Yesterday the four of us arrived home from a week spent at Newark Showground, living in our tent. It was the annual New Wine North & East Summer Conference, and this was our third one. And without a doubt this was my favourite one so far.
A brief history of the last four summers:
August 2009. Greenbelt festival with Two and Three while One was at Scout camp, camping with a few friends. Newly separated, trying to get to grips with being a single parent, totally stressed, I was an utter basket case for the majority of the weekend. I had so many stamping feet tantrums that weekend I’m surprised I didn’t leave my trainers in the mud. It is fair to say that I didn’t enjoy Greenbelt much, but I think that had more to do with my state of mind and attitude at the time than the festival itself.
August 2010. New Wine with all 3 children, and some church friends. Though a year had passed, I still struggled with holidaying as a single parent, and also struggled with being fully sociable with our friends. During the week I realised just how much I was still struggling with everything, and drew an accidental picture depicting how awful I was feeling; lonely, rejected, useless, with cripplingly low self esteem. When I looked at the picture I was shocked and upset. I spent a fair proportion of the week in floods of tears, though I did enjoy it and the children said it was the best holiday they had ever had. 🙂
I started some counselling in the September, and took the picture along as a starting point, saying ‘this is where I am starting from’, basically.
August 2011. New Wine with all the children and the same group of friends. I could really tell I was in a better place this year. We all enjoyed it, I cried a lot less, still found some of it difficult but relaxed a lot more than the year before. One memorable moment was the phonecall from the Child Protection Officer to ask to meet me for a chat after Two had told his group leaders he wanted to die. Quite a tricky conversation to have, to let them know that he says it quite often, it is more of a reflex reaction and not to be taken particularly seriously, without sounding blase and as though I don’t care! The other memorable moment was managing to lock my keys and my mobile phone in my car by accident at about eleven o’clock on the last night when all of our friends had already gone home. That took a lot of sorting out along with a very kind and helpful steward and eventually a breakdown lorry driving onto the site after midnight… oops! (It took me a whole year to confess to our friends that this had happened…)
August 2012. New Wine with 3 children plus 2 of our usual party and their respective daughters. This was without a doubt the most relaxing holiday with children I have had, possibly ever, and certainly since becoming a single parent. Here are some reasons why:
– Having recently finished 2 years of counselling and also having treatment for depression I am in a hugely better place myself. I’m learning to chill out and relax like never before.
– The children are all a year older and it is a year that has made a huge difference. One has moved up to the 14-18 activities and has really enjoyed the extra freedom and maturity levels of that. Two has moved up to the 12-13 activities which meant he could stay in bed a bit longer in the mornings and got free toast during the interactive breakfast cafe! Three being 8 now is allowed to leave her venue by herself instead of being collected by an adult, and she along with my friends’ daughters had a LOT more freedom this year to go where she wished when she wished. This meant I could attend seminars at any time of day I felt like it instead of being tied to the morning ones only.
– I filled in a form stating that Two is on the autistic spectrum and detailed his propensity for talking about death so I didn’t get phoned up by concerned people this year. This set into motion a whole process of special needs provision for him and he loved it. He now wants his own pair of ear defenders, and spent a lot of time during his group activities in the ‘Our Place’ section (for special needs) blowing bubbles and playing air hockey with another boy with Aspergers Syndrome. This all suited him far better and he can’t wait to go back to ‘Our Place’ next year; the team were fabulous with him and I really felt I could relax about him this year!
– We catered for ourselves this year instead of as part of a group. This meant I could shop as cheaply as possible and also gave us freedom about mealtimes which was more difficult when part of a cooking and washing up rota. It made an enormous difference to my relaxation levels.
– Instead of choosing as many seminars as I could fit in, this year I picked the few that really interested me and had a lot more time just chilling in the tent. I was so tired at the beginning of the week that I kept dozing off during morning and evening worship (yes listening to a sermon with your eyes shut is TOTALLY normal…) and a few afternoon naps really helped.
I got a lot out of the talks I heard, particularly ‘Raising Strong Daughters’, ‘Good Enough Parenting’ and ‘A Beginner’s Guide to the Bible’ (I’m not exactly a beginner to the Bible but I haven’t actually read it at all for a year so thought I’d like to start from scratch!). I really enjoyed spending family time with the children when we ate together, and loved the fact that their activities kept them busy so I could relax and do my own thing too.
I’ve come home feeling refreshed, revitalised and feeling very good about my ability to take my children on holiday by myself – I never felt at all confident about that until now! My friends kept teasing me for being ‘too calm and organised’ – those are NOT qualities I have ever demonstrated in their presence before!
It was all fab and I can’t wait for next year!