I’m not one of the parents who sighs with relief as the kids go back to school, though if I’m honest this year was slightly different as balancing teens, tweens, tots and (hmmm… travail would just be pretentious wouldn’t it?) work was very hard over the summer and a business that relies on Christmas is not well served by a six week cessation in activity over the summer. But autumn, which once signified a run up to a fabulous crafting extravaganza and a month off to indulge in Christmas activities, now means school uniform, early mornings, children who dash from pick up time to after school gymnastics with barely time to grab a snack, never mind exchange news. Homework fills weekends, trying to find a way to wind down after late sports club finishes while grabbing a refueling meal and dodging disaster the incredible non-sleeping toddler crams the evenings full of work, not play. We adults sit down together for the first time at 10pm or later, often still with a teenager drifting around and, increasingly, needing collecting from a late night school commitment situated somewhere we wouldn’t want them to have to come home from alone.
There are two major things that are essential to us as family:
- Sit down meals together
- Sharing entertainment, be it games, films or stories
Increasingly these are hard to do. 2 or 3 of the girls are now out from 4-8.45pm every day which cuts the opportunity to meal together down enormously; we’ve been muddling along and letting standards slip but it occurred to both of us the other day that the old status quo will never return. We aren’t going to get back to weeks full of evening meals and so we need to make the most of evenings for people who are in, not disband them because some aren’t.
Likewise, games are difficult now because Bene is at toddler-trashing stage and since he doesn’t sleep before nearly 10pm, the opportunity to game around him is not currently really there. Max and the girls went through quite a fun phase of group computer games but that has waned, as these things do. And I have failed at reading to them regularly, which I regret deeply. I’m sad that Josie has missed out on that.
But family TV we can manage and thanks to our Stream Team membership with Netflix, the girls have discovered some new family viewing that allows them to congregate in smaller groups to watch things that are appropriate but that don’t make Max and I want to pull our brains out through our ears. Miranda has been one such show (it doesn’t do it for me but it seems to amuse them and is cleverly enough constructed that anything of the innuendo type goes over Josie’s head) and Outnumbered is another (although it did teach Bene to say “For God’s Sake!!!!” – thank you Karen!) Both shows mean that short bits of together time can be used with or without us but if Max and I can find 5 minutes to sink on to the sofa with them, we do. Likewise Doctor Who, though some of that is a bit scary for Bene; it’s like an old friend though and the girls know the episodes so well they distract him from the worrying bits.
I’m resigned to us not having had the most creative of years and even resigned to more tv dinners than we used to have. I do miss our family time though; we need to make more of it if we can.
How do you balance the needs, activities and time constraints of a family where the dynamics are growing and changing fast? Do you allow TV viewing as a way to unwind? What impact has the return to school had on your family?
Disclosure: we are part of the Netflix Stream Team review group and do not pay for our access to the service.