Gardener and writer Debbie Webber recounts moments from her chaotic and busy life as the mother of five children ranging in ages from three up to thirteen in our regular column The Fab Five...
I'm trying not to be envious I really am but it's not working. The children have broken up for the summer holidays and stretching before them are six luxurious weeks. Endless days of doing more or less what they like.
I can still remember as a child what the holidays felt like -- eternity. And it was always hot and sunny in my memory. I honestly have no recollection of rainy days so they couldn't have affected me too much.
Back in those days my mother and my friends' mothers didn't feel the need to lay on entertainment all our waking hours.
I'm feeling a bit of a hankering for Those Days.There were no kids' clubs and, admittedly, few working mothers. Our days were spent mostly in and out of each others' houses, in the paddling pool (it was always hot, remember) and in the garden.
It's not that I'm trying to replicate my childhood in a retro, nostalgic kind of way but in some respects that does seem to be what's happening. I turning a deaf ear to all the wonderful things other people have planned for their children.
My children's summer will consist of village friends, sleepovers (again, obviously going for Mother of the Year here), getting loads of library books out and, I'm sure, a fair bit of boredom which, I keep telling myself, is Good For Them.
When I have five minutes I am going to make a list of Fun and Cheap Things To Do (That Are Vaguely Enjoyable for Mum Too) to stave off my guilt, if nothing else. So far this list exists in my head but I will have it pinned to the fridge door soon. Probably by the last week of August.
So far my list includes: going for breakfast on the hill, flying a kite, visiting a Pick Your Own farm (I know we have an allotment but five children can "harvest" a veggie patch quite quickly), a trip on the bus (this is always a huge treat to my chauffeur-driven children) and a pyjama day for us all,
There is also a family camping trip and other sodden days under canvas, possibly at a festival. I might also resurrect some ideas from here depending on how wet and miserable the holidays are.
It's not always been like this though, in case anyone runs away with the idea that I'm Super Mum (hardly likely but you never know). The summer I had my fifth child saw me in floods of tears in the playground at the end of term, consumed with guilt that I had ruined my children's lives. Other families were jetting off on exotic holidays. I felt I wouldn't be able to cope.
It wasn't like that of course. There was a week at a play scheme, which they all hated, and a family camping holiday, which they all loved. But mostly my memories of that particular six weeks are full of the usual mix of the good, the bad and the downright boring. But mostly good.
Much like this year's summer holidays, I hope.