Only one week to go of the summer stint back in Ireland, ducking the searing Middle Eastern rays, and like every parent with limited disposable cash and heightened stress levels, I cannot wait for the kids to go back to school! Albeit my children have a longer journey to their school in Abu Dhabi but in order to preserve what little I have left of my sanity, the holiday must end and the kids must be packed off to school.
It’s clear that if ever you wanted to spend money hand over fist and have nothing to show for it, the best approach would be to have a few kids hanging around for the summer, constantly asking, “What are we doing today?”
Year after year you convince yourself that you are creative enough to provide summer-long entertainment for your chicks on the cheap and summer after summer you prove yourself wrong. It always starts the same, grand plans for picnics and adventure parks, day trips to the Aran Islands and Dublin Zoo, all these plans quickly transpire into trips to the nearby cinema and a few frenzied hours in Pennys, before finally breaking down to full days being spent in front of the TV eating crisps, and that’s only the adults!. The kids start going to bed later and getting up later and before long you feel that you’re living with a group of hormonal, fridge clearing, wallet washin’ vampires. Not alone sapping every resource available but also taking the opportunity to drain the blood from your cheeks. Ok, whilst it mightn’t be that bad for everyone, on recent enquiry it would seem that for some it is this bad and for many others it’s worse!
Younger kids are undoubtedly easier distracted with a trip to the playground or an hour in a soft play activity centre for a fiver, but it’s the older kids who are the heavy hitters. The wish list is more concise and more expensive and free or low cost activities are scare and even if available would be eyed with a distinct lack of amusement, a look it would seem perfected by teenagers.
This being said, I decided to undertake the mammoth task of providing a great days entertainment for the princely fee of, nothing. Apart from the sneaky suspicion that if I went to the Banklink machine for cash the screen might read, “Are you flippin’ serious?”, I thought it would be a good experience for the kids to go a full day without material influences. Obviously it would involve taking a packed lunch and the cost of petrol, but the intended additional spend was zero. With the enthusiasm of a bunch of death row prisoners, the kids loaded into the car. Smiling profusely and hell-bent on making them enjoy a day along the wonderful beaches and nature walks around Cork, I sang, “We’re all going on a summer holiday” as I drove the silent group to the beach. Not even the persistent drizzle of rain outside could dampen my mood, this would work. The irritating squeak of the windscreen wiper only added to the ambience of, “We’ve nothing but we’re happy”. The mood was notably tense as we walked along the beach in rain, the baby struggled to keep up and the bigger kids were not impressed as they’re Vans were getting destroyed by the soggy sand.
Moving swiftly on to the wildlife park where we hung around outside hoping to get a free glimpse of a giraffe from over the trees, the mood showed no signs of lifting. Swarms of kids passed by us, waving their trinkets from the gift-shop and eating bags of hot chips as they giggled happily. It was time to introduce the picnic. However the soggy ham sandwiches did nothing to lift spirits and after a silent trip home, I concluded that the cost of schoolbooks and school uniforms would seem like a small investment when compared to the countless Euros doled out over to the summer to try and create happy summer holiday memories. Roll on School, if not for education for sanity alone.