Did you take your kids to the local GAA club this week for mini-leagues or a match?
Maybe you dropped them off at soccer practice or the rugby club for their weekly training? Or perhaps they had a session at Cub Scouts?
If you were allowed, did you hang around to watch (or lend a hand) or did you simply scoot off back to your busy life, happy in the knowledge you'd one less child to worry about for an hour?
On Thursday evening my eldest went to our local GAA club, St Vincent's in Marino (yes – newly-crowned All-Ireland Club Champions!), where he had hurling training for an hour. On Friday night he spent 90 minutes at Beavers (the equivalent of mini Cub Scouts) and on Saturday he was back in St Vincent's for a hurling match while his little brother was trying to master a ball at mini-leagues a few pitches away. On Sunday morning, we headed off to Clontarf Rugby Club for an hour-long training session for both boys.
When I add up all this extra-curricular time, I can see that my kids are benefitting from the time and expertise of other parents for six-and-a-half hours collectively each week. That's split across several groups of parents who all have their own children, their own jobs, their own lives, yet have decided, selflessly, to engage in the community, support their kids and give something back.
I'm ashamed to admit that I am not yet a giver-back. My youngest is three, so still too young to participate in sports and group activities. She spends a lot of her weekends on the sidelines of a pitch, generally rolling in the mud or demanding treats. She's the reason I'm still a taker.
My husband, since September, has become a giver-back, joining the under-8s coaching squad at the rugby club. Aside from undertaking additional First Aid training and the occasional meeting, it doesn't require too much effort. He already spent every Sunday morning at the club any way, taking our son training, so moving onto the pitch wasn't a big deal. But the need to commit to being somewhere every Sunday morning at 9.45 has been a wake-up call for me.
Volunteer coaches and referees and scout leaders are the lifeblood of communities up and down the country. When we drop off our kids, few of us spare a thought for the tired mum or stressed-out dad who might really prefer to be panned out on the sofa or back in bed, rather than babysitting our rambunctious little darlings for an hour.
And what about the parents' committees, the ones who brainstorm in the cold school hall after dark while we're all cosy at home watching box sets on our sofas? The ones who volunteer to pour the tea and serve the biscuits at special school events? The ones who work away behind the scenes arranging fundraisers to improve the facilities at our kids' schools? They too have kids and lives and favourite box sets.
Sure, some people love organising, and get a genuine kick from helping out, but show me a parent who isn't busy all the time. You'll find GPs, senior counsel and mums- and dads-of-five volunteering at my GAA club. They may be busy as hell but they're all givers.
I'm a taker and my excuse may be poor, but it is temporary. What about you? If you're a taker too, what's your excuse?