Your Legacy, Your Footprints…

Legacy 

What is Legacy?

It’s a word we usually retain for after someone has departed for the Big City in the Sky, (or wherever you believe we go after this life.)

But Legacy is not as final as we think.  We’re creating our own legacies, Every Single Day.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if we thought of our legacy as our everyday?  It’s the things we do each day, the people we affect each day, the conversations we have, the changes we make.

Sometimes, we make changes in our lives that take us on a new direction.  Sometimes, the change is subtle and yet, whether big or small, all changes lead us on a new journey.

Change is good. Change is what you make it.

But just because you come to the end of something, doesn’t mean that it’s over.  You will always have the memories you made.  You will always have the lessons you learned. You will always be who you are, based on what you’ve done, who you’ve met and what you’ve been through.

May it be an ending relationship, an ending friendship, an ending job, a change in career, an end of a process… all of the things that we do, every day, have made and DO make us who we are.  Our past has brought us to our now, and it shapes where we are going.

I’m thinking of a special friend as I write this today.  Big change is happening for this friend.  And I need her to know a few things:

This is not an end.  It is simply a change in direction.

It is the right change for her.

She has touched the lives of so many, in many positive ways.

She has influenced more young people than you could imagine.

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Rather than being sad that something is over, we need to be glad that it happened; to understand that its highs and its lows ALL contributed to what we learned from it.  And know that as we leave something, or someone, we can choose which memories to take with us.

We all leave footprints; we don’t remember every single step we ever took, but we know that every single step had to be taken to get us to where we are.

THAT is our legacy.  And we’re still creating it.

So , to you, (whose name means “Together” or “One” and which actually suits you perfectly considering the “together” YOU helped create), don’t be sad.

Smile at the memories (and friends) that you made, acknowledge the footprints you’ve left and get excited at the thought of the next stage of your journey.

It’s yours. Dance through it.

You have many more footprints to leave.

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Some Advice for Exam Parents

Exam season is upon us again.
 
It seems to come around faster and faster each year, doesn’t it?
 
If your little darlings are about to do their Junior or Leaving Certificate Examinations, here are some ideas on how you can help them.
 
1. Sleep: Seems obvious and it’s easier said than done to get teenagers to go to bed at the best of times, and yet sleep is the one thing that we need in order to function properly. Talk to your child and agree a consistent bedtime for the next 3 weeks. Agree on a cut off time for studying, no matter how much they insist that they need to do more. Agree on a cut off time for screens and insist that until the exams are over, screens should not be in bedrooms. Even the simple absence of the phone from the bedroom can do wonders for the sleep that we get.
 
2. Hydrate: Yeah yeah Yadda yadda… but again, vital. Challenge them to drink 2 litres a day. There are loads of cool bottles that help to motivate water intake now. And they all have apps on phones that can help remind them to drink water too. Dehydration leads to headaches and sluggishness; all of the things that they DON’T need at the minute.
 
3.Nutrition: The State Exams can last for up to 2 weeks for some students. If an athlete were going into a 2 week event, they’d be fuelling up their bodies in preparation for months. If your child has a balanced and varied diet already, great. Keep it up. If not, try to introduce more whole foods and more fruit and veg. Convenience snacking is a massive issue when stress and tiredness kick in. Try to have dinners pre-cooked and healthier snacks in the fridge for when they appear from their pit “staaaaaarving”. In fairness to them, the last thing they are thinking about is their food right now. But don’t make a big deal about it. Remember when they were toddlers and you conveniently had lots of healthy snacks and precooked meals in the kitchen? For the next 3 weeks, go back to that! Just maybe ease up on the purees! (AND BREAKFAST is a must. They might not be hungry, but they can’t sit a 2-3 hour exam on an empty tummy. Bananas are great for calming butterflies in the tummy.) 
 
4. Exercise: If your child has a hobby, or goes to a class each week, let them continue with it. As a teacher, I hear parents saying “Oh they’ve stopped that until after the exams”. And while yes, many need to cut back on some activities in order to study, cutting out EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Try to encourage them to do something every day, even if it is simply going for a ten minute walk. Send them to the shop. Throw them a basketball. Dust off the punchbag in the garage. Anything to get them moving for even a few minutes. Times of high stress are the times when we NEED to be able to release, may it be dancing, kicking, running or a gym class. It helps keep energy levels up.
 
