Is Every Day a School Day?

The pressures of this past week have been immense. Even the most positive and organised of us have struggled.
We still are.

As a teacher, what I am about to write might surprise you.

Stop freaking out about educating your children.

Yes, of course we must try to maintain routine and to keep our children’s minds working. We should be encouraging them to continue with the school work that their teachers are sending home.

But it is NOT YOUR JOB to stress about what they are doing or to provide the curriculum to them.

Let me explain.

Teachers are teaching from home. Secondary school teachers need to stay in touch with their students. Most of us have by now, found our groove and figured out how best to communicate with our second level students. It’s a work in progress and we are learning every day. We can and will, provide quality content for the student to work through independently at home.

Key words here? “The student.”
Not the parent.

Priority must be given to 3rd and 6th year students who are still preparing for the elusive state examinations; who are under serious pressure and who are torn between the uncertainty of when they will happen, and the certainty that they still need to be ready for them when they do happen.

Other year groups simply need to keep on top of the work assigned as if it is classwork. I hope that mine all return to school, whenever that may be, with their folders up to date with the work that I have assigned, so that I can correct it properly and give them the feedback they need.

As teachers, we have absolutely no control over who does or does not do the work. We don’t have all the answers. This is new to us too, but trust me, we’re trying.

For younger kids, you’ll likely have received a list of activities and suggested work from their Lovely Teacher.

Let them work through it if you can.
But take a breath my Dear.

There are so many people online showing their kids doing ALL the activities, sitting quietly at the kitchen table in a classroom type scenario, diligently working and smiling as they carry on their schoolwork, led enthusiastically by Mum or Dad.

And while I take my hat off to these parents, I wonder…

I wonder if little Jacinatabelle didn’t huff “this is stoopid” under her breath just after the photo was snapped, or if little Gulliver-John didn’t have to be told to “just sit still for two minutes” before the snap was snapped.

I am NOT dismissing doing some work with them.

By all means, look at the list of suggested work sent by Lovely Teacher. Choose one or two items from it and tell them what he or she has said to do.

Let them do what they feel like doing and do not get your knickers in a twist if they (or you) don’t understand the task.

You do NOT have to recreate the school environment or classroom situation. You do not need to micromanage their learning. You are not a teacher. (And even if you are, you still have your classes to teach online.)

Yes, their minds need to be distracted and nourished, but reading a book or being read to, is just as effective. Let them make a jigsaw. Let them play a game. Let them help with chores. Let them play together with the toys that they never get a chance to look at from one end of the busy week to the other. Let them make a mess…then let them tidy it up.

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Messing up the hall but delighted with themselves

Our children are, like us, living through history.

Their brains are overwhelmed. They can sense our worry and by now, the novelty of not seeing their friends has probably worn off.

When they get back to school, whenever that may be, their teachers are fully capable and qualified to continue with their education.

They are not losing out by being off. They are simply missing out on normality and routine and external communication.

Give them those things.

Give them routine. Allocate an hour for school based activities. Allocate time for reading. Allocate time for outside play. And let them be bored. Let them figure out how to entertain themselves. Let them fight. Let them colour in. Let them watch some telly. Let them be kids.

But don’t put yourself under any more pressure than you already are.

And remember, most parents are now working from home and trying to balance everything more than ever:

🥺We’re trying to fit in 5 – 8 hours of our own jobs under new and stressful circumstances
🥺We’re trying to keep our businesses afloat
🥺We’re trying to adjust to all being in one space ALL day
🥺We’re trying to fit offices, classrooms, playtime and schooltime into one room and in many cases around one table.
🥺We don’t all have printers or money to stock up on activity boxes for our kids.
🥺We’re trying to care for our toddlers and babies at the same time.
🥺Many of us still have to GO to work
🥺We’re trying to not succumb to the guilt when we have to say “Mammy’s trying to work” or “Daddy’s busy” to the child who is used to us being off duty when they’re at home.

We’re all trying to keep swimming right now, so if the Wattsapp group is freaking you out because all of the other parents seem to have their shit together, mute it.

