Grandmothers will be keepin’ it lit as the class of 22 sit State exams!

Next Wednesday, students across Ireland (including my beautiful granddaughter) will see the return of the Junior Cert (called the Inter Cert in my day) for the first time in two years. In addition, the Leaving Cert, in its typical in-person setting and complete with ‘extensive changes,’ will also begin on that same day.

This being the case readers… cue sleepless nights, tension, tummy aches, irritability and mood swings –and that’s just the parents!

Mind you, where my granddaughter’s concerned, that panicked parent will not be her mother (my daughter), it’ll be me, her grandmother, because I’m the family fuss-pot when it comes to State exams – in fact, exams in general!

By complete contrast, my daughter Gillian (Ellarose’s mother) is one of the most chilled out, take-everything-in-her-stride humans I’ve ever known. When I tried to help her study for her own Leaving Cert by drawing up a carefully curated, colour-coded study-programme, she laughed, ripped it up and informed me she had her own plan. My anxiety levels sky-rocketed when she told me it consisted of her doing only what she needed to do, when she needed to do it; that way, she reasoned, she could keep her workload as “light as possible”. Aaagh!

For the record, as she passed with honours, became an award-winning hair stylist, re-trained as an aesthetics practitioner, and is a very successful business woman running her own clinic in Dublin. She’s proved to me that allowing your body to be hijacked by panic never solves anything, rather it creates problems!

It’s for that very reason I’ve remained (and will continue to remain), firmly in the background regarding my granddaughter’s Junior Cert preparations, only providing help when she rings me and asks for it. Why? Because like Nana, my granddaughter’s also a worrier, and like Nana, she’s regimented about studying, only taking breaks to watch her favourite TV show (mine was Top of the Pops) and eat her meals, therefore the child doesn’t need to be on the receiving end of my mania!

While I love the fact my granddaughter ‘takes after’ me, given the apple didn’t fall far from that trepidation tree, I’d prefer it if she was more like her mother – as in, laid-back!

Despite the fact my eldest has the family fuss-pot as her mother means she was predisposed to being an uptight handwringer (her words… not mine), Gillian’s Leaving Cert (and life) strategy was to approach everything with calmness, clarity, and a large element of control. This, she said, involved her putting in the work, giving the questions her best shot, having fun with her pals, and making memories! And you know what, my fearful fellow-frienzies, she was and is perfectly right!

Whether it’s self-inflicted or whether it’s thrust upon them by their parents (and by colleges) who expect them to achieve ridiculously high grades, the fact is, there’s way too much pressure being placed on teenagers, and those who fall prey to the burden of it can often become stuck by it!

With that in mind, this card-carrying, concrete, all-or-nothing Nana of an amazing Junior Cert student would like to share what I’ll be doing with every grandparent who, this week, finds themselves experiencing those physical and psychological exam sympathy pains… and it’s this: As Wednesday draws near, and the alarm sounds to hail the start of the English paper, I’ll instruct the rational side of my brain to tell the irrational side to take slow, deep breaths, and for heaven’s sake, stop catastrophising!

Next, I’ll raid the coin holder in both my car, and in he-who-thinks-I-don’t-know-where-he-hides-his-small-change’s car. Then, arming myself with my pocketful of loot, I’ll pop into the local church to join every other Roscommon grandmother as they light candles to their favourite saint – mine’s Padre Pio because no exam question is too large for him to tackle. I’ll ask him to help my granddaughter, and every student who has studied Shakespeare’s soliloquies and sonnets (my favourites), to remember them, and to make sure they treat themselves, not only with the compassion they deserve, but that they’ll make their mental wellbeing (and not the questions on that paper), their top priority.

Remember kids, the grades you achieve in your State exams, or in any exam, are not the ultimate essential for what you wish to achieve in life… grades do not define you! Repeat after me: grades do not define you!

Sometimes, even when we’ve worked very hard, we still don’t get the outcome we wanted, deserved or needed, and a digit or a letter (lower than we expected) on an exam result should never, ever serve to reduce us. Remain focused, remain positive, remain fabulous, and when those exams are over, before you go celebrating, don’t forget to thank your grandmothers for keepin’ it lit… Good luck and God bless x


Thank you to caring Convent of Mercy TY students

As an animal welfare advocate, I’m someone who strongly believes humane education during childhood is absolutely vital when it comes to creating compassionate adults for the specific reason it reduces violence and builds moral character, something which is essential when it comes to having empathy with animals.

With that sentiment in mind, I’d like to say how impressed I am with the Convent of Mercy’s (Roscommon town) TY students and their teacher Ms Edel Connolly for their awareness, their consideration and their humility in raising funds (€150) for locally-run cat welfare charity TNR South Roscommon.

In the course of some people’s lives, helping sentient beings (animals) may appear to be an insignificant task; and, while those of us who strive hard to make a difference cannot, (because we deal with the remnants of their cruelty every day), understand that way of thinking, we must sadly cope with it.

Therefore, when a local school and their TY teacher actively demonstrates empathy by raising vitally needed funds that’ll help provide food and veterinary care for orphaned and abandoned cats in the community, it’s