5. Keep the stress levels down: And I’m not just talking about THEIRS. State Exams have a way of reducing Mums and Dads to tears. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, the exams are important, but what is more important is that your child is alive and well and able to do the exams. Don’t dismiss the significance of these exams, but equally, don’t paint them to be the be all and end all. Their best is all that they can do and regardless of what is in the little brown envelopes at the end of the summer, life will go on and they will be ABSOLUTELY FINE!
 
6. Positivity : Rather than constantly “annoying” or “torturing” them, let them hear praise. (Because no matter what we say, they only hear nagging don’t they?) Let them hear you believe in them. Let them hear “You will be fine” or “Do your best” or “I’m proud of you.” Seems silly maybe, but trust me, so many of our teenagers are so skilled at feeling useless and crap all by themselves. Sometimes all it takes is for them to hear someone tell them they can do it.
 
7. Last minute pages: SO this is the teacher talking now. Get them to take an A4 page and for each subject, on which they write down all of the key phrases and ideas and names and keywords, dates etc., all over it, on both sides. If their teacher has things that he or she CONSTANTLY repeated in class, write those down too.
Use different coloured pens and make it bright. Laminate it when they’re done if you like. But have it that THAT PAGE is the ONLY thing they look at on the morning of the exam. I also advise that when they walk into the English paper, before they even read the questions, to jot down as many of the important terms and titles on one of the roughwork boxes or blank pages. That way, they have a go-to wordbank if they get a blank brain AND they won’t forget character names or poem titles in the heat of the exam. (Happens to the best!)
 
8. Ditch the Drama: Warn your kids of the dangers of the Drama Llama on the morning (or afternoon) of the exam. While they’ll want with their friends, so often it is the worst place they can be. Hearing “Oh I only glanced at Chapter 23 last night” or “I haven’t LOOKED at that book!” or “I am so screwed”can cause panic in an anxious child’s mind. They’re already dealing with their own anxiety and nerves. They don’t need JohnJoe or Nancy’s stresses on top of their own. Tell them to politely stay away from groups until after the exam. They are much better served by reading over their last-minute page on their own. They can chat about it as much as they want when it’s over, but being focused and quiet before the exam really does work wonders.
 
9. SPACE it out: If space allows, tell them to skip 2-3 lines between each paragraph. This allows them space to jot down anything that might come to mind as the revise over what they’ve written at the end. (And it makes life easier for the examiner if sentences aren’t written sideways up a margin. With a few subjects being corrected digitally this year, anything written outside the allocated area won’t be scanned. Remind them of this.)
 
10. Believe: While the state exams are possibly THE biggest thing in your whole family’s life right now, it is important to remind the kids that every single person who is older than them, has been through and sat through these exams. They can only do their best. Yes, they’re a huge deal, but they’re also just a bump in the road that you have to drive over to get to summer. They’re well ready and well able.
stumble
 
Life is a big long dance. We all stumble, sometimes we fall. We have parts of the routine that we’d rather skip, but it’s OUR dance. And each and every one of us has to dance our own steps.
 
I hope that exam season passes with as little stress as possible in your house. And remember that if your kids see you stressed, they stress. So even if you want to scream and tear your hair out, don’t.
 
Or at least wait until they’re in bed and then pour yourself a gin and scream in a pillow.
 
And the very best of luck to your minions.

You’re Doing Just Fine Mammy #maternalmentalhealthweek

Sanctimammy

Noun – A Mammy who believes that her way of parenting is the correct and proper way; judging and dismissing other Mums who do not parent as she parents.

Adj – Sanctimammious

‘Live and Let live’ they say.

But once you dip your toe into the world of Parenthood, that seems to change for some people. It becomes ‘Do as I do, Think as I think’.

There is no area in our lives which can cause heightened levels of self-doubt and self-criticism as parenting. And often, it is the outright self-righteousness and shared opinions of other parents which makes us doubt ourselves.

Have you ever been asked something about your child, only to have an eyebrow raised, or a lip pursed at your reply?
Have you ever been nervous of telling someone how YOU do things, because you know that they do it differently?

We all have. We’ve all been there.

Parenting styles and beliefs and practices vary, not just in countries, or counties or communities, but within homes.

For twenty houses in an estate or on a road, there will be twenty different parenting styles happening at once.

But here’s the thing.

Just because YOU do things differently, doesn’t make you better.

Just because you work AND have kids, doesn’t make you better than the Mum who is working her ass off at home.

Just because you’re able to stay at home with your Puking minion, doesn’t make you a better Mum than the Mum who had no choice but to leave hers with Granny, because she couldn’t get off work.

