One day there’ll be nobody to nag about homework. ‘The little hands will be gone’

Are We There Yet? Parenting is saying the same things over and over again seven million times a day to a deeply apathetic audience.

“Three hours a day, those Chinese kids get, twice the global homework average.” A girl as doing her homework on a street in Chengdu, Sichuan province. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

“Do your homework.”

Really, parenting is just saying the same things over and over again seven million times a day to a deeply apathetic audience.

It’s less fun than it sounds.

“Do your homework.”


I might as well be talking to the wall, which I know is not an original thought. Thinking this makes me examine the wall behind my daughters’ heads where they are playing football with no intention of doing their homework.

The grey paint that seemed really cool when we painted it 8½ years ago, just before they were born, just seems dreary now.

We are being uncharacteristically hospitable and have people coming over this weekend having not reciprocated several lunch and dinner invitations. Now I see everything in the kitchen through the eyes of our guests. The dull paint. The badly hung pictures. The sad family calendar which says it’s December when it hasn’t been December in quite a while.

“Do your homework.”

I’ve gone and raised my voice now. The initial parenting plan was never (ever) to raise my voice. But that plan has long gone out the window.


The indifference radiating off my daughters is mesmerising.

Suddenly something homework related registers:

“Do they get homework in China?” one asks.

“I don’t know. I’d say so. Do your homework.”

“I don’t think they get homework in China. I wish we lived in China.”

I Google homework in China.

“Three hours a day. Those Chinese kids get twice the global homework average,” I tell my daughters who only have to labour over their Irish spellings and maths problems for half an hour each evening.

“Count yourself very lucky. And by the way, do your homework.”

They are sitting at the table now which is progress. There are books open. The pencil cases have been evacuated. It’s like a bomb exploded in the Smiggle shop.

Have you heard of the Smiggle shop? It’s a stationery emporium – the kind of stationery you could only dream of when you were a child – where parents go to spend the money they are supposed to be spending on healthy lunchbox options. They got Smiggle everything for Christmas.

“Do your ...”

“We’re doing it,” one of them sighs. “Yeah, Mum, you can stop saying it now,” says the other.


I don't mind admitting I find the homework coercion and the repeating things seven million times a day parts of parenting exhausting. At these moments I reach for the words of Subh Milis by Séamus Ó Néill, who I was introduced to by my wise friend Paul.

Bhí subh milis ar bháscrann an doras

ach mhúch mé an corraí

ionaim a d’éirigh

mar smaoinigh mé ar an lá

a bheadh an bháscrann glan

agus an lámh beag – ar iarraidh...”

(“There was jam on the door handle, But I suppressed the anger that rose up in me, Because I thought of the day that the door handle would be clean, And the little hand would be gone.”)

One day there’ll be nobody here to nag about homework.

“I love you two very much, you know,” I say in my softest voice.

“Yeah, yeah we know, Mum”.

I hope they do.

Some things to do this weekend that are a billion times better than homework . . .

A girl plays harp as part of Tradfest in Dublin

TradFest 2018

Ireland's largest festival of trad, folk and world music takes place from January 24th-28th (

Give Trad a Try

Have a go at playing traditional music on one of a range of instruments at this drop-in session at The Ark, Temple Bar, Dublin. Suitable for beginners, each participant will enjoy a 15-minute introduction to playing one traditional instrument and take part in a simple musical exercise on that instrument. Ages 6 and over.

When: Sat-Sun, January 27th-28th, 11am - 1pm

Where: The Ark, Temple Bar

Cost: Free

Contact:; 01-6707788

Children’s Open Trad Session

If you’re aged 6 or over and play an instrument, this is your chance to join a real trad session led by members of Ceoltóirí Chluain Tarbh. Children who can play a tune on the fiddle, bodhrán, harp, concertina, or any instrument are welcome to come along. Places will be allocated on the day. it’s a drop-in session and last entry at 1.45pm. Don’t forget your instruments.

When: Sunday, January 28th, 12.30pm-2pm

Where: The Ark, Temple Bar

Cost: Free

Contact:; 01-6707788

Have a ceili and say hello to Joyce: it's Tradfest at the National Wax Museum Plus

Céilí Fun National Wax Museum Plus

During TradFest the Irish Writer’s room at The National Wax Museum will be transformed into a traditional celebration of the céilí. There’ll be craic agus ceol and some Irish dancing lessons.

Where: The National Wax Museum, Westmoreland Street, Dublin

When: Saturday, January 27th, 12-5pm

Cost: Adults €15; students/seniors €13; children €10 (under 5s go free); family ticket €39. Céilí included in ticket price.


Genius Shorts – Humdrum & Heritage

Pop in to the Irish Family History Centre for this fun, musically themed arts and crafts workshop. Kids can craft their very own drum – personalised with the family crest. All participants will receive a goodie pack on the day to bring home. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Suitable for ages 7-10.

Where: The Irish Family History Centre, CHQ Building, Custom House Quay

When: Saturday 27th January 11am

Cost: €5 per child (adults free)

Contact: book tickets at; 01-671 0338