If the creative type you followed on Instagram for ideas is now stressing you out because she’s on activity 38 of the morning and you’re still trying to load the dishwasher and get them to make their beds, unfollow her.

If you don’t have a printer to print off all of the educational worksheets that Japonica down the road is proudly showing on snapchat, calm yourself. Japonica’s fridge is not that big. She’ll soon get bored…

If you don’t understand the work assigned to your children, that’s OK. It’s not YOUR work to understand.

Trust that the teachers will do a great job of picking up the pieces when this shitstorm is over. No one is falling behind. Everyone is in the same boat.

And if you are doing your best, and simply trust that as long as your children feel safe and loved right now, good for you.

You, my friend, are winning at life.
We’re all in unchartered waters; do what you must to keep swimming.

Go easy on yourself my Darlings.
You’re doing a better job than you think.

And as always, if you are managing todo all the everything and disagree with me, that’s perfectly wonderful too.

You do you Mammy.
Only YOU can do what’s right for YOUR kids.

M

homeschool

Creating a New Normal

What a week it’s been eh?

We’ve all found ourselves slowly sliding into chaos. And even for those of us who hoped it’d all pass and gently laughed it off, (yes I was one of them), we’ve suddenly had our eyes opened and our backsides slapped.

The suddenness of Thursday’s announcement left the country reeling.  Yes, we all knew it was coming, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for the “6pm tonight” closures.

And so over the past few days, we’ve all had to try to adapt.  We’re trying to adapt to all of the changes that are coming at us faster than Sonic the bloody Hedgehog, while trying to maintain a “calm” in front of our kids.

Personally, it’s been a difficult few days.

We had to pull our run of The Addams Family after only 2 shows.  I had to leave work, saying bye to my other babbies and my colleagues in a weird and eery atmosphere that none of us have experienced before.

And this morning, Emmet and myself made the decision to close the gym for a while, in order to keep our members safe.  A difficult decision, but easy in the grand scheme of things.

And of course, these things are wee buns in the midst of the new reality we fins ourselves in.

So how can we make the most of the situations we find ourselves in?

  1. Routine:  Make a plan for the week, just as you would if you were all getting up to go to work/school.  For me, I intend to get up at 6am as usual, do a few hours of school work before the girls get up and then a few more after they’re in bed.  I’ll allocate a time for Mini-Me to do school work.  We’ll schedule time for us to train together or to get out for a run.  The girls will have playtime and downtime and bedtime will remain as normal as possible. And they’ll know that Mammy and Daddy still have to work for certain hours.
  2. Eating:  If your kids are anything like mine, they’re ALWAYS hungry.  I’m going to try to keep the idea of “breaktime” and “lunchtime” etc going at home.  Otherwise, Princess’s bum will be stuck out of the fridge constantly.  I’ve also chopped up their favourite fruit and put it in the fridge, so that if they do want snacks, they’re getting snacks, not treats.
  3. Get dressed:  seems obvious, and yet it’s so easy to stay in the pjs.  To be honest, I was so upset after Thursday that I spent most of Thursday and yesterday in my pjs.  But from tomorrow, it’s up, shower and get dressed as normal. Just without heels or makeup. See the positives where you can!
  4. Don’t overdo the Mary Poppins act:  I’ve already seen social media influencers who have done 3 weeks worth of arts and crafts activities in the first 2 days of no school.  Calm yourselves.  Let the kids play. Let them be bored. Let them read or draw.  Put on their coats and open the door if you can!  Not every activity needs to be organised or planned. Save those for the really long rainy days where they are genuinely bored or need cheered up.
  5. Follow people who inspire you:  Social Media has been a dark place this past few days.  Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down or overwhelmed. Switch off the phone. And try to have a switch off time in the evening.  And only follow people who are making you smile.
  6. Keep active:  The one thing that has been lovely this past few days, has been the weather.  Get outside with the kids.  Go for a walk. Keep an eye on our pages for some workout ideas that you can do with or without your kids.   And fresh air is good for everyone. Get as much as you can.  walk
  7. Read:  If you’re like me, you’ll have a pile of started and unread books in the house.  Put down the phone and start to read.  Let your kids see you do it.  Have a “reading time” block in the day where you all sit and read. Monkey see, Monkey do.
  8. Cook:  Again, most of us cook functionally and conveniently.  Rather than firing on the slowcooker or  cooking in a hurry, set your inner Nigella alight and get chopping.  Let the kids cook too.  They love it.  And if you have a few of those “Betty” quick brownies in the press for the really long days, you’re winning at life AND you have something sweet and tasty for your cuppa.
  9. Stay in touch:  For many of us who are used to social interaction with colleagues or clients, the sudden isolation and lack of communication can be upsetting.  Talk to each other.  Message friends. Set up messenger groups with people who you would usually see each day and check in on each other.  Make phonecalls.  Pick up the phone and call someone rather than always messaging.  Some people might not hear another voice from one end of the day to the next.  Communicate.
  10. Stay positive:  yeah it’s easy for me to say isn’t it? But it’s hard to do.  But go easy on yourself.  You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be upset.  Grief and fear are not signs of weakness.  In order to deal with things, we first have to process it; to let it sink in. So allow yourself time to process.  Then, look for the positives and focus on those.

