Category Archives: parenting

Ooooooooooooooommmmmm

Picture the scene. A farmhouse in North Kerry, Ireland, November, 2016. It’s windy and cold outside. The farmer of the house is milking the cows. Inside, in the main living area of the house, there are three young boys running everywhere while a mother shouts commands. The children in response jump off the couches, scream at lost blankies, pout at the injustice of it all.

They arrange the meditation cushions, fighting all the time about who gets what colour. The mother, determined, pulls the cushions into a circle. There is a crashing noise in the background. A black cat appears from the kitchen looking coy. She’s undeterred. She asks the children to get down on their cushions. They’re going to meditate.

“May we safe from inner and out harm” And by that she means that the eldest takes his foot off his brother.

“May we be happy and peaceful” hoping that her emphasis on peaceful really resonates in their inner sanctum or that they just stop talking long enough for her to get to the end of the sentance.

“May we be healthy and strong” repeating her lifelong wish that they get to adulthood without her losing her mind.

As she sits in the lotus, eyes closed, in this scene of chaos of sprawling limbs and giddiness, she smiles. Maybe just a little.

“What about the om’s Mom” the second boy giggles. Oh God, she thinks, not the oms.

And then echoing throughout the farmhouse, on a rainy morning in Kerry just before schooltime, three boys and their mother hold some ‘Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooms’ for longer than is descent and louder than is possible.

Sometimes, after this ‘practice’, they arise from the cushions having got the crazy out, othertimes, they pull her up willing her to go on. Mostly, the poor woman gets up shaking her head walking towards the coffee machine, dejected. Why does she do it?

She hopes that they remember that in the craziness, that there was for a few moments, at least, a smiling mom in the middle of it all. That they can always find peace in the middle of all the chaos. Repeat.

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmm.

I walk with you

So I thought I was having a bad week. And then I thought again.

It’s been a tough week. As I type I have one little boy in arm my arms burning up with a fever, medicated to cool down into sleep and there is little else for it but to hold him for a while. His brothers are shivering and feverish on the couch. It’s one of those parental days when you put it all on hold to get them back on their feet.

It comes on top of a lot of other things. The bills, the poor milk cheque that we thought would resolve things, the upcoming anniversary trip that maybe we shouldn’t take. The parlour that looks like it might never be built. Poor me.

And then I think of her. She’s putting layers of clothes on her boys so she’ll have enough for them to survive the Eastern European winter. She can’t carry non-essentials. Leaving photographs behind, his first baby hat that she kept because she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away, the little sheet on the wall with the first scribble of his name. Will they make it? Will they survive the walk? Where will it bring them? Will they make it out of the war zone alive?

Perspective.

He is beginning to cool down. He breathes deeply in his little sleep and of course I know he’ll be alright. The bills, well, you know, they always get paid. Farming is a sticky old business. One year you’re doing good enough to invest back into the farm with a new road, an extra spread of lime, reseeding and then along comes the year that is wet and the market dictates your every move. And we sulk a bit (well I do anyway), adjust the budget and recollect ourselves and count our blessings. In a few hours time they’ll be up and running around, fighting and healthy. The parlour, believe me, will get built. It will Dan, it will. We’ll take that trip because we can. And we’ll laugh the whole time. And continue to count our blessings.

So as I sit and type with my boy in arms, I walk with you. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. But I walk with you. That you and your little boys be safe, that you are delivered to safety soon.

In an old Parisian zoo

We walked to a local market with our two young children in buggies. We were visiting the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris and needed a picnic. Knowing I wasn’t going to bring young boys into Parisian restaurants, I came prepared; plastic cups, cheese knife, napkins, healthy appetites. The Boulangerie along the way provided our breads and dessert. The market filling our picnic basket with a cake that was also cheese (but not a cheesecake) and fruit. I spied a delicatessen and left my farmer, or Dan as he is known off the farm, in the shade with the buggies to buy some cold meats.

