Andrea Mara

Official website

Lost weekends

“Oh!” I said to my husband, as we drove under a blue autumn sky to Glenroe Farm. “I’ve just realised it won’t always be like this”

It was a Saturday morning some years ago, and prompted by warmer than expected weather, we had packed a picnic and headed off on an unscheduled trip with our three smallies.

Looking out the car window, I had seen two little boys on their way to what looked like GAA practice with their mum. I realised then for the first time that Saturday wouldn’t always be ours. A time would come when we’d have GAA or gymnastics or swimming or all three on a Saturday morning, and heading off on impromptu picnics wouldn’t be so easy. I remember saying it to my husband – lamenting that our carefree weekends had a shelf life. I remember resolving to make the most of them. And feeling wistful, and a bit resentful about the inevitable change to come.

And indeed the change did come. A few months after that early autumn trip, my then four-year-old started swimming lessons. And I started Pilates. And we started to get birthday party invitations for Saturday and Sunday afternoons. And sometimes playdate invitations. And the next child started swimming. And  hockey started. And with two in school, we had double the birthday parties. And that was it. No more day-trips. No more spur of the moment picnics. Just as we anticipated that morning years ago, Saturdays were gone.

But I realised over the last couple of years, I’m fine with that. I’m absolutely OK – more than OK – with this new world where Saturdays are filled with everyday things. It reminds me of childhood weekends – I remember going to the hardware shop and the supermarket and the library and swimming. We cycled our bikes around the green and played in the just-cut grass in the garden. In the evening, we watched The Fall Guy and read our library books. I’m sure there were some day trips, but mostly, Saturdays were about staying local and getting things done.

A few weeks back, my middle child was at a birthday party on a Saturday afternoon, so my husband brought the small boy to pick up groceries, then on to a playground. The eldest and I were due to collect a school book and then her sister. We had an hour to kill, so I talked my reluctant companion into walking Dun Laoghaire pier. I sweetened the deal with a smoothie for her and a coffee for me, and she started to look more enthusiastic.

pier walk

We chatted about holidays and books and her upcoming birthday, and she recounted an entire episode of her favourite TV show for me.  We watched the boats bobbing on the choppy sea and marvelled at the view when we turned to walk back inland. We held hands, and agreed that it had been a great walk, and we hadn’t even had ice cream.

She told her sister all about it, who in turn begged for her own “pier date” and now it’s become a thing – every time one is at a party, the other gets a pier date. Then we all meet back home and swap stories and compare notes and fight over who got a treat and who didn’t.

So the parties and sports and classes that stole our Saturdays have come good. We get bits done, we grab a coffee, we fix the house or buy some food. It’s the  low-key, low stress Saturday of my childhood. There are no day trips during term time, but it’s OK. It’s more than OK. Divide, conquer, enjoy.





Click the button below to sign up to my Penguin newsletter.