Your Legacy, Your Footprints…

Legacy 

What is Legacy?

It’s a word we usually retain for after someone has departed for the Big City in the Sky, (or wherever you believe we go after this life.)

But Legacy is not as final as we think.  We’re creating our own legacies, Every Single Day.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if we thought of our legacy as our everyday?  It’s the things we do each day, the people we affect each day, the conversations we have, the changes we make.

Sometimes, we make changes in our lives that take us on a new direction.  Sometimes, the change is subtle and yet, whether big or small, all changes lead us on a new journey.

Change is good. Change is what you make it.

But just because you come to the end of something, doesn’t mean that it’s over.  You will always have the memories you made.  You will always have the lessons you learned. You will always be who you are, based on what you’ve done, who you’ve met and what you’ve been through.

May it be an ending relationship, an ending friendship, an ending job, a change in career, an end of a process… all of the things that we do, every day, have made and DO make us who we are.  Our past has brought us to our now, and it shapes where we are going.

I’m thinking of a special friend as I write this today.  Big change is happening for this friend.  And I need her to know a few things:

This is not an end.  It is simply a change in direction.

It is the right change for her.

She has touched the lives of so many, in many positive ways.

She has influenced more young people than you could imagine.

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Rather than being sad that something is over, we need to be glad that it happened; to understand that its highs and its lows ALL contributed to what we learned from it.  And know that as we leave something, or someone, we can choose which memories to take with us.

We all leave footprints; we don’t remember every single step we ever took, but we know that every single step had to be taken to get us to where we are.

THAT is our legacy.  And we’re still creating it.

So , to you, (whose name means “Together” or “One” and which actually suits you perfectly considering the “together” YOU helped create), don’t be sad.

Smile at the memories (and friends) that you made, acknowledge the footprints you’ve left and get excited at the thought of the next stage of your journey.

It’s yours. Dance through it.

You have many more footprints to leave.

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Some Advice for Exam Parents

Exam season is upon us again.
 
It seems to come around faster and faster each year, doesn’t it?
 
If your little darlings are about to do their Junior or Leaving Certificate Examinations, here are some ideas on how you can help them.
 
1. Sleep: Seems obvious and it’s easier said than done to get teenagers to go to bed at the best of times, and yet sleep is the one thing that we need in order to function properly. Talk to your child and agree a consistent bedtime for the next 3 weeks. Agree on a cut off time for studying, no matter how much they insist that they need to do more. Agree on a cut off time for screens and insist that until the exams are over, screens should not be in bedrooms. Even the simple absence of the phone from the bedroom can do wonders for the sleep that we get.
 
2. Hydrate: Yeah yeah Yadda yadda… but again, vital. Challenge them to drink 2 litres a day. There are loads of cool bottles that help to motivate water intake now. And they all have apps on phones that can help remind them to drink water too. Dehydration leads to headaches and sluggishness; all of the things that they DON’T need at the minute.
 
3.Nutrition: The State Exams can last for up to 2 weeks for some students. If an athlete were going into a 2 week event, they’d be fuelling up their bodies in preparation for months. If your child has a balanced and varied diet already, great. Keep it up. If not, try to introduce more whole foods and more fruit and veg. Convenience snacking is a massive issue when stress and tiredness kick in. Try to have dinners pre-cooked and healthier snacks in the fridge for when they appear from their pit “staaaaaarving”. In fairness to them, the last thing they are thinking about is their food right now. But don’t make a big deal about it. Remember when they were toddlers and you conveniently had lots of healthy snacks and precooked meals in the kitchen? For the next 3 weeks, go back to that! Just maybe ease up on the purees! (AND BREAKFAST is a must. They might not be hungry, but they can’t sit a 2-3 hour exam on an empty tummy. Bananas are great for calming butterflies in the tummy.) 
 
4. Exercise: If your child has a hobby, or goes to a class each week, let them continue with it. As a teacher, I hear parents saying “Oh they’ve stopped that until after the exams”. And while yes, many need to cut back on some activities in order to study, cutting out EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Try to encourage them to do something every day, even if it is simply going for a ten minute walk. Send them to the shop. Throw them a basketball. Dust off the punchbag in the garage. Anything to get them moving for even a few minutes. Times of high stress are the times when we NEED to be able to release, may it be dancing, kicking, running or a gym class. It helps keep energy levels up.
 
