You Drive you, I’ll Drive Me…

“Drive for yourself and let other drivers worry about themselves…” 

Words of wisdom from my much missed Granda Pops.  

He said these words to my Mum many times and he said them to me when I drove my first car up to his sitting room window many years ago. 

He looked out from his throne, cast his eyes over it, nodded that it was a “good big safe car” and then added these words. 

 I’d heard them before of course. It was one of his lines that my Mum had taken with her when she left home, repeating it at many opportunities, much like the one or two clangers that I constantly repeat from my Dad.

And like Daddy’s “Remember who has the problem” line, this one has stood the test of time and lingered on in our memories, not just because of who used to say it, but because it’s so so true. 

Mum still likes to remind us of, especially when one of us comes home giving out about someone who pulled out in front of us, or didn’t use an indicator, or almost caused a three car pile up at the roundabout. 

But this past week I’ve thought about it and said it more than once…and yet, I haven’t even been driving. I haven’t left the house.

In a few different conversations and phonecalls, and in the current climate of the JudgyMcJudgerson and AngryMcAngryson, I have found myself comforting people by using Granda’s line.  

Let’s get metaphorical, shall we? Buckle up… (see what I did there?)

Car, Pink Car, Thunderbird, Drive

We all drive our own car. ( We all live our own lives). 

We’re all responsible for our own vehicle. (You worry about you, I’ll worry about me.)

We all have our own passengers. (My family is my responsibility.)

We shouldn’t drive too fast. (Calm yourself woman!)

We can’t drive with an empty tank. (Fuel that body up!)

The car needs regular services. (Self care is important… Let your imagination go where it will there Jacinta!)

If you’re on the wrong route, you can always turn around or change lanes.  (You’re NOT stuck in that job/rut/relationship. Do what you need to make yourself happy.)

Make sure the tyres are fit for purpose. (Shoes are also important…)

We should all stay in our own lane (Mind your business Polly…)

Actually, this one is pretty important.  Drive to get yourself where you need to go, but try not to bump into anyone else on your journey eh? Don’t be a roadhog and remember you’re not the only car on the road.

Traffic, Highway, Lights, Night, Speed

But joking aside, there’s a reason cars and driving are so frequently used for analyses of life.  It makes sense.  Life is a journey and we are all travelling through, trying to navigate potholes and flat tyres and other cars.

You can’t control how other drivers drive their cars or react on the road.  And you can’t control how other people live their lives or react to things. 

You can disapprove of a person’s driving style or behaviour on the road, but there’s very little you can DO about it. Same goes for life and other people’s decisions/business/choices.

You can watch in horror as someone overtakes on a corner, aghast at what might happen, but there is nothing you can do about their decision. People have to make their own decisions.

You can disagree on the style or colour or size of someone else’s car choice.  Guess what, it’s not YOUR car and really, what they drive is nothing to do with you.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  You’re not them.

If people are reacting or behaving a certain way towards you.  If people are commenting and disapproving of what you do.  If people are unhappy with how you are driving YOUR car… whatever.   

Are they your passengers?  

Are they in danger because of how “drive your car”?  

Do they pay for your car?

Well if not, does it really matter what they think?

No. 

And if someone decided to flash their lights at you, or give you the one fingered salute as they pass, or shout out the window at you…or even if they sit in their car bitching about yours, once again, you can’t control that. 

And actually now that I think of it, my Granda’s words of wisdom AND my Daddy’s words of wisdom go quite well together. 

“You drive for yourself and let other drivers drive for themselves”.  Oh and if someone doesn’t like your “driving”, “remember who has the problem”.

Vintage 1950S, Pretty Woman, Vintage Car

Plan B and Banana Bread?

Banana bread; I never actually did get around to baking one.

I did eat a slice that someone else baked, but that was the height of my lockdown success.

Lockdown as we know it has passed, thankfully, and yet there is a new type of lockdown coming at us tonight.

It seems to be a steam train that we can’t stop… maybe using trains as a metaphor is futile here in Donegal. A big bus? A huge tractor… whichever you use, it’s coming at us and the brakes aren’t working.

But as always, with every cloud, we can look for a silver lining. Can’t we? For me, that silver lining is school.

This time, hopefully, lockdown won’t include homeschooling, and with all the luck in the world, will not be as restrictive as the first one. At least with the kids still in school, those of us who work from home can ACTUALLY work, as opposed to trying to work between feeding the kids and you know, parenting?

And those of us with kids of school going age, might actually be able to GO to work as our children will be continuing with school.
Hopefully.

But most importantly, our kids won’t have to go through as much upheaval as we will this time around. And that can only be a positive.

For me, trying to teach from home was the highest height of lows in my almost 20 year career. I hated every single sorry minute of it, and while I did my very best to teach from home for the months of April through to June, I am absolutely not afraid to admit that it almost broke me. Almost.

Despite what some will have you believe, teachers did our best. Damn it we did a good job, but my own children were pretty much ignored for chunks of the day and homeschooling of my OWN daughter did not happen as I tried to keep providing education for my other babbies.