In the tiny charcuterie, no bigger than a newsstand, locals were filing in to buy lunch. With two slices of pork terrine en croûte and some delicious cold meats, I saw the little shelf where the obligatory bottles of lunchtime red wines were held. Now I love my local butchers but he doesn’t sell wine, only in Paris I thought and it would be rude not to partake in the local customs, I placed the gorgeous bottle of red alongside my purchases. The owner seeing Dan with the two buggies in the shade, asked if we were picnicing. Then I’ll open the bottle for you he said. So matter of fact. So natural. So French.

We chased two little children around the oldest city zoo in the world, trying to catch butterflies in beautiful glasshouses and eventually settled ourselves down to our banquet fit for Marie Antoinette. It was August and we knew how to avoid the tourist trails, in years to come we thought, they would see the highlights. That day, they were young and hungry and blissfully unaware of the city around them. For their parents however, nothing was going to stop them enjoying their most favourite city, no tantrum or awkward buggy. The tastes, the pungent cheese, the baguette, the red wine, real grapes, we melted further into the day.

Later, as we walked ‘home’ along the Seine, we took full advantage of our afternoon nappers in their buggies and pulled into a cafe overlooking Notre Dame enjoying some coffee and crème brûlée.

We repeated that picnic under the Eiffel Tower and in the Jardin des Tuileries over our few days in Paris. Happily, we filled that holiday with nothing but family life, happy to be in Paris. I had learned years earlier, at nineteen, that Paris was more than a city and returned as often as my pockets would allow in the years to follow.  This morning, after these atrocities, I find it hard to describe what Paris is. I reach into my inkwell, seeking solace and know that Paris, to me, is just vitality, good living and truth. Values that I hoped on that sunny day in an old Parisian zoo, in the crust of their baguette, my sons would come to learn too.

Moi, je suis Paris et je suis tellement triste.

To the Mart

He may only be three going on four but already you get glimpses of the man he’ll become. I’ll be talking to Daddy he tells me excited at the day that lays ahead. I’ll be up on the big box with Dan (as he calls Daddy) when we sell the calves. The same calves who he tried to feed some weeks before. The same calves he let lick or morelike swallow his little hand previously.

He walks down the drive with a little swagger behind his father who is busy trying to think of what else he might need for the mart. Calves, check. Calf cards, check, phone, wallet, keys check, little namesake, check. The rain pours down on them but little will dampen the spirits of the three year old, who carrying the ham sandwiches on Thomas the Tank backpack, will drive with Daddy in his tractor to the mart.

The city woman in me used to wonder what we would tell them about the days we would have to put calves in the trailer to take to the mart. It used to make me a little sad but I’ve come to realize that my life as a farmer’s wife is less of a novelty now and more the norm by the year. That these little of boys of mine while adoring their animals, know from a young age that taking the calves to the mart is a part of the job. Not a time for sentimentality mom.

Just before being lifted up high by his Daddy towards his little seat on the tractor, he gives me one big wave and a happy smile. He’s off for a day at the mart, a day with Daddy. Such a big boy now.

Link

A difficult day is one where your little boy arrives home from school and his eyes are not shining. It’s even more difficult when it happens a few days in a row. For one reason or another, he finds writing really difficult and it is breaking his little heart. A little heart that I have held precious until he took it out into the world, un-mommyed.

Instinct alone was not directing me on this one. I had used up my resources, my tough lines, soft kisses, big hugs, go get em’s and so had to reach for the big guns at homework time.

‘I can’t do it. I give up.’ he cries thoroughly unused to not succeeding, not believing that he is brilliant (mea culpa). Here, I realize I ignored the hundred and one articles available at a click on how to praise appropriately but forgetting myself daily, I tell him how fantastic he is. To me, anyways. Ridiculously, in that little ‘give up’, I see wasted opportunity, a graduation not attended, potential not achieved, in other words, hysteria of a mother on seeing her first born down-trodden.

