‘I sat and cried at the kitchen table thinking of Simon Fitzmaurice’

Having children around is a great reminder of the life-enhancing mantras you forget as an adult

Children explore artefacts at the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny.

Children explore artefacts at the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny.

 

How do I annoy my children? Here’s a typical example: After a trip away recently, we were driving back home along the motorway. My daughters were grimly facing into another week of school.

“Why do we have to go to school?” said one. “Why was school even invented?” said the other. Coming as I do from the School For Irritating Parents, I immediately thought of Malala Yousafzai, who five years ago was shot in the head for going to school in Pakistan, in defiance of the Taliban.

“Have you ever heard of Malala?” I said, trying to drown out the school-related whining. Quicker than you could say Mum, You’re Such A Headwreck, I had Malala’s Nobel prize-winner speech blaring out of the car speaker.

There were loud complaints initially, but eventually a thoughtful silence descended. Only Malala’s voice could be heard as we crawled along the M50. She was speaking about the 66 million girls around the world who are deprived of education.

“Sometimes people like to ask me why should girls go to school, why is it important for them. But I think the more important question is why shouldn’t they, why shouldn’t they have this right to go to school?

“One of my very good school friends, the same age as me, who had always been a bold and confident girl, dreamed of becoming a doctor. But her dream remained a dream. At the age of 12, she was forced to get married. And then soon she had a son, she had a child when she herself was still a child – only 14. I know that she could have been a very good doctor. But she couldn’t . . . because she was a girl. I will continue this fight until I see every child, every child in school.”

They haven’t complained (much) about going to school since. And I remain as irritating as ever.

Simon Fitzmaurice

Last week, my friend the filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice died. He had motor neuron disease. He was a beautiful, talented man. I sat and cried at the kitchen table while the children complained about the bits of their Halloween costumes that had gone missing.

And I did that annoying thing. Told them about how life is precious. That we should focus on all we do have, rather than the things we don’t. And I realised as I spoke that a huge part of being around children is having the chance to remind yourself of the messages and mantras you forget so easily as an adult. We only have one wild and precious life. Enjoy yourselves this weekend.

Go for a swim: the Irish Sea/Atlantic Ocean/lakes/rivers

Author Ruth Fitzmaurice at Ladies Cove in Greystones. “You might not always like the person who goes in the water, but you always like the person who comes out.” Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Ruth Fitzmaurice at Ladies Cove Greystones. “You might not always like the person who goes in the water, but you always like the person who comes out.” Photograph Nick Bradshaw

I know it’s November but bear with me. Last summer in the west, something (my 40s?) came over me and for the first time in my insecure life I didn’t care who saw me in my togs.

We must have swum as a family in every beach and watery spot in Co Clare – from Spanish Point to the picturesque pier at Linnane's bar and seafood restaurant in New Quay. My most memorable swim was at Fanore, a place where I nearly drowned more than 30 years ago. So yes it’s cold, and yes, it might seem like the last thing you want to do but as Simon’s wife, Ruth Fitzmaurice, says: “You might not like the person who goes into the water, but you always like the person who comes out.” Stay safe, wherever you decide to dip your toes in the water. (We’re off to the Ladies Shelter at Dollymount Strand)

When: whenever you like, weather permitting.
Age: any age as long as you can swim.
Cost: free.
Contact: your inner mermaid.

The Natural History Museum, Dublin: open day

Happy Birthday to one of my favourite attractions in Dublin, the Dead Zoo, which celebrates its 160th birthday this weekend. To celebrate, there’s an open day where children can meet a range of scientists from the museum and from organisations that add and research the collections and contribute to science in Ireland. I’m reliably informed there will also be balloons and cupcakes. No booking required.

When: from 10am-4pm, Saturday, November 4th.
Where: Natural History Museum, Merrion Square, Dublin.
Cost: free.
Contact: 01 677 7444

Medieval Mile Museum, Kilkenny

Opened earlier this year, I love the sound of this museum in the former St Mary’s Church. The 13th-century church in Kilkenny in the centre of the city’s ‘Medieval Mile’ has been converted into a modern museum with uncovered artefacts, medieval treasures and graveyard. In case you didn’t know, the Medieval Mile starts at Kilkenny Castle and goes down to St Canice’s Cathedral, where there’s a round tower from the 9th century. The museum has loads of interactive elements: giant touch-screen long table – nicknamed the Star Wars table – and the graveyard outside is a big hit with children. Last year, three bodies were dug up and everyone wants to know where the bones are. (They’ll be in the museum soon).

When: November 4th and 5th.
Ages: all ages
Cost: adults €7, children €3. Under sixes are free. Family of four self-guided €15. Guided tour €25.
Contact: 056 781 7022

Dublin Book Festival, Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

I am chairing a talk on parenting at the Dublin Book Festival on Sunday November 5th at 1.30pm but there is also plenty to keep the children entertained all weekend. We are a competitive family so we’ve got our eyes on the Children’s Treasure Hunt, with clues all around Temple Bar. You can even dress up if you fancy it and give that Halloween outfit another day. (There’s a prize for the best costume)

When: 12pm-4pm, Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th November.
Where: Children’s Area, Smock Alley Theatre.
Cost: free.
Contact: 01 677 0014; dublinbookfestival.com. No booking required, just drop in.

  • Email with tips about upcoming family friendly events and things to do with your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews or ones you’ve borrowed to arewethereyet@irishtimes.com or find me on twitter @roisiningle
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