This nearly successful group shot was taken in Top of the Rock and I promise the kids were having a blast. Actually, they were having too much fun to stop and pose for a silly photo with mom and dad. It’s not perfect, but I love it for capturing the kids at this stage. Alex just wants to move, do his own thing and be a big boy even though he’s not quite ready for some things. Nate is getting more opinionated. He’s not afraid to tell you what he wants and if he’s not happy with what you’re doing. He can be a grump but can also be the sweetest, kindest and most empathetic little guy. And in the middle there’s Chris and I, just trying to smile and keep it all together.
I think it pretty much sums up how August played out for the Dares. There were some extreme highs (camping in West Cork, the most beautiful part of Ireland…yes, I’ll get around to writing about it soon) and some extreme lows (mostly due to double strength toddler meltdowns and a pretty overtired family). When you’re in the middle of a full day of grumpy children, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed, exhausted and defeated by it all. But it’s all part of the journey for all of us, isn’t it?
You may have seen a recent chatter on Twtitter about the ridiculous comments by UTV Ireland head, Mary Curtis, on how little she values her station’s core demographic and how little she values women and parents. This may seem funny to some because she’s a woman and a mother, however I’m really not surprised. There’s such a misconception of what it takes to bee a stay at home parent (I’m going to say parent here, not mother, because there are plenty of men taking on that responsibility these days).
In an article in the Independent, Curtis is quoted as saying that her station is targeting “housewives with a few kids under their belt” and that the group of entrainment reporters will probably not be watching what is no doubt going to be a mediocre season of programming because the reporters “actually have lives” as opposed to the hypothetical housewife who has “no choice but to stay at home”.
This has really annoyed me for so many reasons, so indulge me for a moment as I step onto my soapbox. This kind of sexism and belittling of parents should not be tolerated. We all, parents and non parents alike, should demand an apology from Curtis for her idiotic remarks. If you don’t know why this is such an inane thing to say, I’ll spell it out for you Mary.
First of all, I am a parent. I stay at home with my young children. But I make a lot of choices, especially in what programmes and stations I will NOT watch (that’s you UTV) and I have a life. I have a wonderful, exciting adventurous life that is made all the more exciting because of my children, not in spite of them. I detest the idea that your life is over once you have children. I’m not going to make this a have and have not argument, because I think we all have lives that are colourful and exciting.
I chose to have children at the end of a very exciting and fulfilling decade as an adult living in Boston and Dublin. And to be honest, my life has changed but it has changed in ways I am totally comfortable with. In fact, I’ve had many conversations with other parents questioning how we spent our time before we had children because we seem to fit in so many things now, for ourselves and for others. I work incredibly hard at home (cleaning, cooking, entertaining the kids, healing boo boos, teaching them life skills and how to count) and have very little time to indulge in mindless television. We have a lot of fun together as a family, exploring many of the amazing things Ireland has to offer–like the zoo, parks, children’s theatre and educational activities, festivals, cafes, markets, historical sites, and gardens. My husband and I parent together, so we both share responsibility for the children even though he works outside the home and I work in the home. I also have the choice to leave the house and go into town (with and without children) to do all the fancy things Curtis imagines young entertainment reporters do while Coronation Street is one. I’m certainly no indentured servant.
And speaking of choices, I have more now than ever chosen not to watch terrestrial TV. After Nate was born, I decided that my time was incredibly precious and so was my sanity. It was not worth filling my head with the negativity of reality television and it was certainly not worth watching soaps or other programmes with poor production quality and terrible story lines. We watch television programmes that enrich us, make us laugh or make us think rather than programmes that just fill the void and the silence of the house. I’m not trying to be snobby by saying this, but it really made a difference to stop watching things that wound me up. I encourage everyone to try it. And it applies to all aspects of your life, choose excellence and quality to nourish yourself and your soul.
But back to Curtis. I assume she’s terribly detached from the world and has forgotten that living, breathing human beings exist within her demographic reports. They aren’t sad creatures to be mocked at press conferences. They pay her salary and she should celebrate them. If we’re specifically talking about stay at home parents, she should applaud them for their hard, unwaged work to shape a future television audience. And as several people mentioned on Twitter, she should look into getting some media training along with a surgeon to remove the foot from her mouth.
Alex is finally on the swings and he LOVED it! I’ve put him on the swings before (when he was a baby and didn’t have much choice) but he hasn’t been interested in them for quite awhile. He’s actually a bit timid about heights and falling motions, so swings were pretty scary for him. Last week we visited a new park and while Nate was busy climbing up everything and playing Fireman Sam with a little girl, Alex made his way to the swing and started to ask me about it. At first, he asked to get off but I moved to the front of the swing and got him to laugh by pretending to catch him and drop him as he swung away. Suddenly he was loving it and played on the swing for a pretty long time. It’s funny because we tend to categorise Ali as the bold one, but he’s actually pretty cautious when we’re out of the house. He’s very quiet and doesn’t really start playing until he’s checked everything out or until his brother is by his side. It’s really easy to pick characteristics for kids (1st child, 2nd child, quiet one, funny one) and then see everything they do through that filter but these boys have shown me lately that they have pretty complex personalities. They are their own person and not at all cookie cutter archetypes. Alex is Alex, and on this day he was really brave and happy (look at that face!)
When you have kids, it’s #totesbig or go home. Seriously, you’ll head back to the house because you forgot something essential. Here’s a view inside one of my go-to bags, a super huge Cath Kidston messenger bag (similar version here) that easily fits all the stuff I need for a quick trip out of the house. I gave up my nappy bag a long time ago and switch between bags depending on what we’re up to–this is my short trip everyday bag and I usually take a back pack if we’re bring along snacks and water bottles. I try to never leave without a colouring book and pencil case full of crayons in case we need to sit still for a while. For me, I always bring lip gloss, sun glasses, tissues, a little purse with our Luas cards, a pen and paper, and business cards (you never know when you might need them). And of course my keys after I learned a hard lesson. My Ruby & Ginger mini change bag is still an essential part of our kit since Alex is still in nappies. As the boys are getting bigger and more adventurous on the playground, fun band-aids (ok fine, plasters) are probably something I need to keep with me all the time. My DSLR and a spare lens fit perfectly in the bag with a protective insert. And of course, there’s bunny, Nate’s best friend and companion.
Cath Kidston are running a competition until the end of September to win their newest tote. All you have to do to enter is share what’s in your bag and whether you like it #totesbig or #totessmall (I know, I know). So are you going to show off what you got?