Taking the Compliment…

” Your daughter is beautiful!” Aw she is, isn’t she? Thank you.

“I love her coat.” I know, isn’t it gorgeous?

“Your son is so funny.” Yeah, he cracks me up.

“You look gorgeous.” Aye right, I haven’t even brushed my hair.

“I love your top” Penney’s best.

“Those are nice jeans.” Oh I’ve had these old things for years.

“Is that a Hilfiger shirt?” It was on sale!

Notice anything?

We don’t know how to take a compliment.

Nothing new there. We all know that the Irish don’t take compliments well. We are suspicious of them. We don’t like them. For some reason, they make us feel very uncomfortable.

But when someone compliments our kids, we are more than happy to agree with them. If someone points out something positive about your little minion, chances are that you will be delighted that they’ve noticed and you will nod in agreement, as proud as punch.

However, if the same person tells you with their next breath that YOUR hair is lovely, you will most likely find yourself disagreeing and parting your hair to show them just how badly your roots need redone.

So what the hell is wrong with us?

If I tell Mini-Me that she looks beautiful or that her hair is pretty, she smiles at me and says “Thanks Mum” or “I know!” (shock horror!)

She takes the compliment. She doesn’t NEED it to feel better or to affirm her or any other such nonsense. She takes it, because at 7 years old, she doesn’t find it strangethat someone would praise her or compliment her.

She is indeed beautiful x

It is not unusual to her that someone might point out something positive.

She is not suspicious of compliments.

She doesn’t need to be.

So when does that stop? When will she suddenly begin to apologise for her positive features? When will she become flushed with embarrassment because someone comments on how well she dances?

What will happen to make her suddenly feel that she should disagree with someone who tells her she is clever, or pretty, or talented or funny?

Will she simply wake up some morning, feeling the need to apologise for being good at something, or for being nice?

Now, of course I know that we must teach them to be humble also. No one likes a boaster. But why the hell should we teach them that they should apologise for being good at something?

Why should we teach them to disagree with someone who is genuinely being nice to them?

When did humility become the same thing as humiliation?

Because somewhere along the way, we’ve confused the two.

If someone admires your hair today, reply by saying “I know! It’s sitting nice today isn’t it?” I dare you. And watch their reaction.

It’s pretty likely that they’ll flinch in surprise.

If someone admires your top, try “Thanks, I like it too.” (Would you have bought it if you didn’t?)

If someone points out something that you are good at, thank them and tell them “Yeah, I try hard.”

If they walk away from you thinking you’re big headed or conceited, then who has the problem? If they meant the compliment, they won’t mind that you agree with them.

Does it not make sense that if we were to let our kids see us accepting compliments more comfortably, maybe we’d be helping them?

Our kids learn by watching us, our behaviours, our responses. Someday soon, when Mini-Me hears me answering “Oh God, this old thing?” or “Aw my skin’s a mess” or “God no, I sound dreadful!”, then she’s going to store it in her bank of “Acceptable grown up things to say” isn’t she?

And therein begins that humiliation.

We all do it.

I do it. I did it yesterday when a friend praised me. I automatically told him he was full of nonsense.

Why? If he hadn’t thought I was good, he wouldn’t have bothered to tell me I was, so why did I disagree with him?

Because we are trained, somewhere along the line, to apologise for ourselves.

Because acknowledging our own strengths and positive characteristics is seen as terribly obnoxious and wrong.

Because one day, without even realising it, we learned that to accept a compliment was wrong.

We’re hardwired to think the worst about ourselves; to worry about what others think. Being a parent brings a new level of this.

We are constantly comparing ourselves, berating ourselves, apologising for our decisions, for our behaviour, for our children’s behaviour.

But the sooner we can rewire ourselves to look more closely for our own positives, the more chance we have of teaching our children that it’s OK to say “thank you” when someone compliments us.

Plenty of people will thrive on bringing them down, on highlighting their weaknesses and flaws. We need to teach them to recognise those people. And we need to teach them that if someone feels the need to comment on them in a negative way, then it’s that person who has the problem, and not them.

So accept the compliment.

