It’s only natural that one of the biggest aims for most parents who have uprooted their kids from Dublin to Dubai, or Doneraile to Doha, is that anytime they spend back to Ireland that the children get the chance to experience the culture of their native country. I’m one of these and every year I have the same illusions when I’m on the way home, visions of the kids walking in forest, playing in playgrounds, visiting pet farms and eating chips from chip vans and to a large degree, it works out well with the younger kids because they go with the flow and on top of having no option, they have no expectation of what the summer should bring them. Teenagers however, are a different box of frogs’ altogether.
(I will point out at this stage that it is folly of parents of young kids that think that children over the age of thirteen are no longer children and no longer need parenting (hereafter referred to as entertaining). Whilst you don’t have to pour their Cheerios into a bowl in the morning or put their pyjamas on a night, the parenting of teens is a different dynamic and a more complex dynamic at that. Less hands on more hands off, a lot more mind bending and overall ten times more stressful than entertaining a four year who is always happy with a happy meal)
Not only do teenagers have very vivid ideas of what the summer should bring, they also expect that it will be ‘Mam’ that realises those ideas and transform them into reality. ‘Mam’ wants a quiet life and foolishly enters into a lose/lose situation of trying to satisfy, partially spoiled, over-exposed, and attitude fuelled teenagers in Ireland during the summer.
Enter the expat teen…..who arrives in Ireland from the Middle East, bored of sunshine and swimming pools, unimpressed with fast food and shopping malls and disinterested in picking sticks in the forests or skimming stones across streams. Exit all illusions of quiet life for ‘Mam’. Owing to the aforementioned emigration, and despite having 1,007 Facebook friends, these teens have no friends left in Ireland, none that they know outside of online social media anyway. So the thinking cap comes out and you decide that three weeks in the Gaeltacht would be a great break (for you) and potentially educational for them. Despite being a thousand euros lighter, you realise that three weeks does not a summer make and for the remaining seven weeks you pay for gym membership, Wi-Fi, bus fares to town, shopping trips to Penney’s, phone credit, fluorescent runners and cinema tickets. In other words, anything that see you avoid vodka shots, discos and bra tops for just one more summer. Of course all this adds up to be super expensive, so it grates heavily when people moan about the of the entrance fee to a pet farm when you’ve just dropped the price of a holiday to Malaga in order to keep the teens from not moaning, but not smiling either. On top of making sure that their hours, days and minds are occupied, there is always that guilt, did I do enough?, did they do enough?, did I offer them the opportunity to experience Ireland the way I did when I was sixteen?
I think back on my summers and guess what, never once do I remember someone showing concern over my levels of boredom. Those were the good ole days when life was simple. In those days a bottle of buckfast, a packet of ten Johnny blue or a spliff passed the evenings just lovely, thanks very much. A healthy unhealthy social life funded by a babysitting or petrol pump attending job, it all ran smooth. And apart from the few that dropped out of college/life due to alcohol addiction, drug addiction, or the inability to focus on a life goal due to a bad acid trip, what harm did it do the rest of us?
So for those who want to postpone or avoid altogether seeing their teenagers experience a life of relatively harmless delinquency is the price of a holiday to Malaga for summer-long entertainment, a just price to pay? Or ironically are we shielding them too much and not giving them the chance to experience the real teenage culture of their native country.