Aisling Marron: A memorable moment with ‘my two best girls’

After listening to a podcast, I decided I would call my baby ‘my little baby’ at all times

“The first one’s always a mess. Don’t worry about it, the next one will be fine,” I reassured my husband. I thought it was obvious that I was talking about pancakes, given he was standing over the frying pan with a jug of batter in his hand, but for some reason he thought I was talking about our children.

It would be preferable if we could avoid messing up the first one and the second one (now talking about the children). But how do you do that?

I hadn't realised that I harboured any regrets in this regard; it wasn't something I ever thought about day to day

If an aim of parenting is to avoid passing your issues on to the next generation, I have already failed. Right off the bat. See, I had an obsession as a child with being a flower girl and this great honour was tragically never bestowed upon me.

I hadn’t realised that I harboured any regrets in this regard; it wasn’t something I ever thought about day to day. So then, when my brother and his girlfriend announced their engagement, why was my immediate reaction to tell them what great flower girls my two girls would make? In case their brains hadn’t caught up as far as mine had already raced on, I pointed out that the baby would definitely be able to walk by the time of the wedding and that the toddler was already very good at walking.


Reading the surprised looks on their faces, I realised I was coming off a bit unhinged. But this didn’t put me off and I was actively encouraged by my mother who came up with a plan. She suggested I dress the girls in white for the engagement party so that the happy couple could see how well it suited them. She told me she’d also have a basket of petals ready and would set the toddler casually scattering them about.

When the party eventually rolled around, we had completely forgotten our cunning plan. I was reminded of it only when I spotted the toddler entertaining herself by gathering up discarded bottle tops and throwing them around the garden. It was quite a jarring scene and not at all the cute and angelic image I’d been aiming for.

As well as flower girl, I had a similar desire to be a ball girl at Wimbledon. Never having played a game of tennis in my life was only a minor detail. I needed to be a ball girl for the same reason I needed to be a flower girl: the French plait.

If you think the above dreams were lacking in their ambition, lower your expectations again for my other childhood fantasy, which was to break a leg. I longed and longed for it. I never thought about how it might occur or the physical pain and inconvenience involved. As I saw it, breaking a leg was terribly glamorous. The advantages would be many and included:

1) I would get crutches (tremendous fun).

2) I would get attention at school. Even the older girls would bring themselves to talk to a younger kid that had crutches. (I would enjoy this even though I knew they were probably just looking for a go of the crutches).

3) I would get out of Irish dancing for eight weeks.

While pregnant with my second child, I was listening to an episode of The Guilty Feminist podcast where host, Deborah Frances-White, recalled one of her earliest memories. She was in a toy shop with her parents and seeing she had an interest in one particular toy, her mother asked, “Would my little girl like that?” Frances-White explained that the memory stuck out for her because of the feeling of belonging created by the use of the word “my”.

We don't always know what things we say are messing them up or bolstering them up

It was a touching story and Marian Keyes, one of the guests on the podcast, was so overcome with emotion on hearing it that she started to cry. Then most of the other guests started to cry. Then I, standing in my Dublin kitchen, started to cry. I decided at that moment that I would make sure to call my baby "my little baby" at all times.

I wondered if I were to use it repeatedly with my children, however, would it have the opposite effect. Instead of making them feel grounded and secure, would they be in therapy as adults talking about how their mother never stopped calling them “my kids” – “It was weird. And embarrassing. Who else’s kids would we be? I wondered for years if maybe I was stolen.”

Now, when the mother of Frances-White uttered this highly affecting sentence, it was a throwaway remark rather than a deliberate parenting technique. When told the story years later, she confessed she didn’t remember the moment. She could never have predicted the effect it would have on her daughter.

We don’t always know what things we say are messing them up or bolstering them up. But when my two-year-old recently crawled into our bed and, lying alongside her baby sister, said out loud (what she had been hearing for so long) “My two girls! My two best girls!”, it was a pretty good moment for me.