Let your children hear you accepting it. Let them see that it’s OK to be proud of yourself sometimes and that you don’t need to ever apologise for being good, or kind, or talented or clever.

And give someone a compliment today too. Feel free to compliment your friends in the comments below.

Let’s SHARE some love today!

You never know whose day you might just make.

By the way, you have a lovely smile!

I am Same Clothes Forever Mum

“We won’t get much longer dressing them in matching outfits” says Me to He as we walked along the promenade in Salou.  We were on the last night of our holidays and the girls had been wearing beautifully matching outfits every evening for the full week.

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With 4 years age difference, I’ve been becoming aware that Mini-Me will soon protest at  being dressed identically to her 3 year old sister.  And I was OK with that.

But then, something happened that has ensured and concreted the plan in my head, that while we are away in strange places, they shall be wearing matching clothes, until they are AT LEAST 35 years old.

Princess went missing.

Ladybelles.  She ran out of our sight and literally disappeared. In an EMPTY FOYER.

She was gone for about 7 minutes. 7 Loooooooooooong minutes. And I can honestly tell you they were the longest, most painfully dreadful 7 minutes of my life.  While trying to remain composed to FIND her, my brain had already jumped ahead to what would need to happen to get her found.

We were walking back to our rooms after the entertainment had finished.  A friend and his kids were along with us, and as we all waked through the hall to head towards the lifts, I made a MASSIVE mistake.  I caught the glint in her eye and said “Wait for Mammy please” which she heard as “Run Princess RUN!”

She scuttled off ahead of us, no more than 20 feet into what we knew was an empty foyer and when we all turned the half corner, there she was…gone.

We started calling.  Him belted up the stairs and started running through the halls on each floor, roaring her name.  The friend ran straight to the main door to ensure she hadn’t gone outside.  I started hitting the buttons for the lifts, automatically all assuming that she’d gone into one of the lifts and that it had gone up with her inside. (Fast closing wee buggers those lifts.)

Mini-Me started to roar and cry and Friend’s kids didn’t know what to do,  Wee pets.

She wasn’t outside.

She wasn’t in the lifts.

Every 20 seconds Him stuck his head over another balcony, roaring “Did you get her?” before taking off to the next floor.

Within 1 minute, the hotel staff had locked all the main doors and maybe 5 other dads had joined in the running.

Why will they always be dressing the same? Because every time someone else joined us to help, I was able to point at Mini-Me and say “She’s wearing the same outfit” and off they ran…

Just when I thought it was beyond a case of her innocently getting lost, and was about to step Mental Mammy up a notch, a big bald English guy stuck his head over the balcony and asked “Are you guys playing Hide n Seek with a little girl?”

The poor fecker was greeted with a herd of people running at him and some sort of gutteral wail that I’m pretty sure was coming from my mouth, even though I had no real control at that point.

I took those steps 5 at a time and met Himself on the corner of the big long corridor and there, peeking her curly little fecker head out from behind an corner, was Princess.  Half laughing, half terrified and by the time I reached her to scoop her into my arms, half sobbing.

We thanked everyone, went to the room, tucked them in and then did what all parents would do… sat on the balcony like two weins and cried for an hour.

But the scariest thing was that she was with a gang of adults, in a safe place, with no crowds and she still went missing right in front of our eyes.

Next morning, Mini-Me scolded her at breakfast.

“You shouldn’t go into the lift on your own.  It’s not funny.”

Princess looked at her as if she were absolutely insulted.

“I did NOT go in the lift” she admonished. “I went up the stairs.” before continuing to eat her porridge as if THAT made it all alright.

Oh well that’s OK then I suppose… Seriously.

Lessons learned? We only think we’re in charge, kids are fast, other parents are incredibly fast at helping when you need it… and matching clothes should be worn at all times, for the foreseeable forever.

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I am Shopping Mum

When did shopping turn into such a gauntlet?
 
I’ve never been a huge shopping fan, but recent experiences have confirmed to me that I actually HATE it.
 
I hate, hate, hatey McHaterson it. 
 
