The long summer evenings of blissful light and heat have been reeking havoc with any sort of reasonable bedtime for all of us. Which would be grand if it wasn’t for the school mornings. By the time the last of the kids is asleep we feel we owe one another at least two hours of something or other. It’s often 1.30 before the contact lenses begin to be prised out. When the alarm sings and chimes merrily in the full dawn light I wonder how I’ve managed to do this to myself, again.

They lie on the couches downstairs, curled up, falling straight back to sleep even though I’ve successfully roused them. I find myself dressing all of them now as they flop and fall like rag dolls around me. The shoes are all in ones now and I’m squeezing them into too small or tightening too big old versions which nobody is happy about. We are all sick and tired of these agitating mornings. Which is why when I do an about-turn at the school gate, all four deposited almost on time – secondary guy snoozing on – I dream of something to recover with. If I were a smoker, a little congratulatory hit of a puff would be it. If I were a runner I could make good my escape from the school gate on foot, and that would be it. Something to mark the change in pace from freneticism to phew. I have yet to find out what that is.

The overall pace is set to change. Eight lovely weeks without those mornings stretch ahead. Curling up recuperating whenever, wherever.
Marque 5 wakes me. It’s blissfully 10 o’clock. ‘So summer holidays is when no-one wakes you, you don’t have to be anywhere, you have fun and you can just have a little relax’. Precisely my son.

Except we’ve set a sort of fervent pace of fun for this, the first weekend, which may trip us up down the road. We whipped them from their last school labours and catapulted them into the fun fair in Dun Laoghaire. There’s usually a week or two of begging which precedes anything like this. Delayed gratification does something useful to the child’s frontal lobe for later life skills – or so I was told at some child development talk. Don’t spoil, simply and traditionally put. As it’s marque 4’s actual birthday we ditch the begging delayed gratification phase. They can’t believe their luck.
‘Thank-you so so much for bringing us to the carnival’ marque 3 repeats over and over, throwing his arms around me happily, unselfconsciously. One minute he’s spotting the Ferris wheel from a walk along the coast and calling out ‘oh my god, there’s a carnival in Dun Laoghaire!’ and the next he’s at it and a little stunned.


Marque 5 needs an adult for the bumper cars and I nominate myself and they are wide-eyed with the excitement of their mum joining in. Until, that is, marque 2/3’s car whams so forcibly into the back of mine that our heads fling forwards and then back, and I’m thinking whip-lash as marque 2 leaps out of his car to apologise. ‘Noooo’ I call out over the thumping music, picturing him being mown down or legs crushed at this fun affair. ‘Sorry mum’ and he is handing me something. He has spotted my sunglasses on the floor which must’ve been flung from my head during my whip lash moment. Great.

The being on tenter-hooks feeling continues for the rest of the time at the fun-fair. Are they strapped in properly? What if there’s something wrong with the latch on his one? Why, oh why, does he have to do that g-force thing. Splat. The word that dances across my mind, as I smile and take pictures of them all. This queer mixture of feeling that a parent has watching their off-spring, exhilarated with the excitement of speed and height, and praying for it to be over quickly, safely. All this while remembering exactly how much I loved the thrill of the speed and the height myself. Thankfully with no memory of a hovering anxious looking parent. Oh well. Marque 4 & 5 ‘win’ prizes at hooking and netting things. This I like, rip off and all that it is. Our time is topped off by Teddy’s 99 ice-creams all round. Yeah! We did it, all intact, all happy, and the adrenalin begins to drop off again.

The tent that marque 4 got from his brothers pops up in the garden and marque 2,3 &4 decide that they will sleep out in it. We go along with it, expecting to see them return before real darkness. We eat and we chat and we sip wine and we wait. And wait. Until he slides the back door open onto the darkness and the quietness. He stands, listening. ‘They are asleep’ he announces. Which while thrilling poses a counter problem for us. Is it responsible parenting to rock on up to bed and leave them alone out there? I nominate him to sleep on the couch near the back door, just in case. He accepts his nomination gracefully and I don’t see him again until dawn when the lads have come in to him on a high.
‘We did it. We slept a night in a tent by ourselves!’ They curl up and sleep again on the couches, blissfully content with their achievement.

We take them to Seapoint for a quick dip but the fun unfurls and we stay for hours. A massive seagull circles above and then swoops down dropping something close by. It looks like a nest. We investigate and discover a huge crab, petrified, unmoving. The lads are keen to rescue it before the return of the swoop and scoop. A couple of late teenage (beautiful!) girls join in and help them. One picks the huge crab up as marque 5 cries out for her not to ‘it’ll pinch you’ and she calmly shows them all how to hold a crab by the body. They meander off down to a pool of water and set him free. He plays dead for a while, after his beaked excursion into the sky, and eventually buries himself to whoops of joy.

It is Sunday morning when marque 5 wakes me with his comment – so this is what summer holidays are all about. Yes, but there’s a disquieting feeling that we may have peaked too soon on this, the first weekend of the hols. What with the fun fair, the camping out and the seaside frolicking. Their expectations will be sky high.
‘What are we doing today then Mum?’
‘Nothing. Nothing at all my sweets’.
We need to take our foot off the pedal and pace ourselves for smatterings of fun stretching out over the next eight weeks!

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