DIARY OF A DEMENTED HOME WORKER It’s week 80 and I’ve just started navigating the complicated world of after-school activities and am mainly wondering how few I can get away with signing up to this year?
• NOW that we’re more or less back into the swing of September, here’s a question for you all: how many after-school activities is enough? Like, specifically how many says ‘I care about my kid’s development, but I don’t particularly want to have a nervous breakdown trying to coordinate them?’ Something around three maybe, including GAA? It’s a tricky one isn’t it? I know some people are quite methodical and opt for one sport, one musical instrument and then something their child actually wants to do. I’m just dipping my toe into this whole new world so have selected activities based purely on their timing and location: what’s nearby, and what’s on when I’m free. I’m sure the five-year-old will really start to enjoy pilates after a while, although let me tell you, it took a bit of convincing before the instructor would allow her come along with me.
• From what I can make out so far, though, you spend most of the time actually trying to convince your kid to do, whatever it is they said they definitely, 100% wanted to do, after you paid out a small fortune for all the gear they needed to do it. Of course they could just be playing us, too, as basically you’d agree to anything when you’re in front of a crowd of potentially judgy ‘Karens’ and your kid balks. ‘Take away pizza for dinner? For the rest of the week? Of course my love, now in you go there now for yourself!’ My friend tells a very funny story about her daughter who had a bit of a wobble ahead of her first ballet class after they were all signed up and kitted out. She took her into what she thought was an empty space, and out of the corner of her mouth, in that scary Irish mammy voice hissed: ‘Listen to me now, pet, I’ve already paid for this so whether you like it or not, you’re going in and not another word about it. Do. You. Understand. Me?’ She was just about to march her back into the hall when she spotted a caretaker lurking sheepishly in the corner. So let that be a lesson to us all. Make sure to have a good look around before any such ‘pep talks.’
• Of course some activities strike me as more relevant than others, swimming being ahead of, say, learning origami. The pandemic made sea swimmers of us all but pity the poor young kids who haven’t been able to even start classes yet, due to seriously long waiting lists. You would nearly need to sell your soul to get a space in a class in West Cork right now. I know people who have put their kids’ names down for pools in the city as they think they’ll get in there faster. I’d nearly consider it as I’m not sure my back can handle another summer of holding the five-year-old up on the body board as she enjoys endless hours of ‘surfing.’
• I’m all on for kids learning an instrument too – just anything besides the tin whistle. If you went to national school in the 80s I’m certain, like myself, you can still belt out a stomach churning rendition of Glenroe, a most piercing Óró, sé do bheatha ‘bhaile, and a version of Amazing Grace that is anything but sweet. What is it with our obsession with the tin whistle? Anyway, I know lots of kids think their parents sign them up for music classes to torture them but for sure, it is a great skill to have. And in years to come when you’re an instant superstar at a party or a wedding because you can bang out a tune, you can thank us properly.
• Personally I was never a joiner – I nearly broke my mother’s heart. I liked the Brownies (it appealed to my practical side) but that was it. I can still remember, aged seven, throwing up back stage before a ballet show (there’s a picture of me looking whiter than my tutu) and I never quite made it past the aon, do, trís in Irish dancing. I’m scared of heights and speed so putting me on a horse and expecting me to like it was just cruel, and if I was in the vicinity of a moving ball I’d just close my eyes and start to pray. Jokes aside, it can be beyond excruciating watching your kid try to find their ‘thing’. The natural inclination is to dive in and help them or just remove them from an awkward situation. But there is always a level of discomfort when you’re learning something new and in some cases you have to give that gentle nudge on, as hard as it is. Then in other cases you have to know when to pull back, and try something different because after all there’s something for everyone. I’m still trying to figure out my ‘thing’ but I’ve just started reformer pilates and loved it. I could be on to something!
• Although for the year that’s in it, it’s probably wise not to sign up to too many activities. Infectious disease consultant Professor Clíona Ní Cheallaigh warned in recent days that most children could have Covid before spring unless more is done to make schools safer. Nphet have disputed this but I don’t know, there’s a lot of it skirting around. Time to throw the vests on I think and throw the windows open even wider.