5. Keep the stress levels down: And I’m not just talking about THEIRS. State Exams have a way of reducing Mums and Dads to tears. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, the exams are important, but what is more important is that your child is alive and well and able to do the exams. Don’t dismiss the significance of these exams, but equally, don’t paint them to be the be all and end all. Their best is all that they can do and regardless of what is in the little brown envelopes at the end of the summer, life will go on and they will be ABSOLUTELY FINE!
 
6. Positivity : Rather than constantly “annoying” or “torturing” them, let them hear praise. (Because no matter what we say, they only hear nagging don’t they?) Let them hear you believe in them. Let them hear “You will be fine” or “Do your best” or “I’m proud of you.” Seems silly maybe, but trust me, so many of our teenagers are so skilled at feeling useless and crap all by themselves. Sometimes all it takes is for them to hear someone tell them they can do it.
 
7. Last minute pages: SO this is the teacher talking now. Get them to take an A4 page and for each subject, on which they write down all of the key phrases and ideas and names and keywords, dates etc., all over it, on both sides. If their teacher has things that he or she CONSTANTLY repeated in class, write those down too.
Use different coloured pens and make it bright. Laminate it when they’re done if you like. But have it that THAT PAGE is the ONLY thing they look at on the morning of the exam. I also advise that when they walk into the English paper, before they even read the questions, to jot down as many of the important terms and titles on one of the roughwork boxes or blank pages. That way, they have a go-to wordbank if they get a blank brain AND they won’t forget character names or poem titles in the heat of the exam. (Happens to the best!)
 
8. Ditch the Drama: Warn your kids of the dangers of the Drama Llama on the morning (or afternoon) of the exam. While they’ll want with their friends, so often it is the worst place they can be. Hearing “Oh I only glanced at Chapter 23 last night” or “I haven’t LOOKED at that book!” or “I am so screwed”can cause panic in an anxious child’s mind. They’re already dealing with their own anxiety and nerves. They don’t need JohnJoe or Nancy’s stresses on top of their own. Tell them to politely stay away from groups until after the exam. They are much better served by reading over their last-minute page on their own. They can chat about it as much as they want when it’s over, but being focused and quiet before the exam really does work wonders.
 
9. SPACE it out: If space allows, tell them to skip 2-3 lines between each paragraph. This allows them space to jot down anything that might come to mind as the revise over what they’ve written at the end. (And it makes life easier for the examiner if sentences aren’t written sideways up a margin. With a few subjects being corrected digitally this year, anything written outside the allocated area won’t be scanned. Remind them of this.)
 
10. Believe: While the state exams are possibly THE biggest thing in your whole family’s life right now, it is important to remind the kids that every single person who is older than them, has been through and sat through these exams. They can only do their best. Yes, they’re a huge deal, but they’re also just a bump in the road that you have to drive over to get to summer. They’re well ready and well able.
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Life is a big long dance. We all stumble, sometimes we fall. We have parts of the routine that we’d rather skip, but it’s OUR dance. And each and every one of us has to dance our own steps.
 
I hope that exam season passes with as little stress as possible in your house. And remember that if your kids see you stressed, they stress. So even if you want to scream and tear your hair out, don’t.
 
Or at least wait until they’re in bed and then pour yourself a gin and scream in a pillow.
 
And the very best of luck to your minions.

I am STOP TOUCHING ME Mum

This Mammy loves hugs and squeezes and little chubby fingers on her skin.  Mammy loves kisses and Eskinosies and the feel of Mini-Me’s arms crawling around her neck for a hug.

Mammy is aware that when you become a Mammy, you are going to be touched, a LOT.  But Mammy is still, many years on, not ready for the CONSTANT touching.
It’s 24/7.

It’s mostly lovely, but JESUS, there are times when Mammy just wants to NOT be touched, even for a little while.

LIke, a half an hour.

