Teenagers – Thank You.

“HOW do you work with teenagers?”

I get asked this quite a bit.

My answer?
Very easily actually.

Because ‘teenagers’ are wicked.

And let me tell you, since schools reopened, they’ve proven themselves one-million-fold…and then some.

I’m not sure I even have the words to do them justice if I’m honest. Not only are their whole worlds changed, they now sit up to 7 hours a day in one seat, behind a mask. 

Going back to school was tough for them. Everything has changed. No more moving every 40 minutes. No more whispered conversations at lunchtime… social distancing doesn’t allow for whispers.  It doesn’t allow for dance classes, or usual training sessions, or hobbies or fun.

It doesn’t allow for much really, especially if you’re a teenager.

And yet, the teenagers I know are getting on with things. They’re wearing their masks. They’re wiping their tables. They’re following all the rules.

They’re brilliant.

In the current situation, they’re brilliant.

In every situation,  they’re brilliant.  And yet they rarely get the credit they deserve.

They have SO much to offer society and they have so much brilliance in them, if we’d only stop sometimes to listen.

Teenagers are in limbo; stuck in the chaotic chasm between childhood and adulthood; trying not to be children, trying desperately to be adults, and landing somewhere in the middle.

They are brilliant. They are intelligent. They are fun and they are inspiring. They are kind and empathetic and sensitive and brave.

Surely there are moods and hormones and stomps and grumps and huffs and eye rolls and attitude; but guess what?

They were huffy and stubborn as toddlers and children too.

And as adults, we’re pretty partial to the odd huff or eyeroll or attitude too, are we not?

Being a teenager is hard. And I wouldn’t return to that period of my life for all the tea in China. (Well, maybe for an hour to give myself some advice.)

We expect them to act grown up but then criticise them if they do anything “adulty”

We expect them to stop acting like children and yet, can treat them like children in the next breath.

We often assume that they are moody and grumpy just because of their age, rather than asking them what is actually bothering them.

We assume that they are all addicted to computer games and incapable of doing anything for themselves, when actually, so many of them are creative and capable.

We brand them impossible and useless and tut at their inability to make decisions or solve problems.

And in so many cases, the things that we complain that they can not or will not do for them, are because we didn’t show them how to do it, or trust that they could.

Now listen, I know that some parents get it incredibly difficult with their little Sweetums-turned-Satan, and as a teacher believe me, I have been on the receiving end of some teenage angst and attitude in my time.

But I have also learned that often, the behaviour that is causing the adults to eye roll and stomp feet, is not a result of ‘bad’ kids, but often a result of frustration.

New emotions, new feelings, new situations, new relationships, new friends, new worries, new realisations, new expectations, new disappointments… everything is new.

The level of overwhelm on a daily basis is unreal for many.

Add our friend Covid to the mix and you have a whole big explosive pile of  torture.
And don’t even start me on the kids who are dealing with all sorts of chaos at home before they even get to school in the morning.

Why the hell would a young person who has spent the night listening to rows, or who hasn’t eaten properly in 2 days, give a continental shite about right angles, or Shakespeare’s soliloquies, or that you are “so disappointed“ in them for not having homework done again or for being late.

Why would the student who is terrified of being Covid home to Granny, or who’s all too aware of the current stresses faced by their parents whose business is closed, give a hoot about theorems or learning definitions?

Some teenagers are going through things that most of us, as adults, wouldn’t have a clue how to start dealing with.

Sometimes we need to cut them some slack.
Sometimes we need to ask how they are.
Sometimes we need to ignore the attitude and continue to be pleasant and nice to them.
Sometimes we need to NOT respond how they expect us to when they kick off.
Sometimes, we need to trust them.

For many young adults, all they want is trust. To feel trusted and to be given some responsibility to try, and to prove themselves. They need to know that failing at something is not as important as having TRIED it in the first place.

And again, guess what?

The magical 18th birthday does NOT with it bring the key to all things adulty. I’m a long-time, “experienced” adult and I’m still experiencing all of the NEW things I listed above. And sometimes I feel like a teenager who needs an adult to show me how to fix or deal with things.

Life doesn’t change. We get on with adulting and being adulty and we continue to deal with new problems and fears and worries and people.
Adults just don’t get criticised so much when they make mistakes or get overwhelmed.

We need to give teenagers some credit.

They are wonderful.
They are brilliant.
They are kind and they are caring.

And most of them are playing a bloody BLINDER throughout the current pandemic. They’re doing their best.

If you trust them, or let them use their own initiative, it’s incredible what they can do.
If you let them express their emotions, they might just learn to understand them.
If you tell them things are going to be OK, they might just believe you.
And if you tell them you believe in them, they might just start to believe in themselves.

