Posts Tagged With: school

First Day Of School

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I’m writing this on what is the morning of my eldest daughter’s first day of school. Lilly-lola is six and there’s a look on her face similar to that of a parachutist who has been given an anvil instead of a parachute. The size of her new backpack and she could actually be a parachutist. It’s huge, bigger than our apartment, less a backpack and more of a giant Panic Room. I think this is the idea, if school starts to get too rough, if an unforeseen event takes place such as her teacher going loco and taking out an M16 assault rifle, Lilly climbs into the backpack and sits the ordeal out.

Christ knows she’s got enough stuff in there to survive a nuclear fallout. Tytka? Where parents supply their child with a huge cone full of candy – our entire household food budget has been spent on chocolate monkeys and strawberry bubblegum. We don’t have the Tytka tradition in Ireland. On my first day of school no-one gave me anything. Sorry, I lie. My mother warned me that she’d slap the taste out of my mouth if I did anything wrong and I subsequently gave myself a crotch-full of urine. She must have given the same warning to my classmates. They all reeked of piss too. It was catastrophic. So it was no surprise when the teacher put the whole class in a sealed plastic bag full of uncooked rice.

What. A. Day. Later on, I met a bully from the class above, a guy called The Onion on account of how he made you cry. And also because he slept with eight other smelly siblings in a net bag. I’m not really sure The Onion did anything bad to me, despite my defective childhood memory insisting he must have maimed me by, I don’t know, sticking clothes pegs to my nipples or slipping a hedgehog into my whitebread and sugar sandwich. I do remember him (his real name was Paul) being the one who broke the Facts of Life to me. Not on my first day of school, but years later when I was nine or ten, the age a boy starts to feel ”sensations” south of the border and subsequently, albeit at an unconscious, sub-atomic level, knows that the outlandish premise of a man putting his thing into a woman’s thing, is horribly true.

None of that for my daughter. She gets a metre long cone filled with enough treats to feed a starving Polish family for a month. She gets a class packed with her buddies, highly-motivated, intelligent kids.

As long as it isn’t the boy from the park that I hate. I know, I’m a grown man. I shouldn’t feel hate towards a six-year old boy, but I do. I don’t know his name, but for months we’ve been meeting him in the playground in the park beside where we live and I hate him. I hate him for several reasons. Because he’s got more hair than me. His is really thick and shiny and my hair is falling out so fast I’m looking like Gollum. What does that kid need great hair for? What a waste. It’s not like he’s going to be going on dates. Neither am I, but like all married men I cling to the illusion that I could go on a date if I wanted to.

The main reason I hate this boy is he’s great at climbing and jumping off things. My daughter is good at these too but he’s better. I do question my behavior. You’d swear that a proficiency in jumping and climbing was going to have this big bearing on Lilly’s life, that when she’s at the job interview at Apple she’ll be put in front of this massive climbing wall and the ghost of Steve Jobs is there with a stopwatch shouting, ‘go!’

I suppose I really hate him because I’m reliving my childhood through my daughter and he reminds me how everyone was better than me at everything. And isn’t this why we become parents, to right the wrongs of a cruel and unjust childhood? Having said that, one of these kids in Lilly’s class is also going to break the news to her how babies get made. This is it. The first day of school is the end of the beginning. The first phase of raising kids is over. They start to learn from other people than us their parents. Their friends start to get more important. You and me and every parent have entered a new era;

We’re not their heroes anymore.

Categories: Family, Humorous, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teach Your Children Well

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Who am I? Have you ever asked this question? The way I figure it, it’s another way of asking, ‘what do I believe in?’

I was having a beer (okay, a few beers) with a surgeon friend of mine and I asked him the same question and he said to me, ‘we’ve got to stick together Peadar.’ He was referring to our respective older daughters, aged six, who will start school in September. Both girls will be in the same class and both come from families who have issues regarding the primacy of Catholicism in Poland’s primary school education.

I’m a spiritual person who believes that every human being is entitled to make peace with the Universe in a manner that suits them. We’re all different, emotionally, physically, intellectually, so why not spiritually? I have problems with the word ‘religion’ which comes from the same root word as ‘ligature’ and ‘ligament’ and it means to be bound together in one belief.

The very concept of this is incredibly creepy and ultimately dangerous when you have Catholic Fundamentalists who have┬ávery little in common with the actual teachings of Christianity, subverting science and influencing political decisions affecting us all. I would hope our daughters’ school won’t discriminate or isolate anyone, whether they believe in a man from Bethlehem who fed a lot of people with a loaf of bread or the Sheela-na-Gig Irish fertility goddess flashing her vulva to ward off evil.

When I’m clearing a spiritual path for my girls, I like to aim towards actions rather than words. So when we recently came across a pigeon near our house who couldn’t fly, my daughters and I protected it from interested dogs, packed it in a box and took it to the animal sanctuary. All of this of course, was coordinated by my PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE. It took us three hours and during that time I questioned my sanity, basically helping a flying rat who didn’t look like it was going to survive the morning.

But you can’t give up. Especially on those who need help. My girls will hopefully inherit this belief from their mother regardless. But from me, I hope they learn to believe in themselves. I remind them everyday how amazing they are by the simple expedient of spending time with them. We draw, we cycle, we learn poems, we create crazy stories as we wander through our park. You do it too and take it from me, the minute you pull out a boardgame to play with your children, you are saying to them, ‘hey, I love you spending time with you because you are so cool.’

But you know what else I believe in? I believe in localism. My girls have traveled and boy do they know there is a world out there for them to explore. But more important is their neighbourhood. Their environment is not defined by graffiti and neglect and dirty buildings. It is defined by the people; the elderly woman who used to be a doctor and a cured people for free, the old man who walks his dogs and spent six years a Siberian labour camp. It is our park designed by a German architect. It is the Soviet Cemetary. It is the ancient oak trees we talk to. Our neighbourhood is epic and we are heroes moving through momentous history, no more so than when they had to go to the local shop on their own for the first time to buy Kefir. Now there’s a practical lesson – no parents to watch them! Holding money in their hands! Having to address the shop-lady themselves! We teach our children by showing them they are masters of their own destiny and not victims of negligent overlords their mouths full of bibles.

The life I have chosen (living in Poland, writing) means I have very little money even by Polish standards. But I have daughters to teach and this makes me rich.

Categories: Family, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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