herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

I'm already screaming to get out of my kids' after-school activities

We're two weeks into the school term, the swimming classes have started, and my kids aren't doing them.

I've been up twice to the desk of the local swimming pool. I've talked to the manager, gone through timetables and discussed stroke techniques.

And bottled it. I can't put their names down. I can't face it.

It was the text from my daughter's camogie teacher which sent me over the edge. An extra training session had been arranged for Wednesdays in a far-flung suburb at five o'clock in the evening.



Roaring

The team needs to compete and the girls need to train. That's just the way it is.

"Fine," I texted back. But inside I was roaring: "Hello there, camogie teacher! Have you ever been on a main road out of Dublin at five o'clock in the afternoon? You have? So I suppose I'll get a second text about the helicopter airlift to the pitch you've booked for the girls, at no extra cost?"

Which is very bad-minded of me, because the sports club is run by volunteers who are parents themselves. And here am I, thinking I just can't do another after-school activity.

If we do the camogie, something else will have to go. And it's the swimming.

But kids have to learn to swim. They could drown if they don't. They could become obese.

More to the point, they could be laughed at.

I remember reading some poverty agency report in which they described children who didn't go swimming as "underprivileged". Will my kids be "underprivileged" if I don't bring them swimming? What's wrong with me that I can't keep up with the relentless timetable of after-school activities which most parents of primary school children seem to have?

Or is there anyone else out there who wonders if it's all necessary? Sometimes I think we Irish parents try to give our kids too much. I wonder is it all for the kids? Isn't some of it to keep up with the Joneses?

In our day there just wasn't the money for this kind of running round. There weren't the cars. The worst thing about these after-school activities is the amount of driving most of us do. It's miserable. It's a total waste of time. We're worth more than sitting bumper-to-bumper on a road out of Dublin with a pint-sized camogie player in a helmet and gum-shield.

There has to be a way out of it. We could all stop having children, of course, but that would mean the country would have no future.

We could all have one child only, which is manageable. But think of the activities the poor child would have to do -- swimming, scouts, camogie, football, music... the child would have to do it all to live up to an Irish parent's aspirations for the next generation. Maybe it's just as well so many Irish couples still want to have families of three and more, so their competitive zeal gets diluted.

Maybe the primary schools could do more of this stuff. Swimming is on the curriculum, but there isn't a primary school in the country with a swimming pool. My kids are brought to the local pool one term out of three. The other schools in the area book the pool outside school hours and the lucky mammies and daddies get to ferry the kids back and forth.



Chaperones

If the schools did more sport and more music and it wasn't all left up to the mammies and daddies, then the "underprivileged" kids wouldn't get left behind. Kids like my kids, whose mammies bottle it two weeks into September.

If the kids walked or cycled or got the bus to these activities, it wouldn't be so bad. But we've got this idea into our heads that they need chaperones everywhere they go. Although most of us had the freedom of the streets from the age of four.

But I don't want to be the first mammy on the block to say -- "Here's your bus pass, you're on your own." Or -- "No camogie for you, sunshine -- here's a stick and a tin can."

There are still places in the swimming class, and I bet the pool manager has already put my name on them. I may be a Second Week Of September Mammy, I may be lippy and disorganised, but I'm riddled with guilt. She knows eventually I'll sign my kids up and blow my week to hell every week between now and Christmas.

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