Because if they think we don’t like them or believe in them, how can we expect them to like themselves?
And while sometimes, we want to give them the proverbial kick up the *&^%, they’d probably do a whole lot better, if we gave them a smile or a hug.

Because sometimes a hug is all we need. Teenagers and adults alike.

So back to the question “How do I work with teenagers?”


Quite happily thank you. And with a proud and grateful smile on my face, even though they can’t see it behind my mask.

Same Storm, Different Boats…

Aren’t you lucky you have a job?
Aren’t you lucky you have your health?
Aren’t you lucky you can work from home?
Aren’t you lucky you don’t have to…fill in the blank…

Oh how lucky indeed. 

These days, we really are counting blessings.  The turmoil of the past 7 months has seen us face challenges and fears daily.  And we have all tuned into our own gratitude.  We’re being reminded each day on social media, in staffrooms, in conversations with loved ones, of the things that we should be grateful for. 

I’ve done it myself. 
I’ve bounced the usual cliches around in conversations.
 “Sure aren’t we lucky we have a job” in the staffroom. 
 “Aren’t you lucky you can work from home?” to a friend on the phone.  
“Aren’t you lucky you can still go to college?” to one of the sisters. 
 “Aren’t we lucky we still have a business?” to the husband. 
 “Aren’t you lucky you can go to school to see your friends?” to my daughters.  
“Aren’t you lucky you have family to worry about?” to myself in the mirror.

And indeed we are.
Jesus I do not need anyone to tell me how lucky I am.  I’m fully aware and I’m grateful everyday. 

We all have things in our lives that we are grateful for and appreciative of. 
We are all able to know that we have much to be thankful for. 

I’ve watched people I know and care about lose loved ones and deal with the worst imaginable pain over the past few months.
I feel heart-break for people who are dealing with so very much right now.  
I feel enraged for those who are facing injustices and hardships. 

Some of my friends who are facing incredibly difficult times, seem to be more grateful than I can imagine myself being if I walked in their shoes.  They amaze me every day. I don’t know if I could ever be as positive as they are. 

And I never will, because I do NOT walk in their shoes.

And here is my point.  
The current climate is a difficult one.  It’s more difficult for some than for others. 
And yet it is difficult for all. 
I love the quotation of “We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re in the same storm”. I don’t know who said it first, but I absolutely agree. 

Over the past week, I’ve faltered.  My smile was more forced.  My positivity plummeted.  My rage soared and my frustration got to the point where I cried constantly for more than a few hours. I’ve been trucking on, focusing on all of the reasons that I’m “lucky”, and yet suddenly, MY little boat was rocked with a tsunami of grief and sadness and overwhelm and anger and fear.  We have all lost out.  We all miss people.  We all feel sadness about what we can no longer do.

I spoke to my husband. (well, spoke…sobbed at…same thing right?)
I spoke to my brother. 
I spoke to my sister. 
I spoke to my friend.


And each and every one of them, was able to empathise and comfort me.  In fact, most of the people I’ve spoken to have felt the same over the past few weeks; some more than once. 

So what is it?  How is it that I, who really and truly do know that I’m “lucky” and in the grand scheme of things, fell apart and raged at the world for a few days?

Because I’m human, that’s how.

You might have “nothing to complain about”. 
You might have few financial worries. 
You might be blessed that those you live are in good health. 
You might have so far avoided the virus. 
You might be quite content with your work arrangements.

But you, like the rest of us, are still existing in a new world, where there is a constant undercurrent of stress and anxiety.  


We are all on high alert.  We are all living in that adrenalin buzz of being ready for the next twist or drama that the headlines hurl at us. We are all in fight or flight mode at all times. Even if we haven’t yet realised it. 


Even those of us who think we’re fine and proclaim that we’re not paying attention to it, are entitled to have days where it all seems a bit bleak. 

None of us can claim to be immune from the social anxiety that holds hands with the virus. 


We are all perfectly within our rights to be angry and frustrated and upset at the personal losses and grievances that we are facing. 


And just because the person next to you seems “lucky” and doesn’t seem to have anything to complain about, doesn’t mean that they aren’t feeling the weight of this pandemic.

There is no monopoly on overwhelm.  We must all try to have empathy for each other and look out for each other.

We must never get to a place where “Sure what do YOU have to be stressed about?” becomes acceptable…because we are all entitled to feel ALL the emotions. 

We are indeed all in different boats and we are all simply trying to keep our own boat afloat. 

And everyone’s boat will float a little better through this blasted storm,  if we worry about our own boats.

Check in on your friends.  Check in on your family.  Check in on the last person you would think you need to check upon.

  They might just be glad that you do. And so will you. 

