Beach speech


We found a little cove today, an inlet somewhere along the Wexford coast. I’d let the boys be adventurers and explorers, knowing that the hundred metres or so of rocks stretched out before their childish eyes like a vast, undiscovered planet.

They forged on ahead, bravely leaping and slipping and climbing, their tiny legs goose-pimpled from the chilly breeze that whirled in from the Irish sea. I lagged behind, so they couldn’t see me but I could see them, in that way we do when we want our kids to think they have at least some freedom. ‘We are con-splorers!’ the eldest shouted to the wind, while the younger straggled behind, stuffing as many rocks as he could into his pockets for later contemplation. ‘EX-plorers,’ I couldn’t resist yelling, briefly blowing my cover. ‘We are CONSPLORERS,’ he shouted again, and I watched with love as he navigated the rocks and the rock pools, because this eldest son often approaches outdoor things with trepidation. The younger, weighed down with his rocks, spied me and roared, ‘C’MON Mama! We have CONSPLORING to do!’

‘It’s…oh never mind,’ I muttered to myself. I threw off my shoes and started to follow them, resisting the urge to tell them that it was time to turn back, we had gone too far down the coastline. Then, we turned a jaggedy corner and found this small, sweet cove. It was rocky, and the sea in it sparkled deep green, not blue. A crab, with one leg missing, scuttled into the water. Time stopped. I smiled and feasted on the look in my eldest son’s eyes, because I knew right at that moment he felt like the first person in the world to have discovered that beach. I knew that inside his head a door had opened forever: I am an explorer, and I find the most beautiful things.

I kept quiet for a while, then my usual beach speech came out. I can’t help myself, it happens every time I am on a beach. ‘This is my favourite place to be in the whole, wide world…’

‘Mama?’ The triumphant explorer interrupted me before I really got going about the sound of the waves on the shore, the shells, the marbled stones, the sand and how it tickles your feet with memories from the past and promise for the future. ‘My favourite place in the whole wide world is Smith’s Toys Superstore.’ I looked down at him, started to give another speech about nature and how it’s the best, then stopped myself and grabbed his hand. We picked our way back across the shoreline, and the cove faded away from sight.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin



I want to tell you today about the first time my first son smiled. Every parent probably has a gooey story about seeing that first smile.

With my other two sons, the smiles seemed to happen in increments. It sort of seemed like they had always been smiling. Maybe they had been doing it with their eyes, or maybe because I had more than one baby I didn’t specifically notice when their faces first opened up to the world. Perhaps I really noticed my eldest son’s first smile because I had all sorts of post-natal mental illness at the time, and it was like someone switched a powerful light on in the room, briefly. I don’t know.

Anyway. We were snuggled up in bed one cold, grey January morning. It was dark outside, it seemed the sun would never rise that day. He was seven weeks old. I’d just fed him. I propped him up on some pillows, and turned to put a cardigan on to start the slow descent downstairs, where I would spend the day figuring out how on earth to be a mother. I stood up, bent to pick him up – and then…

Honestly, do you know those clips in nature documentaries, where they’ve sped up the frames so you can see a radiant flower go from bud to bloom in a few seconds? It was exactly like that. He grinned. Toothless, he gurgled and grinned even wider. He shone. His face beamed, he smiled straight for a good two minutes. He stared at me, straight in the eyes, and grinned even more. His face was exploding with love and happiness. In a small pocket of precious time, the two of us grinned and gurgled at each other for what felt like infinity. It is etched onto my brain, as transcendent and transformative as the moment of his birth.

I don’t know that he was particularly grinny because he’d picked up that I was not, or he immediately felt the power of something that would reliably connect him to other people for the rest of his life, but it was a moment of exquisite beauty. So pure and perfect, my tiny little newborn, woken up to the world.

I picked him up, padded downstairs and made coffee, the grey of the morning transmuted into light.