Subscriber OnlyYour Family

‘I’m a proud Dub but I dread when my teens go into town’

Jen Hogan: My mother is too nervous to walk around the part of Dublin she’s from

I don’t consider myself a nervous parent. I know my own parents certainly don’t believe me to be, considering me instead to be of the more horizontal variety – far more horizontal than I actually am. My teens believe me to be overprotective and unreasonable – I can live with that. The eldest reckons there were far stricter rules for her. And the younger kids wonder if I really could beat John Cena in an arm wrestle as I’ve repeatedly claimed. Such is the joy of not having reached the eye-rolling phase with them yet.

But all, to varying degrees, feed off my reaction to things, so it’s something I’ve tried to be especially mindful of over the years, particularly when it comes to the things I am actually nervous about. Like a deeply held irrational fear that if I was to take a trip abroad with my husband without my children, the plane might crash leaving my children orphans. And who’d take care of them all? So we haven’t gone abroad without them, and on the rare occasion it has come up for discussion, I’ve mentioned that we’d probably have to take two separate flights – a bit like the British royals – just in case. But it hasn’t been an issue anyway, as we’ve never got past the discussion, because who’d take care of them all?

“When did you start being afraid of rollercoasters, mum?” one of the younger children asked me recently. It wasn’t as random a question as might first appear. He’s been at me to go on a rollercoaster with him for months. But it’s not happening. I prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground, living vicariously through my rollercoaster-loving offspring. This makes me a “scaredy-cat”, allegedly. I’m okay with that. I can avoid rollercoasters to my heart’s content. It’s the other parts, which come with children growing up, that I can’t avoid.

Like the trepidation I feel about my older children going on holiday without me. One has just returned from “unbearable heat”, but the reprieve is short-lived as another prepares to set off shortly with his friends. I want them to have fun and enjoy a life that’s not half-lived, so I try not to let on. But, you know, the fear.


Or the worry when I see what a dangerous place our city has become, in spite of claims to the contrary by our politicians. Where random attacks reported in the media are utterly shocking, but no longer surprising. I dread when the teens say they’re going into town for the day. I stay awake until the small hours when the older ones go out for the night.

Violence on the streets of Dublin: is anyone in charge?

Listen | 34:15

And I know I’m not alone in these worries. “I’m a Dub, love Dublin, but it’s become a scarier place for adults and kids,” one mother replied when I asked parents how they feel about their children going into Dublin city centre.

Another parent said she has a “19-year-old son. [Worried] sick when he goes out with mates after college.” While one added: “My son is 23 and I dread it for nights out.”

“Don’t like town any more. Very nervous. Definitely feels unsafe [for] 16- and 18-year-old girls” were the words of another concerned parent.

“No teens [allowed] to the city centre without adults,” one parent ruled.

“My 15-year-old now wants to go in to hang around. On edge til she’s home,” was the worried reply of another.

There was talk of drugs and antisocial behaviour, and a wariness of anti-immigrant protests and what they might mean for children’s wonderfully diverse friendship groups. A normal trip to town that many of us remember with our own teenage friends, or fun nights out, is taking on a very different and serious level of worry for today’s parents.

For me as a child and teenager, the city centre was very much part of life. My mother is from the north inner city. My first home was there. Even when we moved to Tallaght, where I grew up, we made the weekly trip as children into town to visit my grandparents. My grandad would caution my mam about minding her handbag and not leaving it too late to head to the bus stop for home, because that’s what dads do. But we weren’t scared.

Cautious, but not scared.

These days, she’s too nervous to walk around the part of Dublin she’s from.

And I, a proud Dub, who loved spending time in town throughout my youth and adulthood (though it was not without incident itself), find myself secretly hoping my kids won’t have quite the same grá for the city centre I once did. And even questioning if maybe, feeding off my nervousness around this, this might not be a bad thing, for once.