Hard Lessons

One full day of the summer holidays left, and for the past week it has definitely felt like we have been on the homeward bound, distinctly downhill, part of our holiday rollercoaster. A week ago I was marvelling at how quickly they had sped by, and how well we were surviving them. This past week every day has felt like a month, everything that could go wrong, has. We have all been very low on patience, resilience and calm. I have come to the definite conclusion that the summer holidays are at least one week longer than they should be.

A whole week ago I had a day off work. A glorious sunny day, with the in- laws staying and keen for some Cornish adventuring. So, despite my husband feeling poorly and exhausted, we headed off for a boat trip down my favourite stretch of river, to my favourite National Trust properties, in fact one of my favourite places in the whole world. A lovely cool walk through the trees lining the river, to a tiny pebble beach. The water was an incredible turquoise, crystal clear, and so warm. We had a lovely time paddling, though the kids really wanted to swim, as several others were also doing. We hadn’t prepared for this at all, and since our only way home was back by boat, we agreed to return the next day with towels and costumes.

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The next day my daughter was up by first light, in her swimming costume, clothes over the top, and pestering to get going. To our credit we managed to hold out for several hours, but eventually we agreed to get going, by car this time. We arrived to discover the tidal river, which I had only ever known tight close to the tiny pebble beach, was miles and miles away. Across a raft of slippery seaweed and then an eternity of mud. After just a few minutes I had managed to slip on a seaweedy rock whilst carrying my son, falling on my elbows and knees, thankfully cradling his head with my hands, which very nearly smashed on the rock. My girl was at her very most determined though, so I agreed to keep trying to get to the water. So off through the mud of doom we headed.

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It turned out to be thick, tar-like, black and green sludge that dragged us in to our knees. She was way ahead of me, so desperate to reach the water, when I got well and truly stuck. She was forging on ahead, and I could see us both becoming stuck, with me having absolutely no way to help her. Thankfully, for one of the first times in her life she actually listened when I shouted to her to come back to me. I’m amazed we managed to get each other out of there and back to the pebbles, but then there we were, in swimming costumes, arms and legs covered in sticky black mud. My daughter then decided that was the perfect moment to have a massive tantrum. Part of me was so proud of her determination, her problem solving skills, her plans to walk around the coast till we reached the water, to wait for the tide to rise. And part of me just wanted to escape this nightmare as we hauled our poor, tarry, screaming, crying child back up the hill, past all the other happy holiday makers, back to our car.

That has very much set the tone for our last week of the summer, wading through sinking mud. I struggled through another few shifts at work, feeling utterly exhausted and broken by the unrelenting craziness at work, smattered with some real sadness and heartbreak I have had to be strong through. I spent the whole time wondering how totally exhausted I have to feel to be able to justify saying I wasn’t well enough to work. I’m usually pretty robust and emotionally strong at work, but on numerous occasions I found myself very nearly reduced to tears by my patients and colleagues, who were either horrible and rude, or just so incredibly kind and sweet, which was almost worse. One remarkable 87 year old lady spoke so eloquently about her feelings around knowing she would die from her metastatic brain tumour, that I had to have a moment hiding in the bathroom to pull myself together again.

The week culminated with a visit to the Eden Project, to stay overnight at the youth hostel on site in a shipping container conversion. We had all been so incredibly excited about this. We arrived around lunchtime on the Saturday, to pouring rain. We were all soaked to the skin before we’d even made it through the turnstiles, to find the whole of Cornwall, maybe the whole of England, had decided that a rainy day at the very end of the holidays was the perfect time to visit. It was just so packed that we couldn’t see anything in the undercover parts, and outdoors the rain was relentless. The children were both at their most horrible. Eventually we gave in, heading back to our room for the night. The shipping container was seriously cool, but became pretty claustrophobic with four wet, grumpy, overtired and overwired people inside for the endless evening before we finally managed to get them to sleep.

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The next morning was a slight improvement, dry at least! We headed down as the gates opened and had a beautiful couple of hours whilst it was beautifully quiet and we managed to really appreciate it.

By lunchtime though we were done for and headed home, tired, grumpy, resentful, and unable to prevent petty squabbles taking over. Back home to the sofa and Star Wars and we survived the day.

Back on to night shifts tonight. At least that means I get to spend some time alone, hiding upstairs pretending to sleep. It does mean I’ll be finishing my shift during the first school run on the year, which I feel horribly guilty about. September continues to be rubbish in terms of my rota and all the work responsibilities I need to catch up with, that I have been putting off all holidays. Actually woke in the middle of the night on Friday with a full blown panic attack about everything I have on my to-do list. I am working way over my allocated sessions this month and the last, but hopefully that will mean some quiet moments when we got October, I just need to get through to then.

I have definitely learnt some hard lessons this past week. Check the tide times. Pack towels when ever there may be chances to swim. Avoid Eden on rainy days in the summer holidays and arrive when it first opens. That I can’t keep going with no recovery time, endlessly. That me and my husband both need time to recover in order for us to be our usual delightful parenting selves! That I need to schedule time off, even if just a few days here and there, over the long summer break. That its ok not to fill those days with activity a after activity. That having guests visiting is wonderful, but spread them out a little more. That maybe some time away from us on activity days, or crazy thought, other family members, would probably be a good thing for our daughter. It has also firmly rammed home that however romantically and idealistically I think of the concept of homeschooling our children, that neither me or my husband would be able to survive it whilst also working and living so far from any support network. I have never felt quite so thankful for my daughter’s lovely little school, which may not be perfect, but which keeps her safe and happy, while we have some time to recover our sanity.

 

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