Whispers on the Wind
Two little sisters played on the beach
And just when their parents had stepped out of reach,
Wee Sis asked Big Sis in quiet hushed words,
“What’s going on Sis? What’s wrong with the world?
Everything’s changed in the last few days.
It seems like all that we do now is play.
I miss my school teachers and I miss going to school.
I miss all my friends and I don’t feel too cool.
What happened to dancing, gymnastics and drama?
I just want to cuddle my Granny and Granda.
I like it that Mammy and Daddy are here
It’s nice, and I like, but it’s getting quite weird.
So what’s going on Sis, what’s wrong with the world?
I know something’s wrong but I don’t have the words.
I don’t like to see all our grown ups so sad
They say it’s OK, but I know something’s bad.”
The Big sister listened and squeezed her hand tight,
And she thought of how she could make all of this right.
For she was scared too and it all felt disastrous,
She missed all her friends and her teacher and classes.
But she closed her eyes tight and for answers she longed,
To share with her sister and make them feel strong
And just as she was going to say “I don’t know”
A voice on the wind whispered into her soul.
It tickled her ears and it kissed her cold face
And suddenly everything fell into place.
She turned to her sister, she pushed back her hair,
And started to speak words she magically heard…
“The world has gone funny, and everything’s changed
But it won’t last forever, it’s only a phase.
We’ve gone from being busy and rushing and spinning
To not going anywhere, morning or evening.
Mammy and Daddy, who work all they’re able,
Are still working hard, from the one kitchen table.
And yes there’s a virus and yes, it is scary,
But if we stay home and if everyone’s wary
We’ll hopefully stop it from getting too massive,
And the Doctors and heroes will manage to smash it.
So don’t you be worried, just know there are reasons
And this too will pass, it’s simply a season.
When all this is over, when all of this ends
We’ll get back to normal, We’ll play with our friends.
We’ll go back to our classes and have lots of fun,
We’ll have parties and playdates and hug our loved ones.
We just have to trust that the grown ups have got this,
And that they’ll do everything that they can to protect us.
Then Mammy’s voice called them with ”Girls, time to go!”
And they looked at each other, and they smiled in the know
That they would have lots of adventures together
On beaches, in sunshine, or in rainy weather.
They ran to their Daddy and called to their Mum
And as they were running, the clouds showed the sun.
For nature can comfort the fears that we’re feeling
And breezes keep whistling their secrets and healing;
And all of your worries will soon disappear
Like the wind on the faces of two little girls.
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.
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I’m brushing my youngest’s hair and we’re chittering away.
‘You’re my beautiful Baby girl’ I say as I kiss the top of her inexplicably fuzzy head when I’m done.
‘I am not a Baby Mammy. I am FOUR.’ she replies.
‘Yes I know, you’re a big girl…but you’re still my wee baby.’
‘You don’t got no babies no more Mammy…’
There we go.
She’s right of course.
There are no more babies in my house. All evidence of babies has been reduced to smudge marks on walls and a few baby toys which managed to evade my preSanta clear out.
My girls are now “big girls” and I no longer have babies apparently.
At 4 and almost 8, they’re my Little Women.
And while this makes me sad, it makes me happy at the same time.
I love the age that they’re at now. Still so dependent on us, but fully capable of doing things like getting a drink for themselves and getting dressed themselves… (Well. Sometimes!)
I love that when they waken on a Sunday morning, they can play together in the bedroom for an hour before coming near us.
I love that the pram is gone… (literally, it’s in Dublin!) and that there is no longer a need to bring half the house with me when I leave it.
I love the craic we can now have with them; enjoying their company and genuinely having fun as they unleash their personalities onto the world.
And while every age poses its own challenges…(stubborn 4 and emotional almost 8 anyone?), I have to say that this stage of our little family, is enjoyable.
Do I miss them as Babies?
Of course I do.
I look back at photographs and videos of them as newborns and wobblers and toddlers and my heart stops and starts at the same time. It swells with nostalgia and love and pride.
But it also sighs with relief, because while I loved much of the Early Years, there was much about it that I wouldn’t go back to for all the tea in China.
I would have no urge to go back to the blur of the first few months.
(I’m not in the slightest bit broody either before anyone gets excited and throws THAT particular tuppence in. 😂)
I don’t miss very much about the baby phase, except for THEM. My baby children.
Their faces, their hugs, their smells… of course I miss the little voices and first words and mispronounced phrases and funny waddles and baby giggles.
But I enjoyed them while they lasted and now, I’m enjoying the hilarious questions, and little notes on our pillow at night and listening to them play together and random conversations with two little ladies who are trying to make sense of the world.
The pudgy, sticky little arms that used to go around my neck, are now simply longer. (Still sticky sometimes!)
The beautiful blue eyes which used to stare up at me with utter trust and love, stare now with suspicion and curiosity and sometimes with annoyance, but still with trust and love.
Always with trust and love.
Rather than pushing them in front of me, I now walk beside them. Sometimes behind them as they run ahead, exploring the world.
And I am loving every second of it and savouring every second, because this too shall pass and soon, there’ll be a new phase if my Little Women with new challenges and new fun.
They can run ahead all they like.
They can get as tall and big and independent as they like.
I’ll always be right behind them, or beside them, or wherever they need me to be.
So while my Princess was correct, she was also wrong.
Because even when they’re all grown up, they’ll still be my babies.