Out of breath on Sunday, I tried to keep up with The Little Fella, who was giving me no quarter on my birthday.
Put it down to birthday fatigue, the few drinks I had the night before to celebrate and just old age, I found myself in awe at the boundless energy of the 5-year-old, positively bounding along in front of me as we took in a new riverwalk in our home town. Three birthdays in one week is a lot of cake, planning and more cake. If only there was a guide somewhere to direct parents how to keep up with the demands of children. That makes my two sound spoiled, (they're not, completely!), but there are times when you look at the amount of toys and presents they get and just wonder was it always thus.
So once again my birthday was an after-thought, my father sent cards for the children and called to make sure I got them on my birthday, with narry a word about me. He seemed very embarrassed when I reminded him, but I was not to be consoled.
The Sunday sojourn on a beautiful autumn afternoon was just what the doctor ordered for all three of us. Exercise, in whatever guise you do it, is always worthwhile and in a country like ours, infinitely rewarding. Maybe it was the sugar high from ingesting several buns, but The Little Fella declared: 'This is the best day ever!' as he ran me ragged along the river front. His sister was equally impressed describing our hometown as 'absolute paradise'. Through the eyes of a child is a great way to see!
The forward looking government in its wisdom recently introduced PE as a Leaving Cert exam in scores of schools across the country. Great!
I, for one, was never the most athletic, but PE class of five, or was it seven-a-side still loom large in my memory, as the class meant escape from the grey, black and white world of textbooks, invariably across the rain slicked car park, to our PE hall. Or better still, on our bikes up to a GAA pitch a mile on the other side of town, for a lung bursting kick around.
The Whirlwind Wonder and The Little Fella will, in all likelihood, be studying in ways completely different to my generation when they hit the heights of secondary school, or even late primary school classes. Education is changing and so is how it is taught and assessed and that's for the good. There needs to be more emphasis on developing real world skills and engendering confidence, pride and social skills, while nurturing positive mental health, inclusivity and tolerance. I met a man at the local park after finally catching up with the Little Fella and he was lamenting how boys these days are growing up with no backbone. He went further than that and suggested that Irish boys need to serve one or two years with the army. Considering the row over poor wages within the Irish Army I'm not sure his plan will be successful. He also spoke with glowing admiration about how great Russian men are, how tough and strong and well, like Vladimir Putin, they can be. I have seldom been in a conversation with someone who I was so diametrically opposite with.
I'm all for including PE on the curriculum, but am now, more than ever, convinced of the need for children to be educated in world and Irish history.
The Government's decision to excise History from the Junior Cert curriculum ranks among its worst. In trying to tackle obesity, the fat facts of history may be lost and Leo Varadkar, runner that he is, should know that you can't have your cake and eat it. Even if it's your birthday!