It’s time we all stopped kidding ourselves. Raising kids and trying to work during school holidays is like wrangling an epileptic octopus while wearing a blindfold. To win, you have to be in the moment with BOTH, ideally not at the same time because then you’ll fall off the rock and shatter your head on the concrete while the octopus stands above you waving its tentacles and yelling “mwahaha, you should have let them eat candy.”
The octopus analogy is meaningful because when I was a kid I lived in Algeria, an enormous Mediterranean Sahara Desert country in North Africa that hardly anyone has even heard of. (Stay with me here ok? Thanks). In the summer we’d finish school at 1 p.m. and sometimes go to the beach where I’d spend the afternoon gurgling around on my own underwater with a mask and snorkel pretending I was a mermaid. I was an only child, which is perhaps why I have a wild imagination because much of the time I no-one to talk to……except I didn’t have boobs or long blonde hair so I couldn’t have been a mermaid, oh come on I was seven for God’s sake, cut me some slack ok?
One particular afternoon I’d had enough of being underwater after no sailors had fallen for my soulful siren song and decided instead to go scramble over the rocks at the end of the beach. In my mind it was rock climbing, conquering the highest cliff faces with my bare hands and exploring unknown worlds from which I may never return. My headstone would say “She perished in service to the world’s greatest explorers, we deeply mourn her loss.” In reality the rocks were typical end of beach boulders about four to five feet high.
I was reasonably far into my unexplored world with my imaginary silver mermaid fork poised and ready for action, when out from behind a rock leapt…….
the biggest fucking octopus you can imagine. All blubbery and rubbery with a million tentacles with enormous suckers…..well ok eight because that’s why they’re called octopi, and the biggest, flubberiest bulging eyes you have ever seen.
It eyed me off, and then with a series of ear splitting wet slaps, flubbered and blubbered its tentacles around that damn rock straight towards me. I could have died of heart failure, right then right there, my mermaid powers were shit out of battery power, so much for life eternal.
For a very long moment I stood and watched mesmerised as it slapped its way towards me and as the reality dawned on my little mind that I might well be ending my days in Davy Jones Locker, my amygdala kicked in. I jumped out of my mermaid tail and ran for my life. Except I couldn’t run for my life because there were CLIFF FACES in front of me.
Like a mountain goat I leapt that morning, over the boulders, (all five or so of them) and sprinted like a child possessed down the beach screaming. I must have run oh, about 20 meters before turning around to see if it was still following me. I swear to this day I saw it standing on top of a boulder eyeing me off and waving its suckery tentacles at my retreating legs.
Many years later this happened in Oxford Circus, in Central London:
I swear on my mermaid tail this was my octopus, on the back of a broken down truck on the other side of Europe.
Of course I can’t be sure but one thing is assured, parenting kids and working during school holidays is like wrangling one.
Do you agree? How are you coping with kids, working and school hols?