Monday, 30 May 2011

Bank Holiday Blues

I’m feeling a bit out of sorts today. It’s May Bank Holiday here in the UK and like many mums, I am feeling a responsibility to come up with a fun activity the family can do together, which doesn’t involve huge crowds, lots of money or potential altercations with other children (or their parents).

But the trouble with Bank Holidays is that every other person in the country is also on holiday, so all but the dullest activities are ruined by serious over crowding, and the palpable atmosphere of wild eyed people desperate to have ‘fun’.

It is yet another sign of our times that we feel this pressure to do something and make the most of all the opportunities available to us. We know that next weeks school conversation will be centred on Bank Holiday activities, and we want to give our children something exciting to report. Tales of theme parks and camping weekends will prevail, only for one annoying kid (with equally annoying parents) to gleefully relate his story of crocodile catching in America or something just as random/expensive/educational and trump everyone.

And it’s not so different in the adult world. The more competitive mothers will enjoy telling the rest of us not so organised, outgoing, rich or frankly, good, parents about how they took their kids to a paint your own crockery event, followed by a trip to the theatre and dinner at a Michelin star restaurant. All very civilised, I’m sure. I will be with the group of mums skulking off so I don’t have to admit that I guiltily sat my kids in front of “Cars” for the millionth time with some ready made popcorn, so me and the man could snuggle up on the end of the sofa for a rare but much needed daytime nap.

I like to think of myself as a fairly social person, I like to be around other people and feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself but often dealing with other people (and their kids) is what makes outings with children stressful.

I remember regularly leaving toddler groups in tears because son number one had pushed some poor child over (a favourite game of both my children unfortunately), but the other child, and more scarily the other child’s mother, did not see it as playful.

With son number 2, a frighteningly strong 21 month old, I tend to avoid toddler groups, and pretty much any situation where he will encounter children of a vulnerable or nervous disposition. For, like a lion preying on wildebeests, he is likely to hone in on the weakest member of the pack and attack without warning. Not that he sees it as attack you understand, to him he is the life and soul of the toddler party, pushing a kid over then climbing on him is fun for all concerned in his little mind. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that to other kids, or their cross parents. And me being the guilt ridden, easily embarrassed person that I am, end up feeling devastated that I have borne such a social monster. Thankfully I don’t need to take him out so much because being the second child he has an older brother (and therefore all of his older and more robust friends) to play with, a welcome relief for me.

I would like a nice day out. I want to have some fun with my family. But the thought of being stuck in a queue, walking round a museum or theme park downwind of the same slow/smelly/annoyingly rich/enthusiastic (or all of the above) family for hours, then being ripped off in the gift shop, restaurant and ice cream stand fills me with dread. And it’s not just me, it’s the man too. How do some people seem to be able to over look all that and enjoy days out with millions of other people, while the rest of us look tight or miserable because we would rather saw off our own arm?

A friend and her family went to Disneyland Paris recently, a very worthy Bank Holiday weekend activity, and said how brilliant it was. Eight foot high Mickey Mouse notwithstanding, it’s the thought of being herded around a park rammed full of over excited children and stressed, bewildered parents that puts me off. Give me Disney Junior, a few packets of crisps and snacks and a comfy sofa any day. I realise I will have to brave Disneyland in the future. It’s on my check list of things I must do at some stage, along with jumping out of a plane and running the London Marathon (neither of which are anywhere near fruition I have to point out). I never went as a child. Of course in those days you had to fly across the Atlantic to get there, which gave my parents a bit more of an excuse. Now we have a Disneyland on our own continent, a new generation of parents don’t have the same get out clause.

Bank Holidays are like weekends with increased pressure to have ‘fun’ or ‘do something worthwhile’, plus the added stress of everywhere being overcrowded with millions of other people feeling the same pressure to have ’fun’ or ‘do something worthwhile’. I love the idea of Bank Holidays, but they are always more exciting in theory than reality. When all is said and done I can’t actually wait for things to get back to normal and the pressure to make the most of this rare and wonderful day is removed. Roll on Tuesday.


  1. Love it. Today we have chilled out together, been to the recycling centre, had a coffee, bought some lego figures and back home for tea. Perfect, feel fully relaxed for the rest of half term. Bank holidays are made for relaxing!!!!! Another great piece Beth x x

  2. Beth, it's time to chill out a bit, Chick, and really not care a stuff about what other people think about you and your family, certainly not any stuffy, smug school mums! Bank Holidays are just a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, and like most small children I'm sure yours just love being with you (even if you are only weeding or building a patio). Put your tent up in the garden, have a picnic on the lawn and sod the rest of the country - your boys will love you just as much for being with them, and what's more it's a helluva lot cheaper! And take comfort in the fact that my kids are also "deprived" of expensive, crowded days out, but (despite my best efforts to be the world's grumpiest mother) still tell me that they love me all the time!