Play It Again Mam…

We don‘t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. George Bernard Shaw

Over the past 4 months, playing has changed.

Our kids went from playing every day with a variety of other kids, enjoying all sorts of games and having all sorts of fun, to playing at home with the same person or people.

On a typical day, my eldest daughter would have gone from playing with the bus kids, to playing with her classmates in the classroom, to playing with other kids in the playground, to playing with whoever was in afterschool, to playing with her sister at home.

On other days, add in the kids she played with at her drama/gymnastics/dance class and maybe even a play with cousins at the weekend…

It was Play Central really.

Rediscovering the simple pleasures…

But isn’t that what childhood IS? Learning to make sense of the world through play and interaction?

The novelty of playing at home was great for a few weeks. And of course, my girls were so lucky to have each other. For every scrap or fight, there were hours of games and being best buddies. It helped.

It helped both them and us.

They spent most of lockdown outside in the garden. Swings, huts, dens, make believe adventures, talking to the cows in the field… I watched them living my 80s childhood, (with the added bonus of more than 4 TV channels and Disney Plus in the evening.)

I did have to stock up on lego and playdoh and crayons after about 7 weeks… but I didn’t mind. I like that they played so much with these.

It was lovely mostly. And the reality that our previously far-too-busy lives had been denying them such simple pleasures was not lost on me.

But they, like ALL children, got to the point where they missed their wee friends. Mini-Me took part in maybe five Wattsapp calls over the few months we were at home. She was so excited by them and so glad to see her wee friends, but in the final few weeks, didn’t really want to take part.

On the last call she had with one of her wee pals, she was so quiet that we thought the call had ended. When her Daddy looked into the room, she was sitting at her desk, colouring, with the phone set up beside her. Her friend was playing with her dolls on the screen. They weren’t really talking.

When Himself asked what they were doing, she looked at him as if he were stupid and answered, “We’re playing together.”

Simple. They aren’t grown ups who thrive on conversation and empathy. They aren’t teenagers who need laughs and craic and affirmation. They don’t yet know that they need conversation or companionship.

They simply wanted to play. Together.

That broke us a wee bit if I’m honest.

All she wanted to was to play alongside her friend. So when last week, we were able to let her meet said friend for a play in the park, I’m not sure who was more excited, her or me.

The playpark was open. Both of us Mammies looked at each other, trepidation about whether to let them in on both of our faces. We were afraid. The kids were not. We both had hand sanitizer with us and figured they deserved to have fun, so they ran and down we calmed.

We sat watching them and listening to the sound that I never really listened to before; The sound of children playing; of running and laughter and squeals of delight and roars of fun. We listened to parents calling out to ‘be careful’ or to ‘stop that’. We listened to the sound of playing.

And we both agreed that it was just lovely. And that there are some things that can’t be done on a wattsapp call.

As the sun finally sets on lockdown…

As the sun sets on the “lockdown”, our children will have to learn many things over the next few months. They’ll need to learn about social distancing, and how to behave in certain situations, about hygiene and danger and how to go to places with new procedures in place. But they’re faster learners that we adults are.

And one thing they won’t need to learn again, is how to play.

They are heroes and play is their superpower…

The Road NEVER BEFORE Taken…

Every year, I teach Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’, whether it’s on the course or not.

I love it. And I love passing his wisdom on to my students. Sometimes, the hardest decision is the best one to make. The obvious, “easier” route may be more appealing; safer even, and yet those who took the road less travelled, will always in hindsight, confirm that it was the right road to take.

I love to use it as an encouragement to my students that they shouldn’t always follow the crowd, that they don’t HAVE to take the road that they feel has been laid out or paved for them. That when it comes to it, they must follow their gut and trust their instincts, and that no matter which road they choose, it will carry them onwards, to somewhere.

And yet this year, for the class of 2020, I cannot use this as I always do. Because this particular class group are not in control of their choices as they should have been. They have all been directed towards a new road; a road NEVER taken by any of us before them.

“knowing how way leads on to way…”

And unfortunately, the lay of the land means that there is no safe or usual road for them to pass through the end of school and on to the next stage of their journey.

It’s new and unchartered territory for them, for their parents and for all staff in the schools they attended.

And yet… this time next year, they WILL have travelled this new road. It will have brought them to their next destination.

A year from now, they will have moved through the current chaos and will be looking back on this time, glad that it has passed and no longer stressed by the situation.

Some of them will be working, or in college, or at university; physically or virtually…who knows? They might still be at home, having taken a year out, waiting for the course they plan to do to start, excited and ready to begin the next stage of their lives.