We are in weird times.  We are dealing with disappointments and stresses that are unprecedented.  Much of what we are facing is new. and yet in the middle of it all, we’re seeing glimpses of human kindness and commeraderie that only the Irish can show.

We have a new reality.  We will all have to find a new normal for ourselves.  We can and we will.

Stuff your “Survival Guides” with Holly…falalalalaaaa

It’s the weekend of Toy Shows and trees for many…
So I am posting my Christmas Survival Guide for the Mary of the Poppins types…

“Surviving Christmas,” “Christmas Survival Tips for the Working Mum”, “How to Survive Christmas”…

I googled these last night.

Some of the “advice” online is nothing short of HILARIOUS. I fear most of it may have been written by one of the following:

🎄Mary-of-the-Poppins herself

🎄Someone without kids

🎄A Man… 😂😂😂

Here are some of the best pieces I gleaned, followed by my honest and polite responses: (Buckle up!)

1. “Be Prepared.”

No sh*t Sherlock. As opposed to waking on Christmas Eve and remembering to buy a turkey and gifts? Seriously… This is a useless piece of advice.

It’s like telling a woman to ‘calm down’. When in the history of the world has telling a woman to ‘calm down’, resulted in her calming down? Never. So telling a Mammy to “Be Prepared” for Christmas, is NOT helpful.

2. “Buy gifts throughout the year and wrap them as you go.”

Now this one I can partially agree with, except THIS Mammy’s version would read “Buy gifts throughout the year, put them somewhere safe and then forget all about them until the week before Christmas, when you have all the gifts bought and then open a box or bag or suitcase and find all the PawPatrol jigsaws you bought in July.
Or even better, find them when you’re putting the decorations away in January!”

3. “Choose a theme for your gifts to add that personal magic”.

Here’s a theme. ShutthefuckUp.
Most of us just about manage to buy for everyone we have to buy for. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll remember someone on Christmas Day and freak out with guilt and embarrassment and mumble some crap about it not being delivered on time, before popping to the loo to order on Amazon with next day delivery.

(But if you doooooo want to add a personal touch and be remembered fondly by your loved ones, put glitter🦄 into all of the cards and gifts so that their floors get clattered and you are applauded for spreading the magic of Christmas. Go ahead, I dare you! 😂😂)

4. “Place delicate or expensive ornaments on higher branches.”

Go higher Jacinta…
Put delicate or expensive decorations in the ATTIC and leave them there until 2029. (if you have kids or dogs.)

5. “Ice the Christmas Cake 2 weeks before Christmas”

Or in real life, remember on the 23rd that for some reason you need a Christmas cake to have in the kitchen which will never be cut or eaten.
Then you’ll either pop to Marks of the Spensive or decide not to bother with cake this year. Either way, it doesn’t really matter does it?

6. “Decorating the home should be a family occasion followed by a family meal.”