Last week I was lucky enough to have a few hours to wander around huge shopping centres in both Dublin and Belfast. 
 
Imagine the novelty for Mammy-Amazon here, whose clothes shopping generally consists of sportsgear or the odd binge buy in Dunnes-of-the-fablis, (usually on pay day before the Direct Debit Bandits have hit and I descend back into brokedom.) 
 
“I am in the city. I shall shop”, think I.
 
“I shall shop like the Fashionable Bloggers do.  I shall purchase cool and quirky stuffs which I might even share by doing one of those terrifying Haul things that they all do.”
 
But then, I laugh at the sillyfullness of such a thought.  Who wants to see what Mammy picks up in shops?  
 
In go I to the Debbienems… the mothership of mothershops in all corners of the civilised world. 
 
My eyes hurt instantly.  The lights…Christ alive!  Am I in surgery or a shop?
 
The evil yellow glare lights used to be only reserved for changing rooms and hairdressers.  Now it seems that they are par-for-the-course in every corner on every floor of these big bright shops… perhaps a way to highlight the few of us who still dare to enter such establishments with nout but mascara on our faces? 
 
I catch a glimpse of my naked face and tracksuit in one of the mirrors and I feel instantly less confident in my own skin than I did leaving the hotel. 
I thought I looked rather comfy-chic. I thought my swinging pony tail and make up free skin made me look slightly Yummy-Mummiful…
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The OPPOSITE of how I look when shopping

 
Turns out that even in my spensive leeeeezure wear, I actually look like a knackered, sleep-deprived, hungover SkankQueen.  I’d look more at home on Jeremy Kyle’s sofa truth be told.  
 
I am now convinced that I look like I’m about to shop lift the entire contents of the Benefit counter and I’m pretty sure that the shop assistants (perfectly preened and practically perfect in every way) are clustering closer to me as their Radar for criminal cretins goes off.  They’re watching me.  I know they are.
 
Then I realize, they want to torment me.  On every corner, another eyebrow asks me “Can I help you Dear?”  or “Do you need any help today Luv?”  It’s like being at home.  There’s a little person on every corner talking AT me and asking me pointless questions.  One even shoves a little pink basket in my hand, for heaven forbid I might only want ONE THING in the muck up section.  I know they’re only doing their job but Dear Jacinta, I just want to BROWSE!
 
Remember when you used to be able to wander aimlessly around the shops, browsing, looking, buying…not buying?
 
Remember when you could go to the checkout and simply pay for your purchase with nothing more than a polite smile and a thank you? 
 
And then you could leave, swinging the bag with your purchase and simply continue on your shopping…or not shopping?
 
Yeah.  Those days are gone my Darlings. 
 
And then…the WEIRDEST part.  It’s been creeping in to the shops at home too.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I find it a little invasive if I’m honest.  
 
“Do you have an email address?” 
 
“I do yeah.”
 
“Can I have it?”
 
“Oh…why?”
 
“So I can send you your receipt? Because of the environment and all?”
 
“Oh of course…” is what I SAY, before rhyming off the suddenly very hard to fecking spell email address.  (Seriously, none of us EVER considered that we’d be standing at tills in Debbieneems spelling OUT the feckin things when we created them.  We thought they’d always be, well, TYPED!)
 
What I want to say is “And what about GDPR? How can I be sure that YOU are not the reason that I get so many weird marketing emails from companies to which I’m pretty sure I NEVER subscribed? Can you not just print me off my receipt like a normal shop assistant so I can throw it into the bag or the car where it will lay for many months creating a tiny thesis of how and why I am always broke,  Little physical REMINDERS of what money USED to look like.”
 
  I swear to Granny, between Tap machines and Virtual receipts, I don’t even think it COUNTS as spending money any more.  There is NO evidence really…
 
And so I decide that I shall set up a NEW email address, just for the very PURPOSE of shopping.  It shall be emailaddress@ihateshopping.com   That’d be fun…
 
HAH!
 
Moral of the story?  
 
I HATE SHOPPING.
(I’m glad my laptop doesn’t yet have eyebrows to raise.
 
 
 

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.
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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.