And while there is still uncertainty for our Leaving Cert students, and none of us can know where their roads will take them, this is not new. This uncertainty is the one thing that they ARE getting to experience like every other LC group before them.

And yet, for all of them, in a few months time, that uncertainty will have passed and they will be travelling on the next road of their journey. They will not still be standing at the crossroads wondering which road to take.

The road onto which our young adults are stepping, is new. None of us have been through it. So really, none of us are in a position to tell them how they should feel or how it will go.

I used to always tell mine “You’ll be fine, just like everyone who has done it before you.” I can’t say that this year. (Firstly, because they are not in front of me, and secondly, because they are trailblazing a new road.)

We old fogies have not been through this before them. We can not fully understand. We shouldn’t pretend to.

This group have lost much. They’ve lost their right of passage through the final weeks of school. They’ve missed their last classes with favourite teachers (and the joy of a final class with not so favourite!).

They’ve missed prizegivings. They’ve missed graduations. They’re missing their end of year celebrations; parties, masses, whatever events and celebrations that are traditional to their individual schools that they have expected and looked forward to for the past six years. For many, they’re missing the ending of 14 years together, through national school to now.

And as adults, we shouldn’t dismiss their sadness at missing these things. These losses are as important to them as our problems are to us right now.

But onwards they WILL go. And while they are indeed on a road never before taken, they will travel onwards.

To our school leavers, (especially to my own brilliant and inspirational young people) I want to wish you well. You are bright and talented and the world is yours for the taking. Trust and stay positive.

A year from now, you will look back. You will have moved on. You will be on the next stage of your journey, and while you will have travelled there on a new road, an uncertain road and a perhaps frightening road, there was a road. And you took it and it is taking you forwards.

And I truly hope that you know that wherever it has taken you, it is the road you were meant to be on.

As Frost said, “I-I took the road less travelled, And that has made all the difference.”

My Fablis FitPinks

If you follow me on social media, chances are you are well used to seeing my bum clad in various colours and styles of FITPINK gym and athleisure gear.

I’ve been a brand ambassador for this company for a while now.

I don’t work with many companies. I rarely do collaborations anymore and I never do advertising for brands.  I’m a writer, not an advertiser.

However as a fitness instructor, I happily endorse these leggings.

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I run Rushe Fitnesswith my husband Emmet.

 

Let me tell you about my friend Jenni and how I ended up helping her to promote what is certainly one of the most successful small companies in Ireland.

Jenni is based in Donegal and her range is designed in Donegal. You can read her story in her own words here.

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I love to support new Donegal companies, so I bought a pair.

I loved them.  I wore them and, as a gym owner and blogger with a humble but highly engaged following, I slowly watched many of our female clients begin to wear the leggings to class.

They are squat proof, structured, absorb sweat beautifully and look great.  I particularly love the Compression style which keeps my mum tum feeling nice and secure.

Jenni and I were put in touch via a mutual friend and we quickly became good friends, both online and in real life.  We share a few characteristics you see…

We’re both busy mums, we both work hard, we both have a passion for fitness and both shared an impatience for poor quality gym gear.

Jenni’s selection of products and styles has been growing.  She is open to suggestions about what women in gyms need.

After I wrote a blog about almost pulling a muscle while wrestling out of a sportsbra, Jenni quickly designed and sourced a front-opening bra which has saved my muscles and possibly my life on daily basis.

She has vision and she has standards.  If something isn’t right, it doesn’t get sold.

I’ve been delighted to try and test her gear over the past year and I am literally working and living in it at the minute.

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With my daily (sometimes twice daily) Rushe Fitness LIVE workouts, the leggings are getting washed constantly.  They wash and wear like a dream, remaining just as stretchy and secure as their first wear.

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The leggings are fashionable and functional, and with a range of teeshirts, hoodies and sportsbras, and more products in the pipeline, FitPink Fitness is set to go from strength to strength.

I’m proud to have been a supported of this Irish brand from the start and I look forward to watching her successes in the future.  

And there’s more… by supporting Jenni’s beautiful brand, you are supporting women and girls all over the world. For every item she sells from her range of gym leggings and t-shirts, Jenni contributes  to Plan International’s Girl Fund to provide dignity kits to girls and women in refugee camps in some of the world’s poorest regions.  Learn more.

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You can check out all of the FitPink range on her website.

And if you’d like to join Emmet and myself in our Rushe Fitness LIVE community, hit here.

*I am an official Brand Ambassador for FitPink and am provided with gym gear to test and wear.  I am however under no obligation to write this review.  As always, my opinions are my own and I would not endorse a product or brand without fully believing in them.

Might We Eventually Miss Some of this Loathed Lockdown?

Lockdown.

