Thursday 19 July 2018

Dr Ciara Kelly: 'I took one of my children out of school for a few days... off to detention with me'

Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: David Conachy
Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: David Conachy
Happy memories are made on a mum-and-daughter break city away

This week I did that thing you're not supposed to do - I took one of my children out of school and went away for a few days with her. She's 15, and an only girl in a family of boys, so we are normally outnumbered. So going off on our own seemed like a nice idea. And in my defence, she's in transition year, so I figured she's supposed to be engaging in 'experiences'. So heading off with her mother seemed, at a push, to qualify as that.

And… it was really wonderful. She's at that perfect age when she is old enough to be adult about most things so is great craic to be around, yet young enough to not have better things to do than hang out with me for a bit. By a weird coincidence, when we headed off, it was 10 years to the day since I went away with my mum to the same place and it felt - having lost my mum earlier this year - like a perfect symmetry to go away and me be the mum this time.

I've never subscribed to the notion that teenagers are awful beings to be around. Yes they can be moody, but in fairness can't we all? But I think it's when your kids get really interesting. Their adult personalities are starting to establish themselves. Their sense of humour becomes more sophisticated - although it's probably true to say my own sense of humour has remained sniggeringly stuck at teenage level - so small wonder I like teenagers' jokes. But I just think there's something magical at seeing them on the cusp of adulthood; the cusp of launching themselves into the big bad world. This is probably the last time they will actually need us. From here on in they'll be increasingly independent.

A few times I found myself staring at her when she talked, just taking in the moment and enjoying it. Until she noticed and petered out in that self-conscious way they have and wondered why I was being weird. One of the main drawbacks of being a working parent - even in a job you really love - is the ordinary run-of-the-mill time that you miss out on with your kids. So getting some precious one-to-one with them is very special.

We went on a city break and I let her decide the itinerary on the basis that that was good in terms of fostering decision making and responsibility. But as I'm completely disorganised that worked out pretty much as a win-win. And I was impressed and a little taken aback by how good her choices were, which was lovely as it's great when your kids surprise you and make you reassess a little bit how you think about them. You think you know them so well but then they do something unexpected and it's sort of like watching your dog get up and play the piano.

But mostly it was just really great fun coupled oddly with a sense of poignancy. I was aware that I don't know when we'll get a chance to do something like that again. She'll be doing her Leaving Cert soon and that'll occupy a lot of her time. And then there's hopefully college and no doubt then she'll head off with friends or boyfriends. And even though we only went away for a few days you can't take that stuff for granted. No one really knows how many more chances they'll get to spend proper time with someone they love.

I know there are good reasons to not take your kids out of school to do with academic stuff they need to keep up with and not messing with teachers' learning plans for the class and all that. But sometimes doing the wrong thing can be the right thing too. Stealing some precious time - particularly when it's unexpected and maybe has that added spice you get from bending the rules a little bit - can create a sort of magical bond where you feel you're in cahoots with your own kids, and that is probably worth whatever they miss out on by way of study.

Some of my happiest memories are from that same trip I made with my mum a decade ago. This time round was just as lovely. And perhaps I'm over-analysing it but I think making those kind of memories is what matters more than any individual few school days.

Now off to detention with me.


Ciara presents Lunchtime Live on Newstalk Radio weekdays 12-2

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