Just because you Breastfeed your baby, doesn’t make you better than the Mum who, for WHATEVER reason, has to (or chooses to) Bottle feed. You don’t know why they can’t (or don’t) breast feed. You don’t have to. IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Just because you use organic, reusable nappies, you are not superior to the Mammy who stocks up on Packets from Aldi-Everything.

Just because your Baby sleeps well, does not mean that the Mum who hasn’t slept for 14 months is less brilliant than you.

Just because you’ve decided to wean your Baby by the guidance of some book, feeding Quinoa and avocado and peppers, doesn’t make you better than the Mum who feeds her kid mashed potato and gravy, or (shock horror!) fishfingers and waffles.

Just because your little Japonica goes to 5 activities a week at 11 months old, does not make you a better Mum than Jacinta next door, who can just about leave the house to do the shopping, because her PND is so crippling that she can’t breath.

Just because you gave birth without drugs, in a calm and wonderful experience, does not make you a better Mum than the lady who has had 3 sections.

Now, I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t make an effort to do what’s best and what’s healthy for your baby.

What I am saying is that what YOU deem right and important, might not be the same as another Mum. Our priorities are all different. And that’s OK

Every Mum does what SHE has to do for HER family. And the only person who knows what is right for your family is YOU.

You don’t know another Mum’s circumstance.
You don’t know her.
You don’t know if she’s happy, or watching you getting into your car to go to work, longing to be you.

You don’t know if she’s driving to work in tears because her Baby cried again as she was dropping him off.

You don’t know how many times a day the Mammy in the office feels a gutwrenching guilt at being away.

You don’t know how the Mum in her kitchen is longing for a conversation with ANYONE.

You don’t know how much the Mum who has to pay bills rather than pay for Baby swim classes longs to be able to sign her baby up.

You don’t know how much time and effort that Mum, looks fab at the school gate, took to just get out the door this morning, because she cried all night.

You don’t know how much the Mum who SEEMS to have it all, wishes that she had something else.

You don’t know how much the Mum who is mixing up formula berates herself.

You don’t know how many false smiles you see in a day.

You don’t know how Mary-Jane never throws a birthday party for Junior because the stress of it might just not be tolerable right now.

You don’t know Jack sh*t.

As long as your children are fed, and loved and looked after, you’re doing great.

How we parent our children, is nobody’s business but our own.
And more importantly, what OTHER Mums think of your parenting, is absolutely none of YOUR business.

And if you EVER hear yourself dismissing or tutting at another Mammy because she’s doing it differently to you, lift your hand, grab a wooden spoon and hit yourself a good hard slap on the arse with it.

No one likes a Sanctimammy.
You DO know that.

So however YOU are doing things this morning Mammy, stop, close your eyes, take a breath…and smile.

Because, do you want to know something else?

You’re doing JUST FINE as you are…

So Not Trendy Mammy

Notions.

This Mammy is full of them.

Oooooooh lookit! Look at the pretty floaty girly dress which would look lovely with heels or flat sandals,

Look at the patterns and colours and floatiness of the gazillion samey dresses in all the shops.

Mammy could pull that off.
Mammy could look as smashing as the Holly of the Willybooby in these dresses.
Mammy could begin to wear patterns even though Mammy knows full well that patterns swallow her up and make her look like a 1970s curtain has puked on her.

Mammy will look boho and chic and funkiful and cool.
Mammy may even try to match it with the white runners that everyone is looking so fablis in all over the instaworld…

And then Mammy TRIES ON one of the summer floaty stunners, and promptly turns into Nora Fuckin Batty.

“That’s GORGEOUS on you!” goos the 11 year old shop, impossibly beautiful assistant, through her perfectly puffed up lips. “You could try it with white runners? They are so in right now!”

(Yeah… they were in when thirty years ago too Lovey, and even then I knew how impractical white runners were. They wouldn’t last a day on me… And I’m pretty sure that if I added them to this get-up, I’d look like my 8 year old self, dressed in handmedowns from my older cousin which hung on me like curtains again too!)

Mammy looks at her unfortunate self in the mirrors, sees her Great Great Great Grandmother staring back at her.
She’s laughing.

Mammy smiles politely at the shopchild.

“Naw, it’s not really me. Thanks anyway!”

“Really? I think it looks AMAZING on you!”

(Of course you do.)

“I look like Nora Batty.”

