I never expected to hear myself say……

I had great ideas about the sort of parent that I would be.  I had plenty of notions and preconceptions about motherhood and what, when the time came, it might be like.

Most of those preconceived ideas involved dressing the children up in beautiful outfits and going for walks with a fabulously trendy pram. None of them involved the car boot battles endured to fit this fabulously trendy pram or the constant beautiful outfit changes, necessitated by outpourings of poo and puke.

There’s nothing quite like parenthood for providing a reality check. At this stage, I have more of an idea what to expect – this is generally, the unexpected. “Unexpected” applies to pretty much every aspect of the equation, including some of the conversations that I never imagined myself
having or some of the things I never imagined myself saying. Out of the mouths of babes as they say, except when it’s out of the mouths of mums.…….

1.   Yes that is an enormous poo. Yes it is probably bigger than Batman’s.

2.  Put some underpants on, the neighbours don’t want to see your willy flapping about on the trampoline.

3.      Why are your ears green?

4.      Why are you tangerine?!!

5.   No your Gran doesn’t have a willy. Stop asking people if they have willies.

6.  That man is not cutting the grass naked. (while apologising profusely to the perplexed man in question after my son announced it very loudly at the top of his voice to everyone on the road and rounded up his school friends to come see.) He’s just trimming the hedge without his shirt on.

7.      Why are you orange??!

8.   Why are there dirty boxers on the kitchen door handle?

9.  What’s that mark on the mat – chocolate or poo? Can someone sniff it for me please, I have the baby in my arms.

10.  Did you think I wouldn’t notice that you’re wearing that dress backwards? (complete with – you’re not going out like that.)

11.  No I don’t think this is just a story that someone is reading and that it will start raining when they turn the page. We’re just walking home from school.

12.  I’ll never let your dad kill another cockroach.

13.  Put some underpants on, the neighbours don’t need to see you standing on the playroom table bare bottomed.

14.  We do not eat crayons.

15.  No we don’t keep head lice as pets.

16.  Do not use Daddy’s toothbrush to clean the dog’s teeth.

17.  Do not use Daddy’s toothbrush to fish breakfast waffles out of the toilet.

18.  Why is there a banana in the toilet?

19.  Do not fart on your brother.

20. Why does the dog smell of suncream?

Sports Day’s a comin’!

This week sees the annual occurrence that is sports day at my boys’ school. I had a vague recollection of it’s mention in the school newsletter a few weeks ago but watching my older lads running laps of the back garden while passing the dog’s toy to each other this weekend, in preparation for the relay and discovering my seven year old going through my husband’s tie drawer for a “nice colour” tie confirmed my suspicions that it was drawing ever closer. The countdown has begun and everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that the weather will stay fine.

Experienced parents have booked their time off work and one first time Junior Infant parent asked me earlier “is it that big a deal?” My reply was “Oh yes – sports day is a huge deal”

Love it or loathe is, and I’m really not sure what camp I’m in, sports day is a huge deal for the kids and for several of the parents too. Yes it’s great to see our children having fun with their friends and, if your child is any way sporty, maybe even win a medal or two. The “it’s all about taking part” line, however, does not wash with all of the children, particularly those past Senior Infants for whom a medal is no longer guaranteed, just for taking part.  In this house, with children of extremely mixed sporting ability I know there will be tears and sadness on the day for some of them, when best efforts will still leave zero chance of coming anywhere.

I know it could be viewed as a life lesson but, as an adult, I’m not likely to put myself in a competitive environment for something I know I am absolutely brutal at, and I can handle disappointment slightly better than a child.

And speaking of competitive environments, the highlight of the day for many there will be the parent’s race! You will see some, kitted out in their top notch sports gear and expensive running shoes, laughing off suggestions that it’s anything but a “bit of craic” but discreetly warming up on the sidelines as they cheer on their sons in their races.  Toned and tanned limbs give away any misconception that these parents are anything other than seasoned runners, and they mean business. Elsewhere, the more reluctant sportsmen and sportwomen among us will panickedly try to think of excuses not to take part. I already, am lamenting an absent pregnancy bump for different reasons to usual. It has crossed my mind to just stick a cushion up my dress, after all I’m always pregnant and I think most of the parents from the school have lost count at this stage.  Would anyone even be suspicious?

