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All change for September


Between birthdays, first days and sick days, the McGreal household has been a busy one

The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

September comes in Achill and all changes. The tourists who have swelled the island’s numbers and coffers are gone. The campsites all over the island look like Electric Picnic on a Monday, vacant and empty, though maybe not as littered.
The weather has turned too, as if to confirm for those in any doubt that summer is over and winter is coming. The north wind that is hitting Achill these days would cut you in two. Not literally, of course, but it is quite effective at keeping people indoors. As is the heavy rain. The phrase ‘make hay while the sun shines’ is very fitting for Achill.
In our house too, the change in the season is apparent. It is back to school time and that means back to work for Aisling, who works as a national school teacher. Éamon has started going to a child minder, and Frankie has started in the local naíonra – a big step.
It is safe to say her parents were more worried about Frankie starting school than Frankie was herself.
I dropped her down on the first day last week and got not so much as one backwards glance. She was over playing with the other kids and toys and couldn’t be happier.
Parents all over will tell you this is not something to take for granted. Sending a child to the naíonra can be upsetting. Frankie didn’t see her parents’ worries about separation, all she saw was other kids and loads of toys and games, which all mean fun.
When I came to collect her I was nearly knocked over by some kids running to greet their parents.
Frankie? She looked over, smiled, said “Hiya Daddy” – and then continued to play. The only emotions to erupt were those that flowed when I had to get her to leave. She wanted to stay painting and was not at all impressed when I brought her out.
She was flaked though. When I dropped her at our child minder’s, she went for her afternoon nap straight away. She was out for the count before I was back in the car.
In the midst of all of this, Éamon turned one this day last week. It has, by and large, flown – although I wouldn’t say that about some of the long nights.
Unfortunately, he was sick on his birthday, so I got a reminder of what sleep depravation is like.
Many people will say you are wasting your time if you don’t get at least six hours sleep. Take it from me, if you only get two hours sleep with a sick child, then you would bite someone’s hand off for four.
You can, believe me, function with four hours, but maybe at a slower pace. Two hours? You become the very definition of useless.
Trouble is, Éamon wasn’t the only sick person in the house. It started with Frankie, and then everyone got it. And nothing signals the approach of winter like a sick house.
Pass me the Lemsip.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.