Now, there is no harm in the Touching. It is usually quite acceptable and welcome. In fact, if we delve into the minds of the TOUCHERS in the house, it is clear that the touching is a sign (usually) of love and affection and it is important for affirmation of love and all that jazz, but sometimes, Mammy considers pretending to have Scabies, just so that everyone will piss away off for 20 minutes and stop TOUCHING her!

The Wobbler thinks:

Oh! There is Mammy.  I will touch her.  I will swing off her legs while she walks.  I will stand on her feet while she cooks.  I will sit on her head while she snoozes.  I will sit on her knee instead of on my chair.  I will sit on her chair along with her.  I will hold on to her hand so hard that if she tries to sneak away as I fall asleep, I will know.  I will insist on being lifted when I see her standing with nothing to do.  I will make special effort to ensure that if her tellyphoney rings, she will not forget that I am here, because I will tug at her leg until she lifts me and then I will rub her face.  I will stick my finger in her mouth.  I will stick my finger up her nose.  I will shove my finger in her ear.  Oh Lookit. Mammy is on the sofa.  That is my sofa.  I will sit on her head.  I will stick my hand down into Mammy’s bra to find the dodee that I didn’t hide there earlier.  I will touch her every time she walks by.  I likes to touch Mammy.  Mammy is soft and squishee and she smiles when I touches her so that is what I must do.  Always.  Forever. I am the bestest witto wobbler around.
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The Mini One thinks:

I will ignore Mammy until I notice little sister sitting on her, and then I too will sit on her.  I will make sure she doesn’t feel lonely while she pees.  I will look after her while she showers. I will remember to ask her EVERYTHING when she is trying to talk to Granny on the phone.  I will ignore her in the coffee shop until her friend sits down to talk to her.  Oh Look! Mammy has sat at the the table. I must sit on her knee to make sure she doesn’t drink all of the coffee.  It is bad for her.

I will hug Mammy’s armpit.  I will stick my fingers in her armpit.  For some reason, I like armpits.  I must keep touching Mammy so that she doesn’t forget my existence for three minutes.  She must be touched as often as possible.  Even when Mammy asks me to let her think, I will add my thoughts to her thoughts to make sure she has all options of thinking available to her and that she never feels alone in her thoughts or her head.

Mammy’s minions go to bed and Mammy wonders what feels so strange.  Is it the silence? Is it the calm? Is it the peace?

NO.  It’s the lack of touching.
Daddy comes home.

Daddy thinks:

Oh look.  There is my beautiful wife. She looks extra sexiful in those baggy PJ bottoms and my teeshirt.  I’m glad she hasn’t brushed her hair or washed her face today.  I like the smell of Bolognese on her face.  I have missed her so much that I must touch her everytime she walks past.  I will touch her.  I will slap her bum every time I pass her..  I will huggle her.  Mammy looks lonely there without the girls hanging off of her.  I will make her feel better.  I will hang off of her.  Maybe Mammy would like some hanky panky.  She has been here on her own with the kids all day after all.  I wonder did the baby hide her dodees in Mammy’s bra today..  Maybe I will check…
Oh.
Mammy is looking at me with sexy eyes…or maybe those are her I shall hurt you eyes… I can never tell.
“Don’t FUCKING TOUCH MEEEEEEEEEEE” screams Mammy.
‘Ok,’ thinks Daddy, ‘not her sexy eyes’.  Daddy realises. For some reason, Mammy doesn’t like being touched tonight.  She must be hormental.  
Actually no.  Daddy remembers that this is The Touching Hour.

Mammy needs her Touching Hour every evening.  It is like the Witching Hour, only more dark and dangerous.  And the chances of further touching depend on the success of the Touching Hour.
‘Where is the chocolate?’ Thinks Daddy.  ‘I should sit in the corner here and throw chocolate at her until she calms down’.  Clever Daddy.

“Will I make you a cup of tea?” asks Daddy.  Mammy snarls at him.  Daddy pours her a glass of wine.  Clever Daddy.