We’re all so looking forward to the lockdown being over and to returning to “normal”…but I’ve been wondering how much of this we will eventually miss.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a LOT about this current situation that deserves our frustration and hatred.

The sudden crash of everything, the sudden and immediate changes that none of us were prepared for, the emotional rollercoasters that we’ve been on since March 12th.

We’ve all had our worlds turned upside down. And for those of us who are parents, alongside trying to deal with our own grief and fear, we’ve had the added challenge of trying to provide security and stability to our kids.

And trying to keep one’s shit together so that our kids had to deal with minimal upheaval has been hard.

There is much to despise about Lockdown; not seeing family, not hugging, being limited to our homes and minimal journeys, the gauntlet that is the foodshop, the stresses of trying to save businesses, the “joys” of homeschooling our kids… all of these things have had us reeling.  I know they’ve left me reeling anyway.

And for many of us, we’ve been trying to keep working while parenting.  It’s been, erm, interesting to say the least.

And of course, MANY MANY MANY of you have continued going out to work on the frontline and in essential services, putting yourselves at daily risk to try to keep some normality going. (You are all heroes.)

We’re all at the point where the novelty has well and truly worn off. 

We’re all at the point where we’re done with this situation, and yet we are a long way from returning to the “normality” that we all crave so much.

We are all different, with different realities and different “normals” and we all have our own struggles and triumphs right now.  As with all things parenting, we can not compare our homes to other, nor should we.  Some of us are LOVING this. Some of us are hiding at least once a day in the utility room or bathroom.

We might be all in the same storm, but each and everyone of us has our own boat, and those boats differ greatly.  We shouldn’t judge each other’s boats.

BUT. 

Dare I say, there have been positives that maybe we have yet to appreciate. 

For me, the biggest change has been slowing down.

I’ve gone from having a schedule which literally had something every hour of every day, for myself and the girls, to slowly realising that much of my running and “Busyness” was unnecessary.

I’ve realised that being Busy all the time is not conducive to being happy.

I’m enjoying spending time with my girls… and yet it’s still PERFECTLY acceptable to admit that some days I just want to scream and hide.  You can be a good parent while admitting to needing a break.  It’s not a sign of weakness, but that’s a WHOLE other article.

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I love that the girls are getting this HUGE chunk of time with Myself and Daddy in the house with them.

I love that we’re getting to spend this chunk of their childhoods with them, with no interruptions or “other” stuff to do. We’ll never get this back.

I’m loving spending time with Himself.  We’ve been together a LONG time, and yet I don’t think we’ve EVER spent more than a week or two in each other’s constant company. Certainly not at home. That joy is usually only achieved when we’re on or family holiday.  (And yes, it has been an adjustment and a challenge for both of us!)

I’m struggling with plenty, but as we step into phase one of our reawakening, I find myself taking note. 

Because some day soon, I’ll crave the nothingness, if only just for a day.

Some day soon, I’ll wish I was back at home watching the girls playing with the dog.

Some day soon, I’ll wish I had nothing to do or nowhere to go.

Someday soon, I’ll find myself missing Himself, because we’ll be back to our usual Sunday night joke of “See you Friday Baby!”…

Now, for fear of sounding romantic and idealistic, I’ll NEVER miss the zoom meetings, or teaching from home, or constant worry that has coated every day of my life since March 18th.

I’ll NEVER miss trying to work and train and teach and parent and feed and comfort and exist all under one roof, in a constant whirlwind of our new normal.

I long to get back to my jobjob, to get my girls back to the joy of their school and seeing their friends, to get back to having a hot cuppa in the staffroom with a friend, or sneaking a coffee date with someone in before doing the school run, to get the door of our gym open again, to wander around Dunnes at my leisure without fear or anxiety.

I long to hug my family, to see my brother and his family who are so near but yet so far right now, to visit my friends, to get back to rehearsals, to go for dinner, to go to the theatre, or the cinema, or just for a quick bite to eat.

I long to book a flight to see a sibling, or book a hotel for a night away, to visit a park, to drive to Glenveagh, to climb Errigal, to walk on a beach, to see outside out my own 5k.

And yet, I’ve never been so grateful for my own 5K…

This weekend, I took the girls down one of our fields on our family farm, and we had a picnic in the grass.  It was where my siblings and I played daily as kids.  It’s right on our doorstep and yet I do wonder if I EVER would have “had time” to take them down the field for a picnic in normal life.

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Last week, we spent two hours on the shore near our house, again in a spot that I haven’t visited since I was a child.  We’ve driven past it to go ANYWHERE for years.  I don’t think we’d have ever visited under normal circumstances.