Failing that I’ll just have to hope the organisers turn the tables on those magnificent sporty parents and that the parent’s race involves an egg and spoon!


Supermarket Sweep!

Few expeditions test our skills and patience as a parent in the same manner as a trip to the supermarket with our children does.  An outing anywhere there are trolleys, treats and queues is not for the faint hearted but it’s a necessity for most of us at some stage during the week. Recently I’ve realised however, that a trip to the supermarket can also teach you a lot about the type of parent you are and those around you. Taking the familiar titles we hear frequently brandished about here are a few of the types I’ve seen in action in recent weeks

1.    The Tiger Mum
Determined that no opportunity will be missed to educate and further her child’s development she can regularly be seen in the aisles asking her two year old to add up the cost of a bag of carrots and two avocados.  She also encourages her little one to repeat the name of every vegetable in three different languages, loudly so that everyone can appreciate how wonderful her child is and more importantly how wonderful a mother she is.  Tends to have very well behaved kids, in the supermarket anyway.

2.       The Helicopter Mum
      Dives sporadically in front of oncoming trollies and keeps her hand on the side of own trolley occasionally catching her knuckles on the treacherous shelves littering either side of the aisle, ensuring her precious offspring come to no harm throughout the perilous task that is doing the weekly shop.  Wide eyed children look all around behaving impeccably. They have no alternative, mum is by their sides every second of the way, warding off dangerous old ladies who might come over and admire or speak to them.

3.       The Attachment Parenting type Mum
This one is very easy to spot.  She’s generally in the organic section singing to her children.  Difficult to tell how well behaved her children are because she’s still wearing the seven year old in a sling.

4.  The Free Range Parenting type Mum
Basically this is the anti-helicopter mum.  She can be spotted strolling along while her children run, no gallop, up and down the aisles, discovering themselves as they play piggy in the middle and donkey with tins of beans and a chocolate fudge cake.  She is not stressed by events.  She is at one with the supermarket. Her children’s behaviour could be described as wilful or
playful if you were feeling particularly kind.

5.       The bit of every type mam/mum/mom
      This is majority of mums/mams/moms shopping. Slightly, (ok a bit more than slightly) frazzled, dishing out orders and threats to her various children, placating toddlers on the verge of tantrums and willing strangers not to engage with those already mid tantrum.  She can be observed expertly manoeuvring the trolley single handedly, up and down the various aisles, knowing exactly what she needs without having to refer to a list, while answering the twenty questions per minute directed at her by her children looking to purchase various items. She smiles weakly and knowingly at other “bit of every type mam/mum/moms” hoping the baby won’t wake up for a feed before she’s finished and willing the queue at the checkout not to be too long. Her children’s behaviour depends on the humour they’re in!

6.       The Dad
      Immediately identifiable by the dazed and confused look on his face. A supermarket’s dream, he can be seen regularly referring to a list drawn up by his other half, without which he would spend twice the amount and bring home half the essentials. He can also be heard asking of his children, “how many of you did I bring with me again?” His unease in the unfamiliar surroundings is palpable. His children’s behaviour is typically supportive.  They know this can be an overwhelming experience for him.

     Who would have thought shopping could be such an eye opening experience!

Mothers in law!

There is no one size fits all when it comes to mothers in law. The butt of comedians’ jokes since time began, the mere mention of them can cause a “you know yourself” eyeroll by understanding company. For many sons
in law, the mother in law can be viewed rather indifferently.  They’re their partner’s mother, a bit annoying perhaps, the devil incarnate at worst, but not really worthy of a conversation with their mates.  Us women however, can have a very different take on things and entire friend meet ups can
revolve around their antics!

As I was dropping my children to school today I met another mum to whom I mentioned my mother in law had come to visit.  With a sympathetic look she asked me “oh, how’s that going?” In fairness, I’d probably react similarly to someone who mentioned that their mother in law had come to visit, uncertain whether to empathise or celebrate!

