I’ve got to keep this brief today because I’m under the pump. I'm trying to squeeze two weeks worth of work into the three days that the kids are at Grandmas. Every school holiday is the same. I think I’m going to be able to balance work and parenting beautifully. I get a few days into it and remember I do neither well when I’m trying to do both - then think ‘fuck it’, I’d rather hang out with the kids. I then spend the few days they go to their grandparents in a flap trying to catch up on the work. It sucks. 

At this particular stage in our lives, this is how shits going to play out so we just need to keep going and be grateful that we do have the support of the grandparents to take the kids for a few days because lots of people don’t. When I was a kid, school holidays were always so awesome - we went on lots of trips around New Zealand and visited family all the time. Now as a parent I appreciate how hard my parents had to work, not only to make the money to do the things but to get the time off to be with us. 

In an ideal world, I’d have 12 weeks annual leave to match the kids' school holidays. It's something we’re working towards as a family and business but we’re a wee way off at the moment. Knowing that the school holidays are going to be a mess, this time I decided to get the kids to write down a few things they wanted to do during the holidays. I called it ‘holiday bingo’ but there is no prize at the end - unless you count my piece of mind that the kids managed to do some of the activities they actually wanted to do.

Frank's list included going to X-treme Bounce, a play date at a friend's house, a visit to St Georges Lake and getting a domino's pizza ‘snack box’. Alice wanted to go to the movies, the art gallery (which was a disaster - they just can’t help but touch EVERYTHING), go to the Lucas playground and eat spaghetti. Once we had this list it was pretty easy to start ticking things off. None of these requests were outrageous and to be honest, it probably wasn’t more than 15 hours worth of entertainment over the 2 weeks.

Frank still needs to go on his playdate and we’ll have spaghetti for lunch tomorrow but otherwise we’ve managed to get everything else done. This has been quite liberating for me as a parent. Everytime the school holidays approach I worry that we are not going to have quality time together. I worry that it will just be another 2 weeks where I’m underperforming at both work and home. Turns out the kids, when asked what they wanted to do with their time, didn’t really want that much. My kids are happy chilling at home. This is most likely because that is what we like to do as a family. 

A weekend spent with us all together doing our various activities - Matt and Frank on the PS5, Alice watching back to back Simpsons on the iPad while drawing and me finding a warm spot to read is a weekend well spent. If you chuck a 5km bush walk into the mix then it’s the perfect weekend! 

There is this idea in stoicism that I’m probably going to butcher but it's along the lines of being content with what you have. Over the past few years we’ve gotten really good at being grateful for what we have rather than pine for what we don’t. 

We got this great advice from some older friends of ours who said that kids are the greatest from ages 5 to early teens. Not that you don’t love them outside of this range but this is when they still want to hang out with you but can go to the toilet by themselves - it's the sweet spot. However our friends reflected that they regretted not realising this at the time with their own children. Like most young families, especially when you own your own business (which they did), they had favoured work and career progression over making the most of these special years. Once they had some success and money to go on the big family holidays they’d been working so hard towards, their kids were teenagers and didn’t want to have anything to do with them! 

We’ve chosen to put our family first knowing that work will ALWAYS be busy. We work hard to keep boundaries like when we’re home, we’re home. Work stays at the factory and no work during the weekend. Of course when the kids are at grandmas we work 12 hour days because running a startup is as hard as it sounds. Come to think of it, of all the kids free weekends Matt and I have had, which average out to about once a month, we’ve never gone away or done something special. We might go to the odd party that falls on a kid free weekend, but we’re most likely to work through and eat takeaways in front of the telly for dinner. 

The fact the kids holiday bingo lists didn’t include ‘hanging out with Mum and Dad’ is a win from my perspective. It means that our boundaries are working and our kids feel like they get enough of us during the school term. The relatively small requests they made were stuff we’d normally do anyway. Going to the lake, the playground and even the movies are becoming something we bond over as we introduce the kids to all of our favourites. Note to self: The Mask hasn’t aged well at all and 90’s PG rated movies are very different from today's PG rated movies. 

The kids are coming back from Grandmas today and I can't wait to see them. Despite my worry going into these holidays, they could in fact be one of our more successful ones. With only a few outstanding boxes unticked on the holiday bingo the kids have done most of what they wanted and I got to hang out with them for a massive chunk of it. 

It comes down to quality over quantity. It's not about being there all the time, it's about being present when you are with them. This goes for ALL relationships, not just the relationship between a parent and a child. When we put our phones down and stop rushing to whatever's next, when we really listen to people’s response after we ask ‘how are you’, we’re able to be present. Your time flips from quantity to quality. As a recipient of that you feel heard and loved and cared for. As the person who has slowed down to listen, you feel connected and useful and good. 

I’d like to take a moment to congratulate all of the parents of school age children on getting through another school holiday however that might have looked for you. Remember it’s quality over quantity and not every day has to be the best day ever. Finding joy in the average and mediocre will set kids up for the reality of adult life in the best possible way.

Video of the week
Creative Mornings: Steph Clarke
Podcast of the week
Bang on: Janelle Koenig
Font of the week
Borogodó: Font of the week by Naipe Foundry

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