“Heeehehehee! I have no idea who that is!”

Of course you don’t… FML

Mammy gets back into her tracksuit, with her NOT white runners, and run-walks out of the shop, wondering if Last of the Summer Wine is on Netflix and if that dress would look better with curlers in my hair.

White ones obviously.

Notions I tell you.

*that dress is beautiful Obviously. On her!

Thoroughly Modern Mammy -Does Ma Face look Bovad?

Have you ever felt like you’ve let your kids down or made a mess of things?

Have you ever felt like a failure because you didn’t reach your own expectations of how things should be?

Like when you’ve had the morning from Hell and then you spend the day feeling guilty that your kids will be upset all day?

Or a part of a birthday gift didn’t arrive on time and you worry that it’ll ruin the whole surprise?

Or you find something after Christmas which you meant to use or do and now you feel like you’ve messed up?

Or you forget to put something into the schoolbag and worry that your minion will get in trouble?

Or you spend the whole of the weekend cleaning and doing housework and are sure that you are ruining their lives because they’ve had to entertain themselves all weekend?

Or you don’t think to book a magician for her First Communion and then it’s too late?

Or you’ve had to work late and feel like you are not giving enough attention to your kids?

Or you’ve not been able to organise (or afford) the cake you wanted to get your 3 year old?

Or you’ve told your 8 year old they can invite 4 friends to their birthday party, but Jacinta has the whole class at little Vincentula’s?

I could go on and on…and on…and on… and on…

We set ourselves so many standards and expectations around our children’s experiences.  We feel like a failure if their experiences are not what we intended them to be…

I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama.  It’s an incredible memoir.  Everyone really should read it.

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One of the memories she describes has stood strong in my head since I read it, is about her daughter’s tenth birthday.  She describes how it fell just weeks before the Presidential Election, when they were in the midst of the campaign trail, constantly surrounded by a management team and journalists and secret service.

She remembers that they had to make out that the 4th of July carnival they had to attend was for their daughter’s birthday…how they spent the day passing disappointed glances at each other, how they longed for the day to be over so that they could get an hour on their own with their daughter that evening.

The guilt that they both felt that day was immense.  And even when they did get to the hotel, their “private” party still had about 20 of their team present.  Michelle talks about the plain hotel function space, the “store bought” cake, the gifts that one of the team had had to go to buy as she was unable to go to a store alone… and she spoke of the desultory  disappointment she felt in herself.

She spoke about the shame she felt that her daughter’s birthday was spent working, dragging her along and not at home with her friends.  And she describes the guilt she and her husband felt in a way that every parent can understand.

I felt her pain as I read.  I’ve just returned from a 4 day work trip.  I had the worst dose of Mammy Guilt before I left and while I was there.  I felt that my girls were being passed from Granny to Daddy to Aunty to school and that I was the worst Mum in the world for not being close at hand for a few days.

But when I returned, I realised something.  My perspective to the trip was so incredibly different to theirs.

While I was teary eyed about leaving them on what happened to be my Birthday, they saw only that they were getting to play with their cousins.  While I worried that they’d miss me, they saw time alone with Daddy where Mammy wasn’t there to interfere!

Where I felt the guilt of sending them to my Mum’s house again, they saw the utter, imcomparable joy of getting a Sleepover in GannyGanda’s where they’d get pancakes for breakfast and 37 stories at bedtime.

Where I felt that I’d need to make it up to them when I finally got home, they only saw their Mammy, who was home safe with them.  The hugs were brief but tight, and after 5 minutes of showing me EVERYTHING they had made or done since I left, Mini-Me looked into my eyes and announced that they’d had a lovely time and asked when I had to go away again…

Just like Michelle Obama’s daughter bounced over to her parents on that birthday and hugged them tight announcing “This has been the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!”, My two girls saw things in a very different way.

Because that is what kids do.

And as parents we need to remember that.  Most of the things that we worry about, would NEVER be considered or noticed by our kids.

Kids don’t dwell on the bad morning.  They remember the kiss on the nose or the promise of “See you in a wee while!”

They don’t give a damn about the thing Mammy forgot to put out at Christmas, or that the spuds get burnt, or that there are no Pringles.  Kids are paying attention to a whole other set of things.

So ease up on yourself Mammy.

Are your kids loved?  Are they safe?  Are they fed?

Yeah?  Well chances are that even if YOU are feeling guilty or disappointed, or that you feel a failure about something, your kids don’t care.  They only see you.