The End of One Chapter leads on to a New One

I know things are hugely different this year, but the sentiment remains.
💙💙💙💙💙💙💙

Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.

The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.

As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.

It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.

At 17.

As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.

The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.

So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there.

Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher. I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman. I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.

Our young people are incredible. And no class before has ever been tested like our class of 2020.

These young adults are like no others before them. They have had a LOT going on…

They have given their ALL for 2 years, and didn’t get to sit the papers. This will never be understood fully by the rest of us.

Some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.

They were playing the match of their lives, and the goalposts not only changed…they disappeared.

Today is the biggest day in many of their lives to date.

Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.

Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.

Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

NO assessment can fully know our children. It can’t measure the whole person.

It doesn’t see their kindness.
It can’t recognise their wit or humour.
It doesn’t measure their ability to change things.
It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers.
It does not define them, nor should it.

And it certainly can’t understand or fully reflect the strength, resilience and bravery required to face final year in a global pandemic.

Be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, your children have come through the most trying end to school life imaginable…and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.

But they will. 💕

So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.

But all roads lead ahead. And this long chapter is finally over. It’s time for the next one.

Today, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents who await the results today.

And remember, those numbers do NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper or words on a screen can change that.

M XXX

Calling Covid Out

Last week was a bumpy one.

Not only was it the girls’ first week back at school and my first week back at work, but it was also the week where we were stopped in our tracks… by a cough. 

On Tuesday morning, one of the girls woke having developed a stuffy head-cold and nasty cough.  It was quite a sudden onset and so, because there’s this global pandemic happening and we’re all now conditioned to panic at snuffles and splutters (that would once upon a time not even have raised an eyebrow), I rang the doctor. 

Long story short, Doc referred her for a test. We all started to self isolate at home. I rang work.  I rang school to let them know.  We waited for the appointment.  We went to have her tested. We went home.  She went to bed, still dosed with what I knew was a typical headcold… and we waited for the result on Wednesday, which, thank the powers above, was NEGATIVE. 

But try as we did to remain calm until we HAD to panic…the panic and “what’ ifs” did set in.  

What if it’s positive?

What if she gets more sick?

What about her sister?

What about her school friends?

What about my work?

What about my colleagues?

What about our business?

What will people say?

IF she had it, who was to blame? 

Where did she get it?

What did we do wrong?

And that was when I stopped myself in my own spiralling train of destructive thoughts and slapped myself out of the panic. 

We did nothing wrong and no one was to blame.

This virus is dreadful.  It’s frightening and it’s impacted us all in ways that will take years for us to fathom. 

But it is a virus that we have to learn to live with. To live beside. 

The vast majority of us are being cautious.  We’re being careful.  We’re aware of the constant danger. And yet we’re trying to go about our lives as normally as we can.  

So whose fault is it if one of us contracts the virus?

Why do we automatically start to attribute blame?  Why is needing a test or testing positive automatically equated to irresponsibility?

Unfortunately, picking up this virus is as easy as catching a flu, or chicken pox, or head lice.  The difference is, when we catch one of the viruses that we’re USED to, we deal with it, look after ourselves and try to get better.  I’m not comparing or demeaning the virus by the way.  Covid is deadly. No one wants it. I’m simply leading to my next point.  

Along with the threat of or the diagnosis of covid, comes a strange guilt; a worry about what people will say? A stigma.

Because the person diagnosed is deemed responsible for any ripple effect diagnosis around them. 

And none of us wants to be the person who starts a covid ripple.

So I’m calling Covid Out… because we all have enough to be dealing with right now, without piling on another level of shame or guilt or whatever you want to call it. 

  If you need a test, get a test.  If you need to self isolate, don’t be embarrassed or worried.  Just be responsible and do it. 

We need to talk about it, because with schools reopened and typical back-to-school snuffles and colds coming at us fast, there’s a good chance that most houses are going to have to use the phrases “Covid test” or “self isolating” in the next few weeks.

  There will be days missed from school.  There will be days missed from work.  The ripple effect of one person in a household needing a test is something that until it hit OUR house last week, I honestly hadn’t thought about. 

But for those 36 hours I had nothing to do BUT think about it.  I didn’t sleep a wink, until we had the results.  And most of my worry was about other people; my parents, his parents, my Granny, my colleagues, her friends… it didn’t bear thinking about, and yet we had no choice BUT to think about it.

 Covid19 and the shitstorm we have been through this past 6 month, has exacerbated our anxieties and worry.  But as parents, we need to know that people getting tested and indeed testing positive is NOT something to criticise or gossip about.  And none of us know if and when we’ll be in that situation ourselves. 

