Wednesday 18 September 2019

'You don’t have to be polite if you don’t want to' - Happy Pear twins reveal their parenting method

David Flynn and Stephen Flynn of the Happy Pear.
David Flynn and Stephen Flynn of the Happy Pear.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

The well-known Happy Pear twins Stephen and David Flynn have built their thriving food business around the ideals of health and happiness.

Sunrise sea swims and yoga are as much a part of their business philosophy, as are their health food products and cafés themselves. Their goal is to enjoy the journey, and laugh all the way through it, they say.

But failure isn't something they fear either.

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field." These words by nobel scientist Niels Bohr resonate with them, they say. They claim to make mistakes everyday.

Dave recalls: “We built our first juice bar out of wood which the Environmental Health officer came in and said ‘are yez morons like, it’s pourous, it’s not washable’. We’d designed and built it and we were so proud of it and we had to take the whole thing down in our first six months of business.”

Stephen, who has three children May, Theo and Ned, and David, who has two daughters Elsie and Issy, teach their own children by their own actions and they encourage them to trust their own choices, they say.

“It’s a hard topic that one, how to build resilience in your children. I think it’s all about leading by example and trying to encourage them to be in touch with themselves,” Stephen explains.

“[As a parent] Accept and encourage and nurture, and love, adore - just love, love, love,” Dave finishes.

Stephen and his wife Justyna try to guide their children to trust their own instincts, rather than following societal rules on how to be polite.

“My wife is a clinical psychologist and she’s very much like, rather than telling your children ‘smile, say what you’re meant to say’, it’s like ‘think for yourself, don’t be rude, but you don’t have to be polite if you don’t want to’.”

“Encourage them so that it comes from them genuinely, so they trust themselves,” Stephen adds.

David agrees that teaching children through action is far more effective than teaching by words.

“They learn most by what you do rather than what you say so I think if we in our very nature think a little different or don’t follow the beaten track, or 'trust ourselves before I trust other people', they will possibly look at that… and make their own minds up.”

“One of them is just all into fairies and unicorns, so she’s in a different world and it’s a beautiful world. I love to go to her world more than this world. And then the other one is just having a great time; she’s just delighted with life in general. She’s 7. She’s all into gymnastics and everything.”

Neither twins read the news, and finding inner beauty and practising gratitude are very much at the centre of family life.

Stephen says: “One thing we’ve got in the habit of every night is, my wife is quite religious and we say a prayer in Polish, and then we’ll also say ten things we’re grateful for. It’s a simple thing but it’s a lovely habit, practising gratitude like that with our children. It’s really nice, you can see what’s important for the kids.”

On making children aware of their outer beauty, he says: “I’ve a friend, she’s Polish and I remember saying to her, you look gorgeous in that and ‘she was like, my parents never said that to me, to hear that makes me feel like crying’. So there are two sides to everything.”

“But I think the bits I think we can have an impact is on their confidence and awareness and knowing their own boundaries, to say ‘that’s inappropriate’. That type of thing.”

“I think it’s to try to give them enough skills and focus on what you can control because you never know what’s going to happen to anyone at any stage in life and we can’t control any of it, so there’s no point going around being fearful. “

From next September, David and Stephen will start a mission to speak to students at two schools every month to spread their love for fruit and vegetables.

Stephen explains: “We want to go into more Irish schools. Recently we were in a school in Tullamore and we were playing guess the vegetable and this type of thing. Then the 12-year-olds came in and we asked them 'what’s your favourite vegetable?' And a smart lad goes ‘chocolate’ and the next lad goes ‘sweets’, and immediately they just wanted to take the p**s out of us.”

“Then over the next half an hour they were fighting over tasting the fennel, they were robbing avocados. They were suddenly genuinely interested in fruit and veg.”

“So it was amazing to see the impact we could have.”

The twins' new book Recipes For Happiness is a celebration of health and happiness, they say.

“It's about making it quick, easy and accessible to eat more fruit and veg. Eight out of ten Irish people don’t eat enough fibre, and fibre is only found in fruit and veg, beans, legumes and whole grains, so this book is really focused on quick, simple, easy, accessible content.”

SuperValu are today celebrating five years of their Food Academy programme, which nurtures small businesses through their journey from start up to getting their products on SuperValu shelves. Since 2013, Food Academy graduates have sold €78 million worth of produce in SuperValu stores.

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