Right. That’s it. The lessons are over. The postmortem about school report has been held and concluded to nobody’s complete satisfaction.
The blazers, sweatshirts, dark trousers and sensible shoes have been scrunched up in a heap or left to fester in a dark corner.
For a couple of moments a veil of peace settles on the household.
In that brief stasis, the relief they feel at having no more maths, French, geography, food tech, whatever, just about outweighs the horrific realisation that they’ve got nothing to occupy them for six whole weeks.
Then all hell lets loose.
School is the only thing that really keeps kids busy. And being busy is the only thing that keeps them from either throttling each other or thinking up smart comebacks to any instruction from their parents.
All right, they probably throttle each other at school too, and cheek the teachers while they’re at it. But isn’t that the main reason you pay your council tax, to stop them doing it at home?
“Mum, Dad, I’m bored,” say the not-so-little ones.
“Well, find yourself something to do,” says the increasingly frazzled parent.
“But there isn’t anything to do,” comes the well-practised response.
“Well read a book, or go for a walk, or tidy your room,” says parent, playing for time.
“But that’s B-O-R-I-N-G. Why aren’t we on holiday? All our friends are on holiday.”
“Well we’re going next week,” says parent, playing the trump card.
“But everyone else has gone this week. That means we won’t see our mates for ages.”
“Well it’ll be all the more fun when you get back together, won’t it? And anyway, you can Facebook them.”
“But they can’t get on Facebook in the Rocky Mountains. And why can’t we go to Canada? Why are we going camping in Devon? Again?”
Perceptive readers will have noticed that the conversation has already descended into one of the classic modes of parent/offspring non-communication: what psychologists call the But/Well Interface.
Child starts every sentence with “But...” Parent answers every objection with “Well...” And there are no winners. Ever.
When your columnist and his brother were young, we were looked after by Grandma Dixon (you remember, the one with the odd theories about women’s lifespans).
Her response to any hint of an “I’m bored” scenario was a pre-emptive strike with some Rudyard Kipling:
“The Camel’s hump is an ugly lump/ Which well you may see at the Zoo;/ But uglier yet is the hump we get/ From having too little to do...”
Neither of us had a clue what she was on about, but she did instil in us the love of literature which has continued to succour us in our later years.
Of course we didn’t have video games in those days. All we had was a stick. But what might loosely be called the electronic cosh is definitely the modern parent’s truest, bestest, closest friend.
Plug in, turn on and wait for the electricity bill. At least it saves on arguments.