Something I keep forgetting is that it takes my kids a little bit of time to adjust on any given occasion – holidays, new places, days out. They need a few minutes or a few hours to work out that expectations and reality aren’t exactly the same – and it can go either way; sometimes reality is greater than expectation, but as long as it’s different, there’s a period of adjustment. They need to get their bearings.
So it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that today’s trip to the 1916 Rising Centenary celebrations in Dublin city centre started badly. One child was very upset when she realised I’d brought the wrong jacket (and to be fair, it was freezing when we arrived – much colder than our sunny driveway half an hour earlier, when I’d made the executive decisions that a light jacket was enough). One child was upset about a burst balloon, shortly after we arrived in Merrion Square. One child stood on another child’s foot (by accident) causing tears, just after this photo was taken.
Two children liked the disco but one found it too loud. One child liked the silent disco, the other two were confused. One child queued for a kite making kit but complained when it broke. My husband and I looked at one another and wondered why go anywhere at all.
Then we got to the play tent – Lego, Sticlebricks, Connect 4 and Hula Hoops – smiles all round. Not necessarily because that’s what they desperately wanted to do I think, but because they’d settled in and got their bearings.
Then hunger beckoned, and we decided to walk towards Grafton Street. The two girls were happy to skip along, holding my hands, marvelling at everything they saw en route. The small boy not so much. He didn’t want to leave Merrion Square, he didn’t want to walk, he didn’t want to go anywhere.
My ever-patient husband carried and cajoled him all the way, but by the time we put our heads in the first of many packed cafés and restaurants, the four-year-old was roaring crying. We kept going, kept cajoling, kept looking for somewhere to eat; running out of ideas, energy and the will to keep going.
We ended up on Fade Street, and walked up to Market Bar. Surely somewhere so big would have a table for four quite nice, calm people and one roaring preschooler?
There was a sign on the door. They weren’t opening until two o’clock. Panic. I looked at my phone – it was 1.59 – saved! In we went, ordered as quickly as we could, and watched as the small boy devoured his sausages and pasta (his preferred off-menu combination), many patatas bravas from everyone else, and all of the bread that came with my prawn pil pil.
“Ah,” I said to my husband. “He was hungry.” Then we remembered that he’d only had a bit of toast for breakfast. You’d think we’d know better after eight years as parents – that we’d recognise the signs. I guess we’re still getting our bearings too.
Once fed, everyone was happier, and we made our way up to St Stephen’s Green. There were borders to walk, secret passageways to explore, and a brass band playing in the band stand – all under glorious Easter Monday sunshine.
We were thinking about leaving, when we came across the Wishing Trees. Blue and yellow wishes fluttering from branches – we had to stop to read:
“I wish for world peace, happiness for everyone, and to write a bestseller”
“I wish for a unicorn”
“I wish vegetables were illegal”
“I wish I was an elf”
and my favourite:
“I wish there was no scool”
We found a pen, and my kids took their turn too. One wished for a rabbit, one for sweets, and one “to be a grown-up so that I am allowed to touch plugs, so that I can make a machine”.
Then after a look at the ducks, and some Tango dancers, it really was time to go.
My kids are the kings and queens of pronouncing everything and anything the best day ever. No matter how inauspicious the start or mediocre the middle or low-key the end, it’s almost aways the best day ever. They have an enviable ability to forget the arguments, the queues, the cold, the meltdowns, and only remember the best bits. And for once, I’d have to agree. It was the best day ever. Once we’d got our bearings of course.