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

The Stinging Truth…

Mammy found herself minion free today. 

Off I trot my solo self to the big homeware shop where I have all the time in the world to wander and dander and ponder how fablis all-the-everything would look in my house. 

As I stand in the lighting section, wondering if the NYC skyline touch lamp would be cool and quirky, or just tin and tacky in her bedroom, Mammy experiences a level of chill that, quite frankly, Mammy has not experienced since March 11th.  

I put my hand back on to the bar of the trolley, deciding that actually, this light would look ridonkulous in my bedroom and as my hand hits the bar, I jolt it back immediately as what I think is an electric shock blasts through the palm of my hand.  

What the FECK?

As I lift my poor hand away from the jaws of the trolley handle, I quickly realise that it’s NOT an electric shock.  The MONSTER is still in my hand and is busy burrowing its pointy arse into my hand… 

I shake it off, and watch as the little wanker of a wasp spins across the floor and under the shelf full of NYC skylines. 

I have been stung. 

I have been stung by a chuffing wasp… 

I have let a yelp out of me and am frozen to the spot… I dance around a little bit, suppressing a scream and glad that my mask is hiding my Crazy Lady grimaces from the poor child who watching me from behind her Mum’s leg.  

The last time I was stung by a wasp, I was 9 years old and my Darling Granda fixed it immediately with a blue ink teabag, icecream and a hug…  

RIddle me this…What the Fuck does an adult do when stung by a wasp? 

 I want my Granda.  I want my Mammy. I want my Him.  I want someone to ADULT right now so I can cry like a 9 year old and feel very fucking sorry for myself. 

The burn is real now and my hand is pulsing. I look down, fully expecting a gaping fleshy bloody wound to be ravaging my skin.  Of course, there is nothing but an angry little pinprick left by an angry little prick… But my poor hand is growing red and angry.  

I reach into my bag with the not stung hand, searching for my phone.  I need to TELL someone I have been stung. My phone is in the car… Feck. 

I’m not really sure what my Mammy or my Husband could have done through the phone to be honest, but I needed to TELL one of them that I have been stung by a wasp.   I can’t ring my Darling Granda… (If he answered, a wasp sting would be the least of my worries…) 

I am stung and phoneless and adult-less and now I DO want to cry. 

My brain begins to entertain the unfolding imaginary drama of having an allergic reaction and suddenly DYING in the middle of the aisle of cheap curtains, and I have to slap myself with a dose of cop-the-fuck-on and wise up.  

And of course, because I am a feckin grown up, and the only person in the store who KNOWS that I have been stung, I carry on as if I’m fine.

I’m FINE… 

 I head towards a quieter corner of the shop, pull the mask from my face for a second to allow some deep-deep-puff-puff-blow breaths, shaking my throbbing hand vigorously. 

Yeah.  Because we ALL know that shaking the burning limb makes it ALL better, doesn’t it?

I wander aimlessly, possibly a bit frantically through the store.  I find myself back in the lighting aisle, and spot the wanker wasp lying dead on the floor. Little shit will get no sympathy from me. 

Feeling in some way vindicated, I hiss at the wee fecker and head for the checkout. 

I can’t say I wasn’t in some way traumatised by the experience. I arrived home and unpack packets of clothes pegs, egg cups and a bottle of Zofloraaaah from the bag.  I genuinely do NOT remember putting them in the trolley. 

Husband arrives home and I’m like a 9 year old, showing him my no longer throbbing, but still fricken sore, poor wee hand. 

He does not have an ink teabag.

He does not offer my icecream.  

But he does give me a hug. 

It’ll do. 

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…