I feel like a bad parent. We are approaching the end of the summer holidays and the children go back to school on Thursday (hurray!). That's not what is making me feel bad - I doubt there are many parents who do not heave a sigh of relief to see the end of the long summer holiday lurch into view.
No, what makes me feel inadequate is the other parents. To explain, FB has gone over to play with a friend of his a few times during the holidays. FB loves this and his friend's mother assures me it is doing her a favour as it keeps her son occupied too. We have been meaning to return the favour but have not yet managed to do so (more confirmation of our laziness) SB however has sulked every time this has happened. His friends have not invited him over and it's NOT FAIR and I have had to explain that inviting yourself over to someone else's house is just not done. SB considers this unreasonably fastidious of me.
So last week I agreed I would phone round some of his friends and see if they were free to come over for an afternoon to redress the balance somewhat. Guess what. They weren't. I only phoned three and they were, variously: attending rugby camp; attending computer camp; attending organised events at the Book Festival; helping move house. Yeah, okay, that last one is fair enough. The others though? Made me feel like Inadequate Parent of the Year 2008. Other than going away on holiday with them, our arrangements for the children's summer holiday have consisted of making sure my parents are there to look after them, letting them go to Livingston a few times to stay with Granny and Grandad and otherwise expecting them to amuse themselves. They have gone to the museum and to the country park a few times as well as shopping and so on. But no organised clubs, camps or activities.
Now, we have a house full of computers, books, toys and more Lego than I ever thought any normal house could contain. We live in a fairly safe cul-de-sac over the road from a park. It never occurred to me we needed to organise camps and classes for them too. I mean, I did organise swimming lessons last year but that was because I wanted them to learn to swim, not because I thought they needed to have organised activities planned.
Am I out of touch? When I was a child (here we go, nostalgia overload) we were pretty much turfed out of the house during the school holidays. Admittedly I did not grow up in a city but the principle was the same: my brother and I and our friends were expected to make our own entertainment and we did. (Remind me to tell you sometime about the home-made version of "Superstars" we organised once.) Is it unrealistic of me to expect my children to do the same when they live in a city and don't have the freedom and space I had as a child? Or am I actually doing them a favour by making them responsible for their own free time rather than organising everything for them? Or is that just me excusing my own bone-deep laziness and apathy?
More importantly, why don't children come with instruction manuals so I don't have to fret over this stuff?