Surviving half term is child's play
THREE days in and two to go. The hell that is half-term refuses to end.
Just when you have got into the swing of sending the wee monsters off to be cared for by a professional, the teachers declare "enough is enough" and dump them back on you for a week. Outrageous.
What is needed is a radical plan which doesn't involve you having to take a week off work (or away from the equally important task of doing exactly what you feel like if you are usually based at home) to mind your offspring. Some of the ideas below come too late to be employed this half-term. Feel free to treat them as your cut-out-and-keep guide to avoiding trauma next time round.
Some of what follows might seem harsh on the small people who share your home and drain your bank balance. But be bold, be brave. Half-term is no time for half measures.
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This day actually begins on Sunday night by allowing them to stay up as late as possible to watch the scariest film you can find.
They will then have a short night's sleep plagued with awful dreams.
True, your night's rest will be fitful, too, due to the many knocks at your bedroom door accompanied by small persons' sobs of, "I'm too scared to sleep!"
But it will be worth it.
Set the alarm for the usual school get-up time and when it goes off drag them from their beds with a cry of "you're going to be late for the bus!".
Then bundle them out of the door having half-eaten a Weetabix.
They will hang around the bus stop for half an hour and then – having been warned on many occasions "the next time you miss the bus you are walking to school" off they will trudge.
By the time they have stomped there and back, half a day should be gone.
Obviously this works best if your children actually usually to catch the bus to school. But they should be sufficiently dopey after two hours' sleep to believe anything.
Alternatively, you might have to move house to put you into free-bus range to make this one work. It'll be worth the effort for the next half-term.
TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY
This also requires forward planning. You will need a couple of sheets of their school's headed note paper.
If you can't persuade/ bribe/ con a teacher into giving you a few, make your own by photo copying a heading from an old letter on to a blank sheet.
Then simply write your offspring a letter outlining a large-scale project that must been completed during half-term, and sign it as if sent from his/ her/ their tutor or tutors.
As long as the subject is geography or geology or nature or in general, and must be completed in an environmentally friendly fashion, I leave the rest up to you.
ideally it should involve the collect of data or samples in far-flung locations – shells from the beach, lichen from rocks on Dartmoor, that kind of thing.
And, in keeping with that spirit of sustainability, the tour of the coast and moor must be completed by bicycle.
You might want to allow them a tent and a sleeping bag to reduce some of the travelling to and fro.
Today they should be physically tired and a little subdued after two days' hard core field work and long-distance pedalling.
They need some downtime. What's more relaxing than home cooking?
To cook they need ingredients – and they need to find them.
It's the autumn (or spring or summer if you have kept this guide for future reference) and what better time than the autumn (or spring or summer) to go foraging.
Let them gather all the nuts, berries, herbs and mushrooms that they can find in the fields, hedgerows and woods. Admittedly this is more of a challenge if you live in the middle of Stonehouse. But there's always the parks and their bikes – and the Cremyll Ferry.
You will have had another bad night's sleep after being up until the early hours dealing with a vomiting, diarrhoea-struck child or two.
Think of it as a valuable lesson along the lines of, "how many times have I told you NEVER to pick and eat any nuts, seeds, berries, leaves or mushrooms without showing me first?"
It is extremely unlikely that they will have the energy to protest that it was you who sent them out foraging. If they can muster the strength to complain, deny all knowledge and remind them of the hallucinatory properties of wild fungi – they obviously imagined they'd been dispatched to feed themselves.
There are two possible outcomes.
If they are still throwing up they will require hospitalisation. This has the benefit of giving you a break for a day or two, but you might have to argue your case with social services about it all being a terrible accident.
The ideal scenario is that they are simple subdued (or possible mildly tranquillised – oh, the wonders of Mother Nature's pantry) and can be left to sleep the effects off for day.
This also gives you the option of taking a day off work to care for your sick child or children – and demonstrating what a caring parent you are.