The summer that was
Building memories, having fun, getting outside and trying to retain some sort of structure was the focus of our summer this year. I know this post is about a month too late but we have been so busy since it’s the first time I have had chance to sit down in front of a screen and type. The summer has truly gone, and boy did it go fast and then suddenly turn autumnal, it also flew by and it’s hard to not feel some sadness as to how quickly it passed.
Going into the summer it suddenly dawned on me – no other summer would be the same again. This would be the one and only summer when I would be on adoption leave. This was our first summer together as a family. This was our first attempt at working through 6 weeks to occupy the boys and to try and keep everyone sane. Could we do it? What cracks would appear? How would the lack of structure affect the boys, notably the eldest?
In preparation we did our best to ensure that most weeks had sort of a plan. Not necessarily down to the specific activity but the days that were free were mapped out. We also had a couple of trips away booked and we carried out a lot of preparation work with the boys for the summer, the trips organised and what it meant each day was like. The husband re-wrote the blackboard wall – carrying on our visual plan – showing the days of the week and then each weekend we would write up the rough plan on the board and talk it through with the boys. This helped with building some structure and not leaving them wondering what is going on? We were also very adamant on attempting to keep some sense of daily routine with regards getting dressed, washed and breakfast at similar times. It could have been so easy to let this slip and to have had some lazy mornings but the boys need and thrive on routine and repetition.
I must admit that as we approached the summer I was very apprehensive . ‘What on earth am I going to do each day to keep them occupied?’ ‘How are we going to fund all the activities we had planned?’ ‘ What if the weather is absolutely pants?’ All of the usual parental concerns going into a summer but remember this was our first so the apprehension was somewhat heightened. Nothing more helpful than established parents saying that ever so unhelpful phrase ‘ Welcome to parenthood.’ Yes I get that but this being our first we wanted it to be magical.
As it turned out the summer was bloody fantastic. We tried to not overload the boys with too many things to do, nor too many things that cost the earth – we focused on the areas that mattered, structure, friends, family, fun and having a laugh where possible. The loose structure really helped as we were able to sync up with very close friends and their kids and know in advance the days we would be sharing the fun and excitement – or in reality- the days both sets of parents knew there was some moral support and solace in the knowledge that parenting would be ‘shared’.
Some of the things we got up, ( and I will forget many):
Arts and Crafts
Playing on the Wii-U ( yes the husband bought one for them for the summer)
Play centre visits
Visiting close friends with nearby and in Bristol
11 days on holiday with the family – and making the most of the coast and good weather
School friends meet ups
Camping for 5 days – yes 5 days!!
For those of you who know me, you all be shocked about me camping for 5 days. I was a bit reluctant but wanted to let my love of 5 star hotels, hot showers and flushing toilets go away and to test myself and to show the boys we can have fun. We were invited to join an annual Campfest that our friends have been doing for years with their children.
The tent and equipment were bought. We went in to the shop looking at a £99 tent and came out with one 4 times that price. The minute the man said this inflates and erects in four minutes I was sold. It also has a great blackout interior, meaning the chance of 5 am wake ups was greatly reduced. Mr F- as always, went a bit crazy in Decathlon and bought half of the camping equipment.
The trip itself was good. The boys adjusted really well and mixed in with the crowd of kids ranging from 3 -16 years old – loving the peer group fun and looking up to the older boys. The first night everyone slept like a dream. Oh how that dream crashed the following three nights. I slept with youngest and he woke every hour to just wake me and say hi – checking in with me. Which on the one hand was sweet but on the other was bloody exhausting as I then took a good 30 minutes to get back to sleep. One night he did this six times.
By day 3 however, eldest was almost feral. By that I mean he was not coping well with the lack of structure or boundaries. Felt that he could rule the roost and really dictate what he did and when. The is when the hard part came. He really flipped and became like a teenager aged nearly seven. This resulted in quite a few arguments, tears, early to bed and meltdowns. By this stage I was ready to get back to the comforts of our home. I did however enjoy the camping so much more than I thought I would. Mr F – has now procured a trailer for next years camping excursions! A trailer !?! Suddenly I feel very middle-aged.
Some other key highlights of the summer was a visit to Legoland with some very close friends. What were we thinking? Going to such a park on a Saturday in the height of summer !?! £60 entry fee per person, same price for children and adults was shocking. The queues were shocking and initially I was thinking what a tough day it was going to be. As it turned out – we all had a fantastic day. The fact we were there with close friends was lovely and we just went with the flow and had a laugh. The boys were amazing at queuing, far more patient than me! And boy did we maximise our entrance fee – we stayed until the very bitter end until they closed the park. Some very special memories were created and both boys were beside themselves knowing they had riven their very own cars and had received driving licences! “I can drive your car now Dad.” said eldest son – ‘ Dream on buster!’
Finally we ended the summer with an 11 day break in my homeland – and made the most of the coast and fine weather. It only rained once and we were so lucky. It was so special spending time with close friends, my parents and family as well as taking the boys to all the places I built memories at when I was a child. Seeing the boys with their grandparents and their great-grandad was purely magical. My Dad was a rock and some days really helped out I can’t thank him enough. Yes we had some days of meltdowns, yes we had some tricky behaviour but overall they were both amazing. We ended the trip with four days just the four of us in cottage near the sea – taking the boys body-boarding and enjoying family time.
Things I would repeat next time ( although I will be back at work):
Structure – plan before and during
Routine – try and maintain as much as possible
Show the plan and discuss it with the children
Mix up activities – not always thinking you need to do the most exciting things each day. Simple is often very good.
Plan with friends – we can all have fun together and help each other out
Family – be there for each other
Stay sane when you hit some blips along the way
Ensure there is wine in the fridge for the nights when it was a tough day
Have fun, laugh lots and relax more
So we survived the summer. No in fact we did better than that. We had a summer that far surpassed any of our expectations and we really built some true family memories and strengthened even further the bonds and love in what is still only a recently formed family. We won’t have a summer like this again, with so much time together and it was truly magical.