You Hold Your Own Key

Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.

The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.

As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.

It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.

At 17.

As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.

It just so happened that I didn’t get to take Leaving Cert exams in singing, dancing, shopping or eating.

The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.

So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there.

Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher.  I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman.  I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.

Of COURSE, as a teacher, I value the Leaving Cert.

I love teaching the course and I try my best to encourage my Babbies to give it their best shot.

But I also know that they are young adults. That they have a LOT going on. That some of them have things going on in their lives that are a WHOLE lot more important that exams. 😢

That while some of them will have given it their ALL for 2 years, on the day of the exam, it might just not happen. That some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.  That some of them just haven’t yet realised their strengths or abilities in certain areas.

And sometimes, that at 18, they’re just not quite ready for the ridiculous pressure of the state exam.

For a whole load of reasons, Tuesday is a huge day for our young adults. But that little brown envelope is only that.

An envelope.

Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.

Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.

Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

The Leaving Cert does NOT know our children. It doesn’t see the kindness. It doesn’t measure their ability to change things. It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers. It does not define them, nor should it.

And as parents, yes, some of us might be disappointed for our kids on Tuesday.

But mostly we should be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, they are OUR children and they have done their best and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

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There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.

But they will. 💕

So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.

But all roads lead ahead. And before they know it, they won’t even remember what was printed on the page!

It might be over 20 years since I opened my little brown envelope and had my heart broken in a million pieces, but trust me, everything happens for a reason. 😇

Todayt, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents whose minions face the brown envelope this Tuesday.

And remember, that little brown envelope does NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper can change that.

Mammy  XXX

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!

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.

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.

New Year, New You…re grand as you are Mum.

Before the onslaught of New Year, New You Bullshit starts, let me remind you of a few things…

Yes, January 1st is an obviously good starting point for new beginnings and new intentions.

Just like everything ‘starts on Monday’, at this time of year, we are all so good at using ‘I’ll start in the New Year’ as our mantra.

New project? I’ll start in January…
New intention? I’ll start in January…
Giving up something? Wait until January…
Starting something? Wait until January…
New routine? I’ll start in January…
Want to change something? Wait until January… Good intentions eh?

NEED to change something? Wait until January? And suddenly, what SEEMS like a good intention is ACTUALLY just procrastination. And we’re all good at that.

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Of course the New Year is a great time for motivation and change and new everything. However, if you are changing something because someone or something is making you feel like you’re not good enough, stop and think.

Over the next few days, our news feeds will be full of adverts which seem to be encouraging and motivating you.

You’ll see all sorts of quick fixes and miracle makers; everything from programmes and apps to help to start or stop a habit, to magic pills and shakes which will transform you into a Victoria Secret’s model faster than you can take a poo… (which is precisely what you’ll be doing if you take any of that crap.)

What we need to remember is that EACH and EVERY one of these adverts has been targeted at us. They’re not popping up on our screens by accident. They’re targeted by the companies; our age, interests, demographic, location, previous searches… it’s all algorithm and it’s simple and clever marketing.

Most of the ads are genuine companies who know their target markets and how to target them effectively at the right time, in the right way.

There’s no conspiracy in that.

Where we have a problem is when the companies are telling you, usually indirectly, sometimes bluntly, that YOU are not good enough AS YOU ARE.

They tell you you NEED to look a certain way. You NEED your teeth whitened. You NEED to lose weight. You NEED to calm down. You NEED to change your mindset. You NEED to spend less time or more time on whatever… You NEED to eat this way. You NEED to take this… You NEED to take that.

They tell you that your life is incomplete. They tell you that your life is mediocre.
They tell you that your life could be soooooo much better.

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They go so far as to show you “Real people”, their case studies, their Before and Afters. They put only the Glossy, filtered, Instaperfect images of their customers/clients on their websites. They tell you that YOU TOO could have this life…that it is SOOOO easy. They smugly imply that it really is a breeze, that if you join their gang/cult/whatever that you will also have shiny, filtered, smiling instafeed in as little as 10 days.

By showing you these glossy smiling examples, they are indirectly telling your that YOUR life is actually pretty shitty in comparison.

They are hitting you during the Post Christmas bloat, the gray Pre-January blur when family members have left and the tree is molting in the corner and we’re all feeling a bit meh. They are telling you that you are not enough.

They are wrong.

You are perfect, just as you are.
You are beautiful, just as you are.
You are strong.
You can face anything.
You are loved.
Your life is YOUR life and it should not be measured by anyone else’s prepackaged and filtered measuring tape.

Sure, we all have things we aspire to, resolutions an intentions. If you want to change something, do it. If you want to get healthier, do it. If you want to lose weight, go for it. If you want to make a drastic change to your routine, go for it.

But ONLY do it FOR YOU.
Not because some advert on your news feed tells you you are not enough.

Do it for YOURSELF. AND if anyone of the smug, shiny, “Look at how perfect my life is” brigade tells you they can “Make you the BEST version of YOU,” tell them to feck off. You’re doing a great job of being YOU, all by yourself.

You don’t need to buy a lifestyle from anyone. You don’t need a NEW YOU. You just need to realise that you’re already as YOU as you can be.

 

And you look pretty damn perfect to me.