“Here you are Darling” he says, trying not to touch her.
Mammy sips her wine, remembering a time when she used to pay people to touch her; When it was relaxing to have hands all over her in a smellified dark room in a spa or salon.  She would love to go for a massage, but that would mean someone else touching her and at this moment in time, that might make Mammy hurt someone.

She looks at Daddy, who used to be the only person who touched her.  He is so lovely, she thinks.  He has a very nice bum.

After a while, Mammy walks past Daddy in the kitchen and slaps his bum.  Yay! thinks Daddy.  The Touching hour is over, but Daddy lets Mammy pour another glass of grapes before he suggests such.

Daddy is clever.

Mammy sometimes feels like she lives with a squad of fecking Octopus…octopi?

But they are cute little octopi and by the morning, she will be ready for all the touching, all over again.

Because while of course Mammy knows she is a lucky Mammy to have so many people wanting to touch her, sometimes…well, it’s a touchy subject.

And if you have kids, you’ll know.

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Sanctimammies Toddle On By

Sanctimammy

Noun – A Mammy who believes that her way of parenting is the correct and proper way; judging and dismissing other Mums who do not parent as she parents.

Adj – Sanctimammious     

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‘Live and Let live’ they say.  But once you dip your toe into the world of Parenthood, that seems to change for some people.  It becomes ‘Do as I do, Think as I think’. There is no area in our lives which can cause heightened levels of self-doubt and self-criticism as parenting.  And often, it is the outright self-righteousness and shared opinions of other parents which makes us doubt ourselves.

Have you ever been asked something about your child, only to have an eyebrow raised, or a lip pursed at your reply?  Have you ever been nervous of telling someone how YOU do things, because you know that they do it differently?

We all have.  We’ve all been there.

Parenting styles and beliefs and practices vary, not just in countries, or counties or communities, but within homes.  For twenty houses in an estate or on a road, there will be twenty different parenting styles happening at once. But here’s the thing.

Just because you do things differently, doesn’t make you better.

Just because you work AND have kids, doesn’t make you better than the Mum who is working her ass off at home.

Just because you’re able to stay at home with your Puking minion, doesn’t make you a better Mum than the Mum who had no choice but to leave hers with Granny, because she couldn’t get off work.

Just because you Breastfeed your baby, doesn’t make you better than the Mum who, for WHATEVER reason, has to (or choses to) Bottle feed. You don’t know why they can’t (or don’t) breast feed.  You don’t have to. It’s none of your business.

Just because you use organic, reusable nappies, you are not superior to the Mammy who stocks up on Packets.

Just because your Baby sleeps well, does not mean that the Mum who hasn’t slept for 14 months is less brilliant than you.

Just because you’ve decided to wean your Baby by the guidance of some book, feeding Quinoa and avocado and peppers, doesn’t make you better than the Mum who feeds her kid mashed potato and gravy, or (shock horror!) fishfingers and waffles.

Just because your little Japonica goes to 5 activities a week at 11 months old, does not make you a better Mum than Jacinta next door, who can just about leave the house to do the shopping, because her PND is so crippling that she can’t breath.

Just because you gave birth without drugs, in a calm and wonderful experience, does not make you a better Mum than the lady who has had 3 sections.

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Now, I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t make an effort to do what’s best and what’s healthy for your baby. What I am saying is that what YOU deem right and important, might not be the same as another Mum.  Our priorities are all different. And that’s OK

Every Mum does what SHE has to do for HER family. And the only person who knows what is right for your family is YOU.

You don’t know another Mum’s circumstance. You don’t know her. You don’t know if she’s happy, or watching you getting into your car to go to work, longing to be you.

You don’t know if she’s driving to work in tears because her Baby cried again as she was dropping him off.

You don’t know how many times a day the Mammy in the office feels a gutwrenching guilt at being away.

You don’t know how the Mum in her kitchen is longing for a conversation.

You don’t know how much the Mum who has to pay bills rather than pay for Baby swim classes longs to be able to sign her baby up.

You don’t know how much time and effort that Mum, looks fab at the school gate, took to just get out the door this morning because she cried all night.  

You don’t know how much the Mum who seems to have it all, wishes that she had something else.

You don’t know how much the Mum who is mixing up formula berates herself.