I’m one of the lucky ones. My mother in law has almost forgiven me for stealing her firstborn and is a wonderful support to me and a doting grandmother to my children.  As a very precise and organised woman I’m sure she is baffled by the chaotic scenes she encounters when she visits but she mucks in and generally supports me as I do things my way. Some of my friends are as lucky as me while others have, shall we say, more “challenging” relationships!

 From differing opinions on children’s discipline, family size, insistence that the grandchildren bear not even a passing resemblance to their mother (well except maybe for their feet and even at that only maybe) to out and out mud slinging, it seems everyone has a tale to tell about their
partner’s mother.  For some people it’s a bit more than a passing annoyance and they may never be bosom buddies but for others, mother in law difficulties can be enough to put a real strain on the family. I have laughed at some of the stories my friends have told when we have got together and cringed at some of the others.


Not everyone seems as bothered as I am when I hear of some of the more difficult situations but I think that might be because of my tendency to personalise things. While one particular friend shrugs off her relationship with her mother in law as a lost cause, I imagine a “what if” situation for myself in the future.

Having, as I mentioned before “a fair few boys” I could potentially be the paternal mother in law on several occasions. I’m not sure I could be as forgiving as my mother in law of anyone who steals my second, third or even seventh born. The phrase “a daughter is a daughter for all of your life, a son is a son until he takes a wife” rings in my ears and scares the bejaysus out of me to be honest.

Although in all likelihood my opportunity to be a mother in law is many years away I have decided on a new motto for the future “keep your enemies close, keep your daughters in law closer”! Forward planning and all that

Favourite Child

Research or no research, I’m not buying this claim that parents have a favourite child. My five year old, on the other hand, would beg to differ.  Somewhere along the way he has become convinced that he is my favourite child and if he’s annoyed at me threatens to withdraw this honour. “I won’t be your favourite child anymore” can be said to me for all number of reasons from insisting he eats his carrots to telling him Superman is cooler than Batman.

It has become quite the standing joke with the older kids in our house at this stage, while the younger ones remain oblivious to his claims. I’ve no idea where he got the idea from but he’s happy enough to argue the point with his Gran, who in her loyalty to my other children tries regularly to convince him that I don’t in fact have a favourite. He won’t entertain the notion, however, and remains confident that he holds the most privileged position in my affections.

Most definitely there are certain aspects of my children’s personalities that I find easier to live with (and certain aspects that drive me to the brink of insanity) but that’s human nature. I’m aware of my different children’s strengths and difficulties.  I’m aware of the fact that even though the same ingredients went into making each of them, the end results couldn’t be more different.  They might look alike but their personalities and temperaments are as individual as they are. We have a couple of them we call the “charm offensive”, the kids we send to meet and greet when we want to make a good impression. We have another couple we hang back on introducing to a scenario until that same impression is made! There are some in which I see a lot of me, both in mannerisms and interests and some so much like their father it’s uncanny. Having more in common with one or more children does not change how I feel about the others.

I try my best to be fair to them all (though I’m sure they might disagree) but I don’t treat them all the same because they need different things from me. I don’t parent them all the same because they need different parenting from me. I do however love them all completely and utterly equally with all my heart….except for the ones who do their homework with least complaining….I probably love them a bit more…and my five year old of course!


Just when you think you have it sorted. Just when you think that you are finally getting the hang of this parenting lark, you find that you are the parent of a teenager! Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry could not have been more accurate (if you can’t remember this you should really google when Kevin turns thirteen, it’s hilarious). Suddenly everything you ever thought you knew, every reaction you thought you’d have and every “not until you’re such an age” goes flying out the window as you realise to survive this challenge you’re going to have to pick your battles! 

