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Hot House

Spare the spoons

Claudia Savage-Gore hates the school holidays with three children underfoot

My friend Pandora and I were just saying how obviously when we were kids we had holidays. But our parents were absolutely not involved. I don’t know who was looking after us: I mean this was the benign neglect Eighties, so presumably an Australian nanny. But my mother was most definitely not ferrying me to sodding coding camp, or dovetailing my playdates with my sister’s on a blackboard-paint wall in the playroom devoted to our schedules.

Ironically, she didn’t even have an actual job. But, you know, she was always busy reading Hello! or something. Whereas now we all work full-time, but the schools are periodically just like: “OK, here you go, you’re in charge for a month!” ffs. And prep school holidays are ridiculously long now. I’ve got all three kids underfoot for the best part of six weeks because the schools take some kind of sadistic pleasure in not synchronising their term dates.

Anyway, my point is that children today are so damn spoon-fed they literally can’t entertain themselves. Christmas, obviously, is fine because we’re skiing with Will’s parents for a week, which is joyous because my in-laws always do Scott Dunn and the chalet comes with almost 24-hour childcare.

But afterwards, we’ll be back in St John’s Wood while Inma our au pair’s still with her bloody family in Malaga. And because January is supposedly the busy month in insurance Will gets to piss off to the office, while I attempt to “work from home”.

So I booked Lyra into this performing arts camp which Minnie used to love, but when we downloaded the script she complained it was un-feminist to have ugly sisters in Cinderella (she’s seven). Obviously I panicked that Lyra really does feel like the ugly sister because she looks so like Will. Whereas Minnie — I know this sounds terrible but I’m just being honest — is clearly the pretty one.

So I spent all yesterday emailing Andrea, the child psychotherapist we saw when Hector kept shoplifting, about Lyra’s self-esteem. Apparently the key to fostering healthy body image in daughters is never talking about what you or anyone else looks like, so that ship has already massively sailed.

Meanwhile Minnie, who’ll be at the aforementioned coding camp, is claiming to have “anxiety” about the workload at her new school. Which is frankly a joke. It’s a full-on Bedales type “let the kids do what they feel drawn to’” co-ed boarding school, which she arm-twisted Will into and which I’m now seriously worried is teaching her nothing (hence coding camp).

Meanwhile poor old Hector’s off to forest school in Highgate Woods to freeze and forage. By the time I’ve got rid of them all, had a coffee and fended off a few work emails, I’ll be back in the car. Because during the holidays I’m essentially an unpaid Uber driver. 

At least we aren’t hosting The Everywhere Bear. Three Christmases ago, when Hector was at nursery, he randomly brought back this grim white teddy and we were supposed to take photos of said bear doing lots of jolly yet educational activities with the Savage-Gore family, and stick them in this hideously competitive album. Everyone else had set the bar insanely high, as apparently the headmistress took The Everywhere Bear album very seriously when considering parents’ applications from the nursery to her pre-prep.

One particularly annoying American family took the bear to Lapland, with captions about how the bear was reconnecting with its Polar heritage. So there’s that, at least. Small mercies.

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