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Of Boys and Men

Writing.ie | Member Blog

Deirdre Conroy

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Tomorrow there will be two fifty-something men, two twenty-something boys, the ladydog and I, billeted in Landlady house. Lodger #1 is only here at weekends, Lodger #2 goes home to his wife at weekends, they may never meet, indeed I could rotate the one room and have a third full-time lad. The new man has promised he is handy around the house, I wonder does that include painting? Boiler fixing? In fact, all I really want is a man who vacuums, cleans bathrooms (properly) and does the ironing, I’d give a discount for that because it would make my life total heaven as opposed to approximate hell. I’ve just offered Cost Centre #1 who works in a bar and is languishing in bed, a tenner to get up and iron, ‘this is my Saturday’ he says (it’s Monday morning to the rest of us). I think I’ll lock all the doors and windows so he can’t escape until it’s done. 

This blog from last week has touched a nerve with a few mothers who have written to me, so I’m sharing it again with a new audience I hope.


Cost Centre #2 and #1 quite a few summers ago

With five younger brothers and no sisters, it seemed inevitable that I’d be given a daughter, at least one would be guaranteed when I eventually grew up and got married. My brothers even had their own song, Rolf Harris’s ‘Two Little Boys’, I don’t remember any big hit about two little girls, Chevalier’s ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’ doesn’t count, it’s a bit pervy.

 Then we had a cot death, it was the ‘seventies, little was known about the sudden infant death syndrome then. But as a pre-teen I heard all about the mattress, the food, putting them on their side or their back. In the eighties, a young boy went missing from the same school my younger brother attended, Philip Cairns has never been found, I’m haunted by his school photograph, whatever happened to that boy?

 When I eventually became a mother, I was panicked about my own baby son when he slept, I had an apnea alarm, it was same with the next baby son. I brought my sons up alone from the age of five and seven and probably stressed more about their safety, their health, their education because of the sole responsibility. It was a quiet anxiety all the way. When the boys spent some of their school holidays abroad with their dad, I cried all the way home from the airport, but I knew being with another parent was the safest place they could be.

 Then there was little Jamie Bulger, recorded on film being walked out of a shopping centre by two extraordinarily evil little boys, to his tragic death. That will have terrorised most parents.

 When Princess Diana died, most people will know where they were when they heard that tragic news. My sons were on holiday with their dad, now I had a new anxiety, I’ll die in a car crash and my two little boys will be left motherless like William and Harry. Five years later I lost two little boys  before they were born.

 That’s the thing as a mother, you fear it will be an accident that will harm your children, on the rugby pitch, in a crash, falling off a wall and of course, in the nineties, the abuse scandals were being uncovered, so you feared abduction. You always feared the outsider, the person you have no control over.

 Recently, the horrific discovery of two little boys in the boot of their father, Sanjeev Chada’s car has left the nation numb. It isn’t the first time a father has taken his two children with him to the *undiscovered country*. But in this case, the father didn’t manage to take his own life and walks the earth with a chilling legacy.

 That same week two boys were killed in a car crash in Donegal, coming from a music festival, my eldest son was at a music festival, my heart stopped at the headline.

 And in Dublin, two boys were killed after crashing a stolen taxi. They weren’t ordinary decent criminals, just ordinary boys, but at the same time, wayward, but why don’t they understand a car is a lethal weapon?

 By the end of the week comes the freakishly unbelievable news of two little boys strangled by a snake in Canada while they slept.

 I’m exhausted with the sadness I feel for all their families, that won’t bring any of them back. But it is an alarming amount of boys lives lost, and they’re just the tip of reported iceberg. I’ve acted as mother and father to my sons, thinking that was my role for the last seventeen years, until I felt I failed as their father. A psychologist told me I had to give that up, I wasn’t a father, I would inevitably fail. It halved my stress immediately. But the question still remains, is there anything that could have saved any of these boys? And is there anything that could have prevented the action taken by Sanjeev Chada?

I didn’t get a daughter in the end. If I had, I think by now my stress levels would be so off the richter scale with cyber-bullying, date-rape and other appalling threats to them, that I expect I was given what I could cope with. 

There. I’ve shared more in that piece than I would in a chat with a girlfriend. Why? Apparently, women deal with stress better because they *Share* and men can become fatally despondent by bottling things up. So much so, there is a website  http://www.mindourmen.ie/

where you can find out more about the signs of male depression and the risk of suicide. Single car crashes and drownings are not included in suicide statistics and the many male suicides over the last five years are not reported as such. It is a national shame that financial stress caused by bad governance is the predominant cause.

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