The teenage years can be a very stressful time for parent and child. It’s a difficult time for teenagers, who, while full of hormones, are dealing with growing up, finding their place in society, trying to assert some independence, and dealing with peer pressure which is at its most fierce at this stage of life. It’s also a difficult time for parents who are trying to balance allowing their child have more freedom to grow while trying to keep them safe from harm and maintain a decent relationship – all at the same time. One of the particular challenges encountered by parents is the virtual world in which our teenagers spend so much time. As adults we choose to log on to the internet. Teenager are always online. The virtual world means today’s teenagers are never away from the influence of their peers. There is a constant bombardment of snapchats, Facebook messages, updated viber groups messages with pictures and messages about who’s doing what, who got what, who went where. There is no escape from the peer group and the influence of family is pushed more to the side than it could have been in years gone by. In the virtual world there is also a pressure to engage in activities they might not otherwise consider. It’s not an easy situation to manage as most teenagers place huge importance on their virtual friends. 

Compromise is essential, but so are boundaries. While no one wants to fall out with their child, it’s our job, difficult as it is, to be their parent rather than their friend. They have enough friends who’ll support them through the trauma of having a cruel mother or father who insists all electronics are left downstairs at bedtime! 

Coming up with an agreement for an acceptable amount of internet usage and involving your teenager in the discussion is a good place to start. Explain your concerns. Teenagers being teenagers will always challenge what’s agreed, but try, as much as possible not to get dragged into an argument, no matter how hard your teenager pushes (not an easy ask by any stretch of the imagination). Consistency really is the key here. If you give in over an unjustified strop, you have just given them reason to have another one in the future. Less strops, generally equals less arguments. The teenage years are certainly a minefield to navigate, but I’ve met quite a few parents who’ve lived to tell the tale. So there’s hope for us all! 

Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dog’s Tails – the truth about boys!

I am from a family of all girls. Not quite sugar and spice and all things nice but it was as you’d expect quite a girly household and the world of boys was pretty alien to us. I was quite the football nut growing up (I’m sure to my father’s relief a little bit and certainly my mother’s amazement) but asides from that our house was full of make-up, clothes, perfume, dolls, and girly bits and pieces. The fact I played and loved football meant I was categorised as somewhat of a tomboy but that was ok because that was acceptable. 

Fast forward a few years and while we all look quite alike, we have grown up to be four very different women, four very different types of mother and we have four very different personalities and interests. Again, not surprising because we are four different people. My sisters are fantastic and different. I went on to have my own children, and I have, you might say, a fair few boys. Raising sons has been quite the eye opening experience for me. Having no brothers, I had no experience of little boys to draw upon. I’ve learned clothes aren’t considered a necessity – nor are underpants. Farts are something to be proud of (I think this continues into later life), snot isn’t gross and “rude” words are just hilarious. I have also learned boys are so, so full of love. Boys are as different from each other as the genders are. Some are soft. Some are sensitive. Some are physically gentle. Some are definitely not! Some like sport. Some like drama. Some like art. I even have a son who likes clothes, and by this I mean style rather than actually wearing them! 

My boys are all so different and I love this fact. Variety is definitely the spice of life and the world would certainly be a very boring place if we were all the same. I do worry however, that life has very set expectations from boys and that can prove very difficult and isolating if they don’t meet them. Differences which are embraced or at worst accepted in girls are often discouraged in boys. There is sometimes a failure to recognise in our society that different boys have different needs and even just within the confines of the family, school environment, or on the sports field different boys need different parenting, teaching, coaching. It is personality rather than gender determines a child’s needs. My lads keep me on my toes and they’re great. It’s a lot of responsibility for us mums (and dads of course) shaping the men of the future and encouraging them to wear underwear!
 My boys are all so different and I love this fact. Variety is definitely the spice of life and the world would certainly be a very boring place if we were all the same. I do worry however, that life has very set expectations from boys and that can prove very difficult and isolating if they don’t meet them. Differences which are embraced or at worst accepted in girls are often discouraged in boys. There is sometimes a failure to recognise in our society that different boys have different needs and even just within the confines of the family, school environment, or on the sports field different boys need different parenting, teaching, coaching. It is personality rather than gender determines a child’s needs. My lads keep me on my toes and they’re great. It’s a lot of responsibility for us mums (and dads of course) shaping the men of the future and encouraging them to wear underwear! ~ Jen