Last night I slept well. I fell alseep, as usual, listening to a book on Audible (This little tome is a guaranteed sleep aid: not because it’s boring, because it’s not, but because I’ve heard it so many times and I just fall asleep anyway) and woke today refreshed, happy and keen to get to my desk.
Why am I telling you this? Because all over the country there will be men, women and children who are struggling to sleep over the next few days. They will be excited, scared, anxious, joyous, keen…. and all at once. Yes, it’s time to go back to school. Or as the French so wisely label it, La Rentrée.
Give France its due, they all celebrate La Rentrée, whether they work in school or not. I think that’s because they do see September (and this Monday in particular) as the time for taking up arms once more, ploughing a straight furrow through life instead of meandering through leisure and of having a good three months of solid work ahead before the next extended break.
We in the UK, on the other hand, leave the scholars and the the scholarly to suffer alone. Once August has hit, the Back to School signs come down and woe betide any parent who hasn’t bought the uniform and supplies by the 15th, since there won’t be a grey trousers waist 28 anywhere in town. And what do you mean by turning up to the shoe shop the last weekend in August asking for sensible girls’ shoes? Oh, foolish woman!
My school age children are now 15 and 17. My eldest, David, is 19 and returns to university at the end of September. He’s no bother now, throw a t shirt his way and smile. James is entering the second year of Sixth Form. I’m loathe to buy anything that won’t serve a second purpose after school. The old blazer will do, the tie better be in the drawer I told him to keep it in and his socks… well, Captain America is on a black background and, really, nobody will see them.
Sarah, aged 15, has had her uniform planned, washed, folded and ready since August hit. She had a list of school supplies, a list of necessaries, nice and not needed that she made clear to me. Apart from an impulse buy of black socks and a sudden need for new shoes that we sorted over the Internet, she is good to go.
By Wednesday my school children will be in school. I can stop worrying about feeding them at lunchtime, and I can settle down to full weeks back in work and a good run to Christmas.
What has this got to do with hygge? Well, the nerves of school return are inevitable, really. It’s like first night nerves on the stage. Especially for my little workers, with exams at the end of this year. They are already looking ahead and feeling anxious about the exams. Not scared, just anxious. It’s very uhygge.
My role as their Mum will be to help them cope. To create a sanctuary that works for them. I’ve already done that by making sure their physical needs are taken care of: there’s biscuits in the jar, fruit in the bowl and drinks available when they return. And their emotional needs will be cared for as well. Here’s my list of things I’ve done to build a hygge base for the teenagers.
- Both living areas are clear and cleaned. This means that they can be sociable or not as they feel the need. And both areas have the equipment needed to ‘do’ downtime properly: a large TV with Netflix in one,and a sound system with banging speakers in the other.
- Food is always available. We’ll get extra bread in, because toast is always a fail safe comfort food after a day of thinking.
- There are cushions and blankets in both rooms. Even a 17 year old needs to nest. And I keep providing blankets and cushions for the bedrooms, too.
- Mealtimes are family times. We always have our meals at the table and together, barring absolutely exceptional circumstances or the occasional treat when we eat in front of the TV and watch a movie. Daily mealtime takes no extra effort, and gives us a chance to meet without screens, books or other items interrupting the conversation. Our best discussions and worst arguments happen around the table.
- Their rooms are kept clean enough. Clothes washed, carpet mostly clear and no food allowed in the rooms, so no plates or mugs to wash. Getting the clothes to wash off the lads is a bit sticky (every pun intended) at times, but they recognise that it keeps their nests smelling better and means they have things to wear that are a. clean and b. clean.
- Time: this is the most precious thing I can give them. When they need me, then I’m free to talk. Very often it’s when I’m cooking and one of them comes in to sit on the kitchen chair (no space for the full kitchen table, sadly) to tell me their tale of woe. Or the car is always a good time for a chat. There’s something about having me drive and therefore not able to give them big stares that helps them open up. But whenever my kids seek me out, I try to be available. It’s not often, so I know it’s probably important to them when they do.
- Unconditional love. I hope my children know that I really don’t care what they end up as, as long as they end up fulfilled. They have dreams and ambitions that I will help them achieve as much as possible, but if that ambition is to be the Prime Minister or the Call Centre Worker, I won’t mind as long as they’re happy with themselves. I love them despite their achievements, never because of. Although, having said that, I’m all for encouraging them to do the work and see how far they get before they settle down….
So, there you have my hygge for the new school year sorted. I’m hoping that despite having A levels, GCSE and second year Uni exams next summer, we can keep our chill. I’ll let you know come next April if it worked. Good advice to anybody taking exams this year: the work starts now, so buckle down and let’s do our best.
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