t stay! Nether the less we still all love being outdoors and are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. We love to go back to the places we remember visiting when they were younger, and when I watched them playing on the deserted park yesterday I must admit I had a lump in my throat.

These days more often than not there’s an extra place or two for tea and there’s always a pile of visitors shoes but the kitchen door. I love it. I’m like Monica in friends (yes in more ways than one) I love being a hostess. There are spare mattresses and extra bedding and the girls know their friends are always welcome. I’m still trying to readjust to cooking for more and we’re constantly running out of loo roll, cotton wool and cereal but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In a couple of weeks the little one will break up and it’ll be harder I know but I’m getting used to catering for their differing needs. Looking after two young people special needs is tricky but I think I’m getting there. They’re so different, one needing to be busy and active and one needing to be calm. I need help to keep us all sane, so I make the most of the holiday play-schemes so I can spend time with them individually as well as together. I’ll also need to make a routine and have firm plans and I must admit I’m sometimes clock watching until Tim gets home from work.

We’ve a gorgeous gite booked in France and the oldest one still wants to tag along, with her boyfriend admittedly (poor lad). So yeah this is my nineteenth summer as a mum. I’m so lucky to have had nineteen I know but it’s not the end. We’re a family who enjoy, (and sometimes endure) being together so why should that end?


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