‘I thought we’d agreed to write Honor off . . . that we’d try for another baby and hope the next one is less of a bitch’


Honor takes one look at what I’m wearing and she laughs. “So,” she goes, “what time is the anti-homophobia rally?”

All I’m wearing, bear in mind, is beige chinos and my Ireland training top, but she has me suddenly paranoid. I’m standing in front of the mirror, going, “Is the top too tight? Is that what you’re saying?”

Except she just laughs – eight years of age – then goes back to her iPhone.

Sorcha’s like, “Honor, put your breakfast dishes into the dishwasher.”

And Honor looks up in, like, total shock and goes, “Excuse me?”

In her defence, I should point out that it is usually Sorcha’s job?

“Put your breakfast dishes into the dishwasher,” Sorcha goes, “or there’ll be no Dundrum this morning.”

Honor picks up her bowl and carries it to the dishwasher. She goes, “I should ring social services and report you,” but then she puts the bowl in the dishwasher, making sure to really slam it closed. Then she goes upstairs to get ready.

I turn around to Sorcha and I go, “Was that really necessary?”

She’s there, “Yes, Ross, it was necessary. I’ve just been reading this – oh my God – amazing book about unspoiling your children.”

“Unspoiling them? I thought we’d kind of agreed to write Honor off. I thought, down the line, we’d maybe try for another baby and hope the next one is less of a bitch. Or a bastard, if it’s a boy.”

She gives me a look. You know the look I’m talking about.

“We are not writing our daughter off,” she goes. “This book was written by a girl who was a year ahead of me in Mount Anville. A lot of what she says makes – oh my God – sense?”

She hands it to me. It’s like, Unspoiling Your Children by Ealga Garvey. I’m pretty sure I was with an Ealga Garvey back in the day.

I turn the book over and there’s an author photo in the bottom right hand corner. Yeah, it’s her alright. And she’s got little boys. Not mine, in case that’s where you think this story is going, because these two are, like, four and six – something like that – and they’ve got blond hair, cut in the pudding bowl style.

“Look at her little boys,” Sorcha goes. “Sam and Jack. Aren’t they so gorgeous?”

I pull a face – unimpressed. “It’s a photograph, Sorcha. They could be little dickheads. All I’m saying is there’s no actual proof.”

And they’re wearing turtlenecks, I notice. There’s no saying how that might affect them in later life.

“The point that Ealga makes,” Sorcha goes, “is that it’s never too late to undo the damage you’ve done by spoiling your children. It’s just a matter of introducing new rules and behaviours. Look at the names of some of the chapters, Ross. Stop Apologising for Disappointments. Don’t Debate Your House Rules. Manage Meltdowns. Teach Your Children the Lost Art of Patience. Give Encouragement Instead of Gifts . . . ”

I’m there, “Yeah, no, but is it not easier all round to just give in to your kids?”

“No,” she goes, “because then they grow into adults with a sense of entitlement, thinking the entire world revolves around them.”

When did that suddenly become a bad thing?

Honor is standing at the kitchen door. She’s there, “Are we going or not?” and we follow her out to the cor.

We’re not in Dundrum five minutes before Sorcha’s new parenting model – as she calls it – is put to the test. Honor goes, “I need new Uggs,” and she morches off in the direction of BT2. A few seconds later, she turns around, when she realises that we’re not actually with her?

Sorcha’s like, “You got new Uggs for Christmas, Honor.”

“But they got wet,” Honor goes. “Er, they’re ruined?”

“They’re not ruined. There’s a tiny water stain on them. Buying you a new pair would be an indulgence. And holding off on indulgences is how we develop self-discipline and how we learn to place a higher value on what we actually do receive?”

“Is she focking serious?” Honor goes.

I’m a little bit ashamed of this, but, behind Sorcha’s back, I twirl my finger around my temple, just to try to let Honor know where I stand?

Sorcha’s there, “Honor, while I recognize that you’re disappointed – and I empathise with those feelings? – our house rules are not something that we debate.”

Books are a bad thing in my experience. I’d nearly ban them.

Predictably enough, Honor has one of her world famous shit-fits on the spot. She sits down on the ground and storts screaming her literally lungs out. She’s going, “I hate you! I hate you! You’re not my actual mother!”

And Sorcha – this is unbelievable – goes, “Ross, I have to go to House of Fraser. Manage her meltdown, will you? What it says in the book is don’t engage. Be strong and wait it out.”

Which is easy for her to say. She focks off and leaves me with this kid who’s sitting on the ground – people are having to walk around her – and screaming insults about me and her mother, including one or two comments about my rugby, which hurt, even though I try not to let them.

Eventually, I go, “Okay, you can have the boots!” and, like magic, the crying suddenly stops. “We just have to be clever about it.”

She’s like, “What the fock is wrong with that woman?”

I’m there, “It’s just a load of crazy stuff she’s got into her head by unfortunately reading. Come on, Honor, you know what she’s like with her fads. Remember that time she had us praying to Holy God every night to say thank you for all the things we had in life? How long did that last?”

“Too long.”

“But then it was suddenly forgotten, wasn’t it? This will be the same.”

“I want those boots.”

“I’ll come back up here tonight and get you the boots. Then we’ll throw out your old ones and pretend the new ones are the old ones. Like I said, you’ve got to be clever.”

She goes, “Thanks, Dad,” and she gives me the most unbelievable smile, even though it’s probably fake.

And I think to myself, now that is called parenting. And you won’t find out how to do it in a manual.

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