Friday 14 December 2018

Victoria White: Bring on the mid-term break ... It's time to give Mum's taxi a rest

MANY parents seem to be dreading mid-term break. It seems like they only just went back to school a few weeks ago after all. Me? I can't wait.

For me, mid-term is as much as break for parents as children. Kids are young and can survive the extra-curricular blizzard of camogie sticks, ballet pumps and musical instruments which make up a modern childhood.

We parents are old and can't.


Mid term was probably introduced to Ireland after a parent was found frozen to death on a back road because she couldn't remember which child she was collecting from where and just ground to a halt.

For years I held out against the avalanche of after-school activities and playdates. This year my defence broke and they piled in on top of me. I used to laugh secretly at the woman who feeds her children spaghetti hoops in the car outside the school because they will be on the road all day. Now I'm nearly as bad. Last week, driving from gaelic football to piano I had this spooky feeling that I wasn't really me anymore.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," I said to the kids. They looked puzzled like they thought, what the hell else would I be doing? I tell myself, again and again, that my kids just do the regular activities: the boys do football, the girl does camogie and gaelic, one boy does scouts, they all do piano and swimming. They're all fairly basic things, aren't they? Sport? Scouts? Piano?

Okay, piano isn't that basic and it is very, very expensive. But I never got to learn piano. So now I'm making my kids do it. I can afford it and I have transport. Most of our parents had neither. And so we spent our time raiding orchards and forming gangs and standing on street corners with snot suspended from our noses.

I spent long years of my childhood vandalising an abandoned period house with a group of my friends. We played "Run, Catch, Kiss" in the long grass of the lawn and "Spin the Bottle" in the empty ballroom.

It kills me to say it, but my 12-year-old has never had as much fun as I had. I know, because I know where he's been. I've nearly always been with him.

And I can't really swear that we're turning out better kids. Remember the French kids in clean cardigans who we used to torture when they came here to learn English because they're weren't street-wise? That's our kids now.

But if I suddenly pulled my kids out of every after-school activity and refused to invite their friends to play, they'd be left standing on street corners on their own. We've changed. Kids are watched, pushed and most of all, driven. We're not far off the South Koreans, whose children go to afterschool classes in special yellow kiddie taxis.

Hard to know what is to be done to give parents some quality of life, short of a Croke Park 2 agreement with the teachers to keep the primary kids in till three or four to do sports. But that mightn't solve the problem because there would always be the parents whose kids do more sports and the competition would start again.


You could take all the money off the parents. The recession hasn't done the job evenly -- you'd need a revolution for that. And there hasn't been a revolution yet that hasn't left a few rich kids still playing piano. No, it would take something bigger, like a drought or a famine, to give Irish parents a break from after-school activities.

Come to think of it, they'd have to keep on hiking about for their kids then but it would be more the kind that most of the world's parents do, like 10 miles to the well for water.

I'll settle for the mid term. Bring it on, I can't wait.

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