But hey. I’m not complaining. I’m really not. I just don’t ever want to go back to that again. I love being back in school, and as difficult as it is, (and by God it is difficult), being back in classrooms with young people is good for the soul. It’s what teachers AND students need. Teaching is never just about passing knowledge and hitting curriculums. It’s about so much more than that. Masks and all.

So even with the impending restrictions that we face again tonight, hopefully, we’ll be able to keep the constant of school going for everyone.

There was a camaraderie about the last lockdown wasn’t there? All in this together and finding our way through the “New Normal” and all that zoomyjazz?
I wonder however, how much of that is lost.

Because this time is different. We’re all fed up.

We’re all scundered as we say here in Donegal. We’re all disappointed that it’s come to this.
The novelty of Lockdown has well and truly worn off.
And people’s patience is thin.

The seeming contradictions of the plans and restrictions are not helping. If anything, they’re pitching people against each other. And that is the main difference this time.

Why can he do that but I can’t do that?
How is she allowed to do that , but I have to do this?

The list of questions like this is pretty endless right now.

And yet, on we must go. Once more into the abyss I suppose.

The next few weeks will determine the next few months. We all need to buckle down and try to keep the chins up.

We might not have the lovely weather or same sense of newness that wound us together last time round. But we do still have each other and this time, thankfully, our kids will have some semblance of normality.

And if we can all keep that going, and try to remember that we’re all facing this shitstorm together, who knows, we might actually get things back under some control.

I probably still won’t bother baking a banana bread however… I don’t even like banana bread.

But I’ll happily cheer you on as you bake yours.
Because that is how we are going to get past this.
By cheering each other on.

And by letting each other do what we have to do, whether we agree with them or not.

Chins up Chickies.
We’ve got this.

#holdfirm

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

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.

teaching

Stop Asking THAT Question

I’ve written about this before but it seems that it’s like non parents parking in mother and baby spots or people feeling the need to comment on how your baby is fed; it doesn’t go away!

STOP ASKING PEOPLE when they’re going to start a family or going to ‘go again’.

I know people don’t mean any harm when they insist on telling you that you should “be going again” or “getting a move on”, and yet often, these innocently thrown statements can stab a couple through the heart.

Firstly, why do people think it’s OK to assume that everyone wants to have more Babies? Or actually, even A baby for that matter.  Many people make the conscious decision that parenthood is not for them; that they are quite fulfilled and happy as they are.

Then there are the people who, no sooner have you popped out little Charlie or Nancy, but they’re telling you it’s time to get working on Jeremiah or Jezebel.  Why, oh WHY, do people think that it’s OK to ASK why a couple aren’t “going for number 3″… or 4, or 8?

And as for the people who tease a newly married couple, or indeed ANY childless couple, about ‘getting a move on’, well that is just a whole other level of silly beggar.

Here are 6 reasons to NOT comment on a couple’s NON pregnant state:
1. It’s none of your business.

2. You don’t know their situation. You don’t know if they’ve had a miscarriage recently. People don’t generally go around announcing that do they? In fact, we good Irish still fall into the trap of thinking that we aren’t allowed to tell anyone until the sacred 12 week mark, and so when things go wrong, couples often have no one to share their grief or help them through it.

3. 1 in 6 Irish couples currently struggle with fertility. How do you know if the person you are innocently teasing about “going for another one” or “filling that big house” isn’t one of those couples? You don’t know if they’re trying EVERYTHING and being constantly heartbroken. You don’t know if she’s injecting herself daily, undergoing physical and emotional and mental turmoil to try to help matters. You don’t know if he’s struggling with the fact that his sperm count is low. You don’t know if they’ve put every penny they have (and don’t have) into rounds of treatment, over and over again. You don’t know how deep your playful, well-intentioned words can cut.

4. Not EVERY couple WANTS to have a baby, or another Baby. For their own reasons. That they don’t have to explain to you.  And when a couple tells you that they’re all done or quite happy with their lot thank you, do not raise your eyebrow in a smug and all-knowing, “we’ll see” or tut at their ‘nonsense’.  You’re in murky waters now and you need to paddle back Dear.

5. Maybe that couple are in the process of adoption, or surrogacy. Maybe that couple are at breaking point, physically and emotionally and maybe…

6. …it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Of course people mean no harm when we joke about “filling that big car” or “getting a wee brother for Nancy”, but like all things Parent related, innocent comments and harmless questions can cut through people like a bolt of lightning. We shouldn’t comment. End of.

So next time you find yourself about to joke or jest or ask someone about the state of their baby situation, consider this:  If they asked you about the state or your uterus, or indeed your sperm situation, how would you feel? Would you be comfortable if that person sighed and answered with “Well actually, we’re on our third round of IVF and we’re emotionally and physically exhausted and I’d love to tell you about it”?  Or if they said, “Well actually, we’ve had three miscarriages in the last 18 months” or “Well no, becuase we’re pretty sure we won’t be together this time next year.” If you would be able to deal with those answers, you possibly know the person well enough to know not to ask anyway.

If not, don’t ask and don’t comment.

Simples.