You don’t know Jack sh*t.

As long as your children are fed, and loved and looked after, you’re doing great.  

How we parent our children, is nobody’s business but our own.  And what other Mums think of your parenting, is absolutely none of YOUR business.  

And if you EVER hear yourself dismissing or tutting at another Mammy because she’s doing it differently to you, lift your hand, grab a wooden spoon and hit yourself a good hard slap on the arse with it.

No one likes a Sanctimammy.

I am Stop Asking Silly Questions Mum

“I’m not your best fwend Mammy.  I’m Emily’s best fwend”…

And there it was. In one simple sentence, I’d been categorically dumped by my one of my daughters… AGAIN.  I’ve been through this before and yet, like all things parenty, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve experienced something, with each child you have, it’s all new again.

When I had my first wee girl, my aunt told me that I’d been blessed with my very own best friend forever.  We see signs and cards and photo-frames everywhere, stating that a daughter is a friend for life etc.  And this is largely true.

In my own case, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful Mum who I can happily call my absolute, all time, unconditional BFF.  We had our moments while I was (am) growing up, but we typify that stereotypical Mother/Daughter relationship and I know how very lucky I am. Friends may come and go.  Let’s be honest, only a handful are reallythere for the long haul, but Mamma Bear is a constant. 🙂

As my girls pass through the baby stages and began to bloom into the pleasant-if-sometimes-terrifying little personalities that they are, I fully appreciate their roles as my besties.  We do everything together; we have fun, we fight and we laugh and we cry. We bake, we go shopping, we play and we are wonderful at doing absolutely nothing together.  We work.  (OK yes, sometimes we work like a chocolate teapot, but hey. No one is perfect are they?)

In a world where everyone is busy and where as parents, we can often find ourselves a little isolated and out of the social loop for whatever reason, our friendships with our toddlers become more important to us than we can ever give them credit for.

My girls are my wee companions and they will always be 100% on my side (except for when they’re not!).  I know they’ll have my back and I have to admit that this tie, with Princess, I once again fell into the false security that I did indeed have my very own, custom made best friend.

Until again, (three years after the first time I made this mistake), like Snow White’s stepmother I asked the stupid question.

How quickly we forget the lessons taught to us by previous children.  For the past few months,  I had allowed this to become a daily certainty; an ego boost for me even.

Every day, “Who’s Mammy’s best friend?” has been answered with “Meeeeeeeee!” and usually accompanied by a giant cuddle and slobbery kiss…until Friday.

Princess was in her car seat, engrossed in a Paw Patrol book.  We were driving to playschool and I was chattering about what we’d do that afternoon when I collected her.

I may as well have looked in the mirror and chanted “Baby, baby, in the chair, Who’s your bestest friend in the world?”  Without a second’s thought, she announced “I’m not your best fwend Mammy.  I’m Emily’s best fwend”... and with that, the mirrors and illusions of my assumed Disney-perfect Mother and Daughter world, shattered into a thousand pieces.

Initially I laughed.  What else do you do? (For the record, the little girl in question is a wonderfully perfect BFF for my precious one.)

She’s branching out.  She’s socially accepted, popular even.  She’s making her own friends and she’s growing up far too fast.  It’s wonderful and it’s terrifying all at once, because while we parents encourage our little ones to grow and bloom every day, realising that you’re not the only thing your child needs in life, is just horrid.

We might be smiling, but we don’t have to like it.

Instead, we treasure every second, count every milestone, and celebrate every chapter.  We capture special moments in our memories, (or on our phones if we can!) We post on social media with pride.  We entertain others with our cute kiddies and we get through each day as best we can.  But sometimes, we get an inevitable slap in the face from our little angels as they take their own uncertain little stumblings through the big dark forest of the world.

As time goes on, I’m probably going to assume the persona of the Wicked Witch in both of my daughter’s eyes, rather than the perfect loving Queen.  That seems to be inevitable, but what is also inevitable is the certainty that some day, they’ll realise that Mammy IS actually their best friend again.

And until then, I can keep on asking the question and hope that the odd day, I get the answer I like!

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