Oh really? Should it really? If by “family meal” you mean a bottle of wine after the kids have all gone to bed, then yes…yes this is true. 😅

Decorating the home is, for most, a painful and highly stressful process which generally takes more than one afternoon and involves tears, mess and even declarations of divorcing children… and husbands. If you can get the actual tree up in one go, save yourself the stress and put everything else up by yourself, on your own, without the rest of the family annoying your head. After bedtime is ideal.😘😉

7. “Keep alcohol locked away.”

Out of the reach of children yes, but keep the key in your frilly fricking apron Mammy Poppins.

8. “Stock up on essentials: batteries, bread, milk and cream.”

Why there is no gin or wine on this list, is beyond me.

9. “Go Christmas Shopping without children. Bring a drink and a snack with you.”

Who the hell wrote this?
If I get to go Christmas shopping without the children, you can me DAMN sure that I am sitting this ass on a fancy seat and having someone called Barista CARRY me the drinks and snack that they have lovingly made FOR me.

10. “Create a cleaning schedule for your home to keep on top of things this Christmas”.

There aren’t enough swear words for this one.

A Cleaning Schedule? Who the hell has time to write a cleaning schedule? In the time it would take me to write a cleaning schedule, I would probably have half the cleaning done. If you can keep floors lego free and counters salmonella free, you’re doing great! You deserve a treat. 💚

Riddle me this Mammies? Why would you spend hours cleaning before opening the boxes of decorations that are going to cause the whole place to need hoovered and dusted again in an hour anyway? Why?

So there were the Top Ten pieces of advice from the various Perfect Mammy websites…

There were a few little nuggets in fairness. Some of the better advice included “Scale down your expectations”, “Invent your own traditions”, and “Give yourself a break.”

Another gem that I completely agree with is “Buy disposable baking trays”: I stock up on aluminium turkey trays every year and everything is cooked in them. It’s a life saver!

Also, Yes to shopping lists. And sublists. (Any list! I do love me a list!)

Plan your meals for Christmas week and do the shopping based on the list. It will save you from buying piles of stuff that you won’t actually use. Will you actually use that goose fat or are you only buying it because it’s beside the cranberry sauce you’ve lifted…that no one in your house eats. I still have ALL of the spices I bought LAST YEAR, unopened and fresh and ready to not be used again this year. #notions

AND remember to factor in Christmas Eve Dinner too. Don’t do my speciality… realise you have a fridge full of food and nothing for the dinner when you finally get back to the house on Christmas Eve. This will lead to arguments about who is going to the shop AGAIN, or toast for dinner.

The “Preparing for Christmas” articles largely did what they always do however; they put undue pressure on already busy parents to stress themselves to create a Hallmark worthy perfect Christmas card-esque scene that, in reality, is nonsense.

Do what YOU want to do. Buy what YOU can afford. Cook what YOU like to eat. If you don’t like mince pies, don’t fricken buy them. If you want to let your kids open all of the presents on Christmas morning, do it! If you like to wrap all the everything, do so.

If you don’t, DON’T!

It’s that simple. We don’t need a survival list to survive Christmas, we need to give ourselves a break and enjoy it, because if you take a second to stop and look around you, often in the midst of lost presents and superfluous food shopping, you can see a little bit of magic without having to buy it.

A perfect family Christmas is like a Perfect Parent… all that’s REALLY needed is love and what works for YOU!

What is your favourite “Survival tip” and why?

HOW Do You Work With Teenagers?

HOW do you work with teenagers?

I get asked this quite a bit.

My answer?
Very easily actually.

Because ‘teenagers’ are wicked.

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.
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.

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.

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 How do I work with teenagers?
Quite happily thank you.

Taking the Compliment…

” Your daughter is beautiful!” Aw she is, isn’t she? Thank you.

“I love her coat.” I know, isn’t it gorgeous?

“Your son is so funny.” Yeah, he cracks me up.

“You look gorgeous.” Aye right, I haven’t even brushed my hair.

“I love your top” Penney’s best.