So be kind.  Stay out of the whispered conversations about who has been tested, or who is off work, or who has left school suddenly.  Don’t get involved in hushed speculations about where JacintaNancy down the road picked it up, or where John Joe was last week that he might have gotten it.   Being judgemental is another virus in itself. 

If you or your kid need tested, don’t worry.  It’s a quick process and while it’s uncomfortable, it’s over in 5 seconds.  Here is the cartoon that another friend (who was going through the exact same thing with his kid) sent me.  It really helped and is worth saving.

hse.ie

I also have all of the stories saved in a highlight on my Instagram if anyone wants to watch.

And if you do find yourself going for the test, I hope it all comes back negative and that you are all OK. 

Call Covid out…

 Because it’s stressful enough being a parent in the current climate and we need to support each other through it all. 

M x

‘Hack’ to School… (Yes. I punned.)

Back to School Hacks

Now that we finally know that our little darlings will be going back to school, we can start to think about getting ready.

Maybe you are already organised. Maybe you have been putting it off. Maybe you spread it out over a few months.
Maybe, like me, you refuse to acknowledge it until the very last minute and every year, berate yourself on August 29th as you trawl through the leftovers on the shelves.

Let’s be honest, whichever you are, we all get there and they all get back to school fully clothed and stocked up. Eventually.

But for many this year, there was a genuine concern that it was too early to start getting ready for fear that they would be off longer, was real.
Thankfully, we have had it confirmed by the powers that be, that yes indeed, our precious schools will reopen next month.

And I don’t know about you, but my two daughters are DELIGHTED.

As am I.

So here are some tips for getting organised (if you aren’t already!)
1. Make a list – What do you already have? What do you need to get? Do you REALLY need it all?
Try on uniforms and check what you need to replace. Is there really anything wrong with the trousers from last year? Will the jumper last another few months? School clothes are now available all year round. They don’t magically disappear from the shelves in October.
Check what you have already – Go through what is in the house – At a guess, there are 7 of those lunch box bags in my kitchen if I looked. So again, they’re going to be reused. Do invest in sturdy lunchboxes however. I love the boxes with compartments for the food. Again, check what you already have. The good ones last for years.. There is no Sanctimammy at the school gate checking that every item your child has is new.

2. Accept help if you’re lucky enough to be offered it.
Lists also help you know what to ask for if a family member asks what they can buy little Archibald or Susanella for going back to school. PE tee-shirts? Socks? Colours? Hat? If/When Aunty Jacinta asks, don’t be afraid to say what you need. Otherwise you’ll end up with 4 lunchbags or pencil cases.

3. Stock-Box If you do end up with loads of extra stationery sets or twistables, it’s a good thing. Children LOSE EVERYTHING! That lovely full pencil case won’t be full by midterm. I have a “stockbox” with all the extra sharpeners and rulers and crayons that they get and as the school year goes on, trust me, it’s a life saver. And only put what they need into the pencil case in September. Add to it then as they need.

4. New school bag? Considering that our kids were only in school until March, you might find that the school bag is still in good nick. Again, if it’s not done, why buy a new one. My eldest’s bag is as good as new from last year. (A few new Harry Potter badges on it and woohoo!) She’ll get a few more months out of it. There really is nothing wrong with the bag she has. And if and when it IS done, then I’ll get her a new one. Again, schoolbags are in shops all year round.

5. Leave shoes til last – If your kids are anything like mine, they like to jump two shoe sizes in the space of a week. Shoes will be measured and bought the week before school opens.

6. Labels – This is something I do buy happily. The sticky labels are brilliant. There are LOADS of different companies and they go on everything and STAY on everything. And as they get older, you have to label fewer things, so you’ll find that you won’t need to buy them every year. In Junior infants, label everything. I stopped short of putting one on her forehead. You can now get the labels that have little symbols for allergies or medical conditions on them too.

7. Jumpers/crests – If your kids go to a school with a crested uniform, remember that you can buy a jumper anywhere and have the label embroidered. My girls prefer lighter jumpers than the ones available, so I buy them and get the crest put on. It’s half the price and they’re perfect.
For many, the idea of not buying everything new is weird. As with everything, it’s YOUR call.

If you couldn’t imagine sending them back with the same schoolbag or lunchbag or whatever, that’s your call. But it’s not always a possibility for everyone.

For me, I don’t see the harm in teaching them that they get new when it’s needed. I’ve had the same “schoolbag” for almost 20 years.(OK it’s sentimental at this point, but still. It’s still doing the job!) And while of course it’s lovely to get new things, who says that everything has to be new in September each year?

Back to school costs a fortune. But it can cost less if we remove ourselves from the notion that they need new everything.

We all love a good hack! Especially when it helps save a few pennies.
If you have any tips to add, please share in the comments.
Mammy