Friday 24 July 2009

Surviving the summer holidays: playdates for mums

Day 1 of Holidaywatch. And I'm already stumped as to what to do. Yesterday afternoon for about 15 minutes we had a blaze of glorious sunshine and for that brief time I had a snapshot of what summer holidays could be like if it actually felt like summer. Ball games in the garden, picnics, BBQs, long walks, swimming - the potential was awesome.

But then a vast black cloud moved in and dumped a deluge of water on the garden and we retreated indoors. Just like that, the wisp of potential drained away.

Now I know that there'll be a bunch of lovely mums out there who are tutting as they read this. The minute the rain moves in, they're probably whooping it up with arts & crafts, baking, puzzles & games, or even putting on raincoats and wellies and heading out for a splash. All good stuff. And I agree that all of these things can be fun. But for how long? And perhaps they have children who actually do the arts & crafts rather, than say, paint the walls. Or who can play a game for more than 3 minutes before the arguments start about whether to go up the snakes and down the ladders or vice versa.

So I start to look outwards, towards the countless number of places that keep children entertained at vast expense. Once you remove all those that aren't suitable for rainy days, you're left with a handful of options, none of which fill me with a huge amount of joy. I find myself doing a website roundabout tossing up between a museum or movie and eventually being debilitated by indecision, all the while the kids get bored and destroy the house.

Part of the problem is that any activity - whether it's a museum or finger painting, football or picnics - is so much better when you do them with a friend. And adult friend. Because then, in between breaking up fights, you can have a chat/commiserate and it feels less like hard work.

Don't get me wrong, I am perfectly capable of enjoying my children's company and I know the key is to not attempt to do anything else other than throw yourself into an activity with gusto. But just like the kids enjoy having a friend to play with, so do I.

But I've found it hard to find friends to do things with. We do have a good number of people that we'll be seeing during the holidays that we've pre-arranged things with, but what I'm missing is someone like a Who Wants to Be A Millionaire phone-a-friend type friend. The kind of friend who you know is sitting in the exact same position as you are, just as confused as to how to spend the day and just as open to last minute spur of the moment get togethers.

But everyone else seems to be so organised. They all seem to have every last minute of their holidays accounted for. They're all armed with playdough and museum season tickets. And friends. Lots and lots of friends.

Do they really all have every minute of the next six weeks accounted for? And how, without sounding like Desperate Dan or Norman No Mates, do you let other mums know that you're at home with two bored children and are more than happy to meet up for a spur of the moment play? There should be some kind of international sign - like a skull and crossbones flag (only the bones would be rolling pins and the skull would have bags under its eyes) - that you can fly outside your house. Any other mum who sees it can pop in and say: right, let's all go splash in the puddles together shall we? It turns an ok afternoon into a great afternoon for everybody.

I really hate being the person to call and say: are you free? Do you want to meet up? Only to be told that they have a free day at some point next Easter. I love last minute get togethers. They're the best kind. In fact Martha Lane Fox could set up a new kind of to help mums get together, not only with kids but for the odd night out at a pub.

It's that whole fear of rejection which stops us putting a call into another mum and suggesting a meet up. But maybe, they are just like me, sitting there wishing the phone would ring.

I should start a campaign called Dial-a-mum in which mothers are encouraged to call people - even people they're not 'friends' with but acquaintances who they've met at the park or school gate who they could potentially be friends with. I'm sure I could get a phone company to sponsor it....

Anyway, I think we've decided to go to a museum. I think. And the kids are now killing each other, so I must go. But please tell me I'm not alone in this thinking.


b said...

I know what you mean, it can be a bit debilitating, thinking that you are the only one in that situation, but I guarantee you probably are not. Have you seen this website it has a similar theme to what you are talking about. Good luck with your playdates and the hols.

nappy valley girl said...

You are not alone, we often find ourselves in that situation (and, since we moved, almost all the time). Know what you mean about not wanting to be the one to phone up yet again.

I used to resort to soft play centres on rainy day with no other activity planned - do you have any nearby?


Mary said...

We're around most of the holidays if you'll have us. Apart from a couple of 'mini-breaks' for the children, I have virtually nothing planned, apart from praying that the weather improves.
Are you around next week?

Home Office Mum said...

Thanks for that link B - looks like a fab site.

Nappy Valley - I know what it's like to move somewhere new. It's even harder. Hope you make some friends there soon. Am so tempted to move there maybe I'll just come be your friend :-)

Mary, I'll drop you an email. Working next week but around thereafter.

Anonymous said...

I'm in this situation all the time as Husband works shifts so I'm often on my own with the kids. I was recently moaning to a friend about how awful I find weekends (no play-groups, everyone playing happy families with their 9-5 husbands) only to discover she felt the same because her husband played cricket all day Saturday. The days we could have had together last summer...

Anyway, my apologies for not having dropped in for a while - I've been off-line. Looking forward to reading back and catching up :) xx

Anonymous said...

Definitely not alone! And I thought I was the only one as well!

Who's the Mummy? said...

Definitely not alone - we've moved to a new town and while I've made some great friends we don't have that spur of the moment thing yet, or friends we can drop in on - I do miss it.

And I also find so many people who, when you do call, have full diaries for three weeks. It's insane, and makes me feel highly inadequate!

I think you just have to give it time, and I second the soft play idea - it's a great rainy day staple and you can always take a book. At three, Flea also loves the cinema, and she's just old enough now for ten pin bowling, which she also adores. But our real saviour on quiet days is swimming - we often go two or three times a week when i'm not working.