Right now, if I was to name the person I identify with most in the universe, it would have to be Mel Gibson’s William Wallace. You know – the lad with the blue and white face from Braveheart. Can you recall the scene where there’s an entire army rushing towards his band of Scots, wielding swords and looking fierce and riding horses – and he keeps his hand out, growling ‘HOLD, HOLD, HOLD’ a lot? That’s me. I think that’s a lot of us in a similar position at the moment. Trying to hold everything back and maintain some bit of control as the world hurls everything it’s got directly at us.
And so to this week’s nightmare, where all parents are now teachers. And I don’t mean in the life skills, faff about making buns together way – I mean stuff they may need to get them into actual college. Like my old pals Irish and mathematics, and spelling without the aid of spellcheck.
Let’s all agree that, no matter what your circumstances, this home-school malarky is too much. It’s too much! The last straw in terms of everyone’s sanity. And let me add that I’ve been onto friends, friends who are also attempting to homeschool, friends who are capable and clever. Everybody is struggling and nobody feels they are doing a good job.
So, I was thinking about something that could afford us parents – Mams and Dads alike – a bit of inspiration. And so it is with great excitement I remind you of 1980s Mammy, my parenting inspo a lot of the time if I’m honest. 1980s Mammy refers to a culmination of many of the parents I knew growing up in the eighties in Ireland. I was three entering that decade and a teenager by it’s end so it’s very safe to say that I am a true child of the decade that brought us Bananarama, hair crimping and the Wham bar. 1980s Mammy has a ‘no nonsense’ approach to life and we can learn a lot from her.
In the world of 1980s Mammy there are no ‘snacks’, just a solid routine of three meals around which children can secretly forage away themselves for food while 1980s Mammy is out at the clothes line or some such. Every child is responsible for his / her own homework and if it’s not done, that’s 1980s teacher’s problem – Mammy has enough to be doing. And another thing – just because Sandra over the road has an iPad for her homework doesn’t mean you need one. iPads, and the like, don’t grow on trees. Every child must spend at least forty per cent of the day amusing themselves outside and if eighty per cent of that time is spent pining at the back door, so be it.
Like a lot of parents who are currently attempting to ‘parent from work’, as a friend cleverly put it earlier this week, 1980s Mammy is busy so she knows how to prioritise. Completely free of any social media pressure whatsoever, she is happy to do the important stuff and keep everything else simple. Lunches of tomato or banana sandwiches and dinners of crispy pancakes or fish fingers are more than acceptable. And there’s no running rings around fussy eaters – they are invited to ‘like it or lump it’. As nobody’s getting out and about, a bath once a fortnight is more than enough (if not erring on the ‘clucky’ side) and she’s not willing to lose her mind over the tidiness of the house. All markers, non-washable paints and playdoh entering the house can go directly in the bin and apart from that, let’s focus on keeping everyone alive over watering one’s succulents.
1980s Mammy isn’t here to keep everyone hydrated and entertained. She’s here to make sure you don’t burn yourself or fall out of a window. And if, as a child, you do anything in the realm of almost getting yourself killed (like when my cousins and I went bare-back riding a horse that lived behind their house and she bucked us off) the golden rule is, ‘Don’t tell Mam’! She has enough on her plate.
I know that as a parent I take a lot of stuff on. The great thing about 1980s Mammy is that she is just like us, but with the added advantage of most likely being raised through the 1950s and 60s when life was tougher, far from perfect and a lot less controlled. She learned from that. Now that we’re in the middle of tougher times, (reminder! – a global pandemic!), we can learn and evolve too. We can’t control everything, nor should we strive to. Right now isn’t about perfection – it’s about survival.
So, when you need a moment, don’t feel guilty about throwing on PJ Masks or Peppa. In the 1980s children were watching Matlock and Sons & Daughters and everyone involved turned out absolutely fine and, mostly, trauma free.
Glass of Blue Nun anyone?