Himself has finally had time to walk the route that I’ve been walking my whole life.  He never understood why I loved it until he learned to love it himself.  He never would have walked these roads under normal circumstances.  He never would have had time.

And so while I am very aware that lockdown is going nowhere for the foreseeable, with the glimmer of hope that is upon us tonight in the final night before Phase 1, we can begin to look forward.

But in looking forward, I think that many of us will begin to look back at this time too.

We’ll take certain parts of this experience with us as we walk towards our individual realities, and for me at least, I’ll be bringing a few new priorities into mine.

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And while I won’t miss this one little bit, and I’ll embrace as much of my old life as I can, I’ll also look back and be glad of the time that I got with my wee team. (even if some of that was spent hiding in the utility room.)

(Remind me of this when I’m back fitting 38 hours into 24 and complaining about the things I’m currently missing!  Because we’ll al do it!)

 

What We Wouldn’t Give…

Usually, the night before we return to school after a break, the internet is full of funny memes about going back to work and teachers playfully grumble about having to return to reality.

Well let me tell you, today is different.

What we wouldn’t give to be getting up tomorrow morning, dropping our own kids to creche or childminder or school, and driving in the gates of our respective schools.

What we wouldn’t give to hear the lighthearted greetings in our staffroom, with “Here we go agains” and “Welcome backs”.

What we wouldn’t give to be walking into our classrooms, booting up the computers which have been sleeping for a week or two, opening the windows to let some light and air in.

What we wouldn’t give to have the door open and the first of many groups of teenagers saunter through the door, fully committed to the “I don’t want to be here” demeanours, but still smiling and throwing the odd “Maidin Mhaith” or “Yes Mhaistreais” as they find their usual seat.

What we wouldn’t give to hear the familiar voices mutter or announce their “here!” or “Yips” or “Anseo!” as we call through the roll before starting.

What we wouldn’t give to see the faces who in many cases have been in front of us for 6 years, some smiling, some growling, some feigning carefree apathy, some feigning interest.

What we wouldn’t give to hear the voice of the secretary over the PA system, apologising for interrupting the class.

What we wouldn’t give to have our colleagues wave through the window as they pass, or coming to the door to ask a question or give a message.

What we wouldn’t give to hear the bell; the awful, invasive, horrible ringing blast which we curse and loath usually; but which right now, would sound like music on the wind.

What we wouldn’t give to hear the noise; the calls, the laughs, the random sounds that can only be created by a few hundred young people moving from classroom to classroom.

What we wouldn’t give to sit in the staffroom and hear the familiar voices and quips and jokes and laughs from the colleagues we have worked beside for years.

Because you see, teaching is more than turning up and imparting information.

Those young faces that sit in front of us are more than just a name on the roll.

Those young faces have grown and changed in front of us daily, so gradually, that like our own kids at home, we never notice them growing.

We know them. We care for them. We get them. Well, we TRY to get them.

And while there is nonsense and rascality and mischief and sometimes tantrums, mostly our young people are a pleasure to teach and to see every day.

Students are under so much pressure right now. The uncertainty is painful, and it is painful for them and for their families… and for their teachers.

We miss them. We miss the craic. We miss their faces. We miss the personalities and attitudes and talents and challenges.

We were not ready to walk away from our students on March 12th.
We were not ready to say goodbye to the Leaving Cert students who we have known and taught for six years.
We were not ready to not see the kids who we taught and cared for each day.

So yes, tomorrow morning, we would do anything to be able to go back to school.

We’d give anything to see our “other babbies” and to do our jobs in the best way we know how, in our classrooms.

We’d give anything to hear them and answer their questions and laugh at their jokes.

And we’d give anything to have the answers to all of their questions and fears and to make them all feel safe and OK and that everything is going to be OK.

Because we miss them. (Every single one of them…even the ones who I guarantee do NOT miss us!)

Instead, we’ll get up early and do our jobs in the only way we can right now… from a dodgy laptop in the kitchen or spare room.

And we’ll doubt everything we’re doing and worry that it’s not enough.

And we’ll worry about the kids who we know can’t keep up.

And we’ll worry about the kids who we know are in difficult situations at home.

And we’ll worry about ALL of the students, (even those who are not doing state exams.)

And we’ll worry about the kids who we know are under serious pressure, for so many reasons.

Because, they are not just students.

They are OUR students, in whom we invest so much more than just 40 minutes a day.

I have a magnet in my classroom. It says “Teaching is a work of heart”. A student bought it for me in 2001.

I always thought it a bit cliched.

But it is not. It is true.

And for most of us, our hearts won’t be the same until we get to see our students again.

And all we can do right now, is look forward to that day.

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