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‘Again, my pesky children failed to tell tales on their friends to their parents’

Jen Hogan: ‘Great playdate, totally uneventful,’ I said enthusiastically at pick-up time, my choked-up voice barely giving away anything

Some things are just uniquely and inherently Irish. Talking about the weather to anyone in the street that we vaguely recognise, is one of them. It’s almost a public service duty, we feel.

How else can we be certain that the rain-soaked person we’ve just met realises that it’s lashing? Or indeed that you’d be sick of this weather?

The inability to take a compliment is another. In fact, should someone take a compliment at face value or show any acceptance of a compliment without some automatic self-deprecating put down, there is a distinct possibility that the compliment giver will decide instead that the person they have just complimented, is completely up themselves.

It may, of course, not actually be the case, but we operate off this presumption.

Borne perhaps of childhood memories of bumping into your mother’s friend, or nemesis, while dressed in your best and scrubbed to within an inch of your life only for your mother to apologise for the state of herself and her children.

And then there is the great all-the-relatives-are-coming-for-the-communion-tomorrow-and-my-house-is-a-tip panic clean that happens every time there’s a communion in your house the next day. And so it came to pass that the great all-the-relatives-are-coming-for-the-communion-tomorrow-and my-house-is-a-tip panic clean happened last week. And as well as baking holy buns, saying all the prayers and lighting all the candles in the hope the weather might be more accommodating of the bouncy castle I had booked (because what’s an a la carte Catholic without a bouncy castle, I hear you cry), I realised that I would need to buy some garden furniture, so the visiting relatives would have somewhere to sit on the sunny day that all those candles were bound to ensure. And I needed to buy garden furniture in the first place because there’d been an incident some time ago that I had chickened out of handling, in pure Irish style.

It went a bit like this.

Parents turn up to collect the child who had been at my house: “Ah how did it go?”

Me, thinking of my garden furniture that had been broken beyond repair: “Absolutely great. Not a bother on them at all,” I said (secretly wishing that my child would rat out their friend to their parent).

And it reminded me of that time, some years earlier, I’d just replaced my child’s iPad and when it was less than 24 hours old his pal dropped a heavy lamp on it, resigning it to the digital device graveyard. Again, my pesky children failed to tell tales on their friends to their parents.

“Great playdate, totally uneventful,” I said enthusiastically at pickup time, my choked-up voice barely giving away anything.

And it brought to mind another occasion years before that, when a visiting child forced the lock on my window, rendering it unusable, a fact I only discovered at about midnight, when the only solution was a late night and very costly locksmith call-out charge. At a time when I could least afford it. N’er a word did my child breathe to that friend’s parents.

I said it to my own friend on a walk one day, after I’d been garden furniture shopping for the communion.

“Would you have mentioned it to the parent?” I asked curiously.

“Oh my God, was it my child?!” she replied in horror. Having confirmed it absolutely wasn’t and that this wasn’t a recent occurrence, she said, “yeah I probably would”.

I looked at her with complete admiration and awe, which only grew when we encountered some people ahead of us on our walk whose hyper dogs were off-lead. She knew it would be problematic for her dog. It was also problematic for her friend who in spite of owning a dog, is quite nervous of other dogs.

“Can you put your dogs on leads, please?” she commanded authoritatively to these strangers, like an absolute legend, rather than just taking the obvious option of turning around and going back the way we came, thereby doubling the distance.

I did my bit too in fairness, it should be said. I kept an eye out for treacherous pigeons.

Anyhow, the communion was a great and a very special day. And after everyone had gone home, the glorious sun had retreated and the smallest boy had finally given way to exhausted slumber, I sat on my new garden furniture and chatted with my eldest.

Amazingly, she had other memories of awkward situations I’d hoped to avoid through the telltale powers that I knew my children possessed. “I mean you were all quick enough to rat out your siblings at the first opportunity,” I lamented. “Why not your friends?”

“Maybe it was up to the adult to handle the situation,” she suggested.

She has a point I suppose. But how terribly un-Irish.

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