“Those are nice jeans.” Oh I’ve had these old things for years.

“Is that a Hilfiger shirt?” It was on sale!

Notice anything?

We don’t know how to take a compliment.

Nothing new there. We all know that the Irish don’t take compliments well. We are suspicious of them. We don’t like them. For some reason, they make us feel very uncomfortable.

But when someone compliments our kids, we are more than happy to agree with them. If someone points out something positive about your little minion, chances are that you will be delighted that they’ve noticed and you will nod in agreement, as proud as punch.

However, if the same person tells you with their next breath that YOUR hair is lovely, you will most likely find yourself disagreeing and parting your hair to show them just how badly your roots need redone.

So what the hell is wrong with us?

If I tell Mini-Me that she looks beautiful or that her hair is pretty, she smiles at me and says “Thanks Mum” or “I know!” (shock horror!)

She takes the compliment. She doesn’t NEED it to feel better or to affirm her or any other such nonsense. She takes it, because at 7 years old, she doesn’t find it strangethat someone would praise her or compliment her.

She is indeed beautiful x

It is not unusual to her that someone might point out something positive.

She is not suspicious of compliments.

She doesn’t need to be.

So when does that stop? When will she suddenly begin to apologise for her positive features? When will she become flushed with embarrassment because someone comments on how well she dances?

What will happen to make her suddenly feel that she should disagree with someone who tells her she is clever, or pretty, or talented or funny?

Will she simply wake up some morning, feeling the need to apologise for being good at something, or for being nice?

Now, of course I know that we must teach them to be humble also. No one likes a boaster. But why the hell should we teach them that they should apologise for being good at something?

Why should we teach them to disagree with someone who is genuinely being nice to them?

When did humility become the same thing as humiliation?

Because somewhere along the way, we’ve confused the two.

If someone admires your hair today, reply by saying “I know! It’s sitting nice today isn’t it?” I dare you. And watch their reaction.

It’s pretty likely that they’ll flinch in surprise.

If someone admires your top, try “Thanks, I like it too.” (Would you have bought it if you didn’t?)

If someone points out something that you are good at, thank them and tell them “Yeah, I try hard.”

If they walk away from you thinking you’re big headed or conceited, then who has the problem? If they meant the compliment, they won’t mind that you agree with them.

Does it not make sense that if we were to let our kids see us accepting compliments more comfortably, maybe we’d be helping them?

Our kids learn by watching us, our behaviours, our responses. Someday soon, when Mini-Me hears me answering “Oh God, this old thing?” or “Aw my skin’s a mess” or “God no, I sound dreadful!”, then she’s going to store it in her bank of “Acceptable grown up things to say” isn’t she?

And therein begins that humiliation.

We all do it.

I do it. I did it yesterday when a friend praised me. I automatically told him he was full of nonsense.

Why? If he hadn’t thought I was good, he wouldn’t have bothered to tell me I was, so why did I disagree with him?

Because we are trained, somewhere along the line, to apologise for ourselves.

Because acknowledging our own strengths and positive characteristics is seen as terribly obnoxious and wrong.

Because one day, without even realising it, we learned that to accept a compliment was wrong.

We’re hardwired to think the worst about ourselves; to worry about what others think. Being a parent brings a new level of this.

We are constantly comparing ourselves, berating ourselves, apologising for our decisions, for our behaviour, for our children’s behaviour.

But the sooner we can rewire ourselves to look more closely for our own positives, the more chance we have of teaching our children that it’s OK to say “thank you” when someone compliments us.

Plenty of people will thrive on bringing them down, on highlighting their weaknesses and flaws. We need to teach them to recognise those people. And we need to teach them that if someone feels the need to comment on them in a negative way, then it’s that person who has the problem, and not them.

So accept the compliment.

Let your children hear you accepting it. Let them see that it’s OK to be proud of yourself sometimes and that you don’t need to ever apologise for being good, or kind, or talented or clever.

And give someone a compliment today too. Feel free to compliment your friends in the comments below.

Let’s SHARE some love today!

You never know whose day you might just make.

By the way, you have a lovely smile!