I have to declare up front that I am not really a hot weather person. I burn easily and get rather flustered in the heat. I love the sun when I have nothing to do. Lying on a sun lounger on a hot day (in the shade, in my case) whilst sipping an exotic cocktail festooned with some sort of concertina paper parrot is heaven on earth. Who doesn’t love that? And sunshine certainly lifts your soul. There is nothing like opening your curtains to the beauty of a sunny morning. But running about after three children in pavement melting heat is not my idea of fun.
So, how to survive a heatwave with kids? Well, as any seasoned parent will tell you, a paddling pool is absolutely essential. Ours has been set up and ready to go at a moment’s notice for about two weeks now. We have no grass in our minute garden so we stick a load of those foam jigsaw things down and bung it on top of that. It works well enough, even if we can only fit a tiny pool in, which can be a little cramped with three increasingly gangly kids busting out of it. But small will have to do. Coupled with a water tray for overspill kids, it works wonders. It keeps everyone cool and entertained for longer than anything else when the heat is on.
The main question with a paddling pool is how long can you get away without changing the water. Having a paved back garden, we avoid the grass factor, but Baby T tends to like to fill it with mud, digging it out from between the paving slads and flicking it in, so we rarely make it past a couple of days. Without the mud, I reckon three days is just about the limit. Much longer than that and you get things laying their larvae in it and all the toys get slimy, so you add to your workload by having to scrub everything.
The paddling pool also has a massive bonus in that it can double as a bath. Bored of bathing your sweaty, sun cream covered kids every day? No problem! Bring the soap and shampoo out into the garden and give them a good scrub out there whilst you sip a cool beer. You can also use the leftover water to feed your parched plants. Everyone’s a winner.
I spend a good deal of time standing in the paddling pool myself. I find that cooling the feet during over-heated rows with the kids calms me down considerably.
Of course, there are some downsides to our inflatable friend. There is always the poo in pool risk, which is pretty high when you have a usually nappy clad toddler milling about in the buff. “Everybody out, we have a floater!” is a familiar cry, and I once had to dig rabbit droppings out from between the aforementioned paving slabs. Happy times.
You also have to rescue drowning wildlife from time to time. Bees and frogs, mainly. It is worth it though. The benefits massively outweigh the negatives.
What else can you do to keep things under control during a heatwave? Well, I’m a big fan of cancelling all unnecessary things. Who needs to be dragging hot and angry kids to after school clubs in 35 degree heat? Not I. Clubs off – everyone back to the garden to strip off, climb into a paddling pool full of mud and cool down with ice pops.
The other thing I refuse to buy into when the sun comes along is the whole pressure of ‘making the most of it’ and dragging my wilting kids to the park. Yes, I know this weather is rare but it can also be oppressive and exhausting. Why not take advantage of deserted soft play areas instead? Shade, cool drinks and no sun cream required. Or close all the curtains and have a Disney afternoon in the cool, before heading out into the much more pleasant evening sunshine.
Heatwaves tend to bring very little sleep for everyone. My smallest is up at the crack of dawn and refusing to sleep until later and later at night in his sauna of a bedroom. Leaving the door open is the only option, so he basically spends an hour standing up and ‘oooo’ing at everyone going up and down the stairs before even contemplating nodding off.
So, we are all rather on the tired side right now. Thankfully, during sunny times you can happily hide behind sunglasses all day long. You can also indulge in alcohol earlier in the day and more often, to help you through. Sunshine gives you free licence to drink cooling, summery drinks at almost any hour. Pimms, shandy, white wine spritzers. All as acceptable as lemonade when the sun is hot. So heatwaves definitely have their advantages for lush Mummies like me.
Possibly the biggest disadvantage of the heat is having to have all the windows wide open. The usually muffled screams of “stop hitting your brother”, “don’t climb on the back of the sofa” and “for heaven’s sake stop moaning!” suddenly seem so much louder when you know the neighbours can hear every word. I would attempt to keep a lid on it but, frankly, with tempers rising along with the thermometer, there is absolutely no chance of that. I refer you to my previous point about alcohol. That’s really all I can offer in that one.
Having tipped the frog and bucket loads of mud out this morning, we now have an empty pool languishing in the garden. How will I bath my kids later if I don’t fill it up now and let it warm up in the burning sun? Better hop to it, after putting T down for his hour long moan, in lieu of a nap.
I may spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in the paddling pool with a Pimms or eight.