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Ten ways my children have ‘let me down’

Youngsters have a knack for foiling their parents’ grandest plans and notions

I was recounting the story recently of how, one afternoon, I was collecting the toddler from creche and, as she approached the glass door, I got down on my hunkers, stretched my arms out expectantly and waited for her to run to me. But, instead of running, she stood stock-still and stared at me blankly like she’d never seen me before in her life – leaving me sitting there like an open-armed dope.

The person I was telling this to listened to my sorry tale and advised: “You should never do something like that in public. Kids will always let you down.”

The idea that a toddler could in any way let you down seemed hilarious to me, but it did make me think about how my children have “let me down” in the past three years.

Let me count the ways:



The most egregious was on a routine trip to the dentist. I can’t now think why I decided to bring the pair of them (a toddler and an infant baby) for a dental check-up other than I got it into my head that they should go, so we did. At €20 each, it was pretty good value even though in the baby’s case, that worked out at €5 per tooth.

The appointment had been going well by my metrics: we arrived on time and nobody was crying. You do, however, suddenly notice, when someone else is checking them, up close and personal, that your kids aren’t as clean as you let them pass for at home but I blocked this observation out and instead accepted the praise from the dentist and nurse on how well everyone was doing.

The dentist was checking the baby’s teeth and at the same time telling me how a low-sugar diet at their age is more important than brushing. I was nodding along to let her know that I understood and was right in the middle of saying, “oh, that’s fine because they never have sugar” when the dentist (fiddling around in the baby’s mouth now) said: “What’s this? There’s something stuck in her mouth.” Then out of her mouth, medical tweezers in hand, the dentist pulled . . . a Twix wrapper. A Celebrations-sized Twix wrapper but distinctly Twix to everyone present, nonetheless.

The baby was then at the height of her hoovering-things-up-as-she-saw-them phase and had clearly been storing it in her cheek like a little hamster, just waiting for her mother to say something as stupid as “Oh my children would never touch sugar” before she revealed her stash.


When you’re the primary carer for your kid for a whole year: you’ve taken time out of your career, you’re feeding them from your own body, you don’t remember the last time you had a full night’s sleep, then they say their first word and it’s “Dada”. (Don’t mind me crying over here in the corner, I think it’s just the exhaustion.)


Every doctor appointment I’ve ever brought them to they are miraculously cured and showing no symptoms by the time I get there, making me look like an absolute mug.


When you go to the effort of making them a delicious and nutritious meal. You know it’s nutritious because you made it from the toddler-specific celebrity cookbook that you bought. Then your toddler refuses to touch it and the baby turns it upside down on the floor. You look up the celebrity chef and they’ve posted a video of their baby not only eating the same meal but their toddler actually helping to prepare it – sitting up on the counter right beside the hot cooker, happily chopping onions with a restaurant-grade knife. You lower your phone to see your children eating grapes and toast with chocolate spread for the fifth day that week. You start referring to chocolate spread as “a nut butter” to make yourself feel better.


At any playgroup or play date, they absolutely never play with the toys or listen to the music or engage with whatever activity is being specifically put on to entertain them. Oh no. Straight for the fire extinguishers or the emergency door or the radiator taps or every other kid’s sippy cup or any phone or hot coffee that happens to be left down.


I was telling my mother how the baby recognises her own name. To demonstrate, I called out her name and she turned around. Then my mother said “Esmerelda!” (not the child’s name but she turned around) and then “Concepta!” (also not the child’s name but again she looked up). Never show off your kid’s tricks. Not only will they (I guarantee you) let you down by refusing to perform, but I can doubly guarantee you that Uncle Shane or Grand Aunt Bridie have less than zero interest in hearing what the cow says or seeing your child correctly locate his own head. If anything, you’re letting yourself down.


On a cold day when they refuse to wear their coat/hat/gloves: you decide to pick your battles and it’s not this one, so you have to spend the whole outing pretending to ask them to put their coat on so that other parents know you’ve tried but sometimes you don’t get in there first and you have to just grin and bear it while strangers speak directly to the child in a passive aggressive baby voice: “Oh you’re brave out without your hat! You must be frozen”. Here’s the hat Phyllis, you’re welcome to put it on her and we’ll see how that goes for you.


The kids the three-year-old is making friends with in school are not corresponding with the parents that I’m gravitating towards. I wish she had better taste in people because it could be very handy.


I rarely dress the girls in dresses. It’s not so much a point of principle, it’s just that jeans and jumpers are so easy and when you see your two-year-old tripping over their own skirt as they climb and jump about in the playground, the idea of wearing clothes that literally limit their movements seems a bit silly.

However, one Sunday, we were visiting grandparents and I took a notion that the toddler would wear a dress. And not just any dress but that sort of ‘timeless’ one (but timeless only because people keep trying to stay in the past). You know the one: smocked with maybe a floral pattern and definitely a white Peter Pan collar. Princess Charlotte would wear it, with a pair of Mary Jane’s and white frilly ankle socks. Add a sepia filter and it could be a picture of your mother or grandmother at the same age.

The toddler looked the part and as she headed out, asked me if she could wear a hairband. I was thrilled this was all going so well! Then she took the hairband and placed it round her head, Rambo-style, and took off down the garden – completely ruining the minor European royalty aesthetic I’d been going for.


One particularly sunny Friday, I decided I’d treat the toddler to an early break from preschool, thinking we could all hang out and be merry in the back garden. I picked her up and when we got into the car, she cried. She cried because she wanted to go back to school and she cried the whole way home. Well, half the way home because at that point on the road, I stopped and asked her if she really wanted to go back and she did, so I turned the car around to drop her back. I pulled up at the school, fully intent on going in and saying “Sorry, she actually likes it better here. Can you take her?” when I suddenly got a grip, reminded myself that I’m the one in charge and we were going home and we were going to have! a! good! time!