Hysteria aside, I reach for the most fantastic weapon us modern mothers have in the face of our child’s adversity; knowledge. Like his mother, this son of mine is a dreamer, an idealist and a believer (though he still has a good excuse at six to assume such roles, me not so much). When your mom has told you a thousand times that you’re doing great, you’re fine out, you can do it and there is still doubt, there must be another voice to tell a six year old boy to keep going.

So thankfully, there’s youtube.

For no longer was it me telling him but some more brilliant others. Winston Churchill in warbling chinny Queen’s English told him to ‘Never, never, never, give up.’

JFK told him that when he chose to go to the Moon, he did so not because things are easy but because they are hard. 

And good old Albert Einstein, well he discovered atoms (I think) and some equation that mommy doesn’t really understand but he didn’t like school and found writing very difficult. Very difficult, indeed. ‘See, just like you.’

For a boy who loves soldiers, space exploration and scientists (!), who better to tell him that the windy road ahead can be navigated than these, his new heros. His hearing those words for the first time, I heard them too. And thanked those heros for the words of hope that continue to keep on giving.  Today, they brought the sparkle to a little boy in Kerry finding the homework tough.

And to the mommy who will try anything (and more than likely too much) to keep him going.

Dinnertime

And the living ain’t easy. I don’t want to give up I think as I’m punching the air in the pantry. I’ve come to hide to take several deep breaths instead of throwing a tantrum myself at my longing for one peaceful dinner.

One peaceful dinner where the baby doesn’t throw his spoon on the floor with a giggle, twenty times. One peaceful dinner where my toddler sits at the table and eats. One peaceful dinner where I’m not lecturing the six year old on the value of eating meat and vegetables. One peaceful dinner where we chat, dissect our day, eat our meal. Imagine, all of us eating and enjoying our meal. And by one peaceful dinner I mean, one whole mealtime from lift of fork to final quiet burp without a spillage, a tantrum, a sigh or a complaint. Just one.

Let’s face it, it would be easier to put on the TV, put them in front of it, chat to the husband and let them eat whatever. But I won’t give up!

Now for the science bit.

Research says. Research says. Obesity. Research. You can skip this bit if you want. High achievers. Dinner together. The experts say. Research on diabetes asserts. Obesity. Family bonding. More research. Seriously, how are we supposed to digest?

Look, I’m not looking for Walton like family meals, ha ha happy nudging and joshing each other. I just want a peaceful enough dinner. Does it happen? Will they reach a reasonable age where it just clicks. I’m not looking to hear a hearty laugh as they pass the potatoes, just one meal where we don’t look like one of the bad families from Nanny 911 or what have you.

I can see her now, the Nanny Lady. Anne, your mealtimes are just crazy. You’ve got to get this together, you can do this. Now, this is the naughty step, come to eye level with them and explain and that is where I lose her. Put them on the naughty step at dinner, I’m hungry. Eye level, I’m hungry. Explain? I’m hungry Nanny. And the question on everyones lips is ‘Does Nanny 911 actually have kids?’ Just saying.

What makes the whole situation worse in a farmhouse, is that we often have another man who works on the farm joining us at mealtimes. He’s a part of the furniture around here, we consider him a friend but it is not easy trying to discipline your children in front of someone else. It often makes the situation more fraught. There we are, trying to make idle chat about the weather, grass and greyhounds (don’t ask) while simultaneously trying to get food into three young boys. Honestly. Why haven’t I been canonized? And you know, that they will be worse because they think they will get away with more. Sometimes, I think If he could pick up his plate and go off and eat alone, I think he would. I would. Poor man. Poor us.

I know I can say this to you. I know if you have children under seven, no, eight even, that they can be hard work at dinner times. I know you won’t judge me.  If they’re not, knock yourself out, feel as smug as you like, but please, for the love of God, just don’t call Nanny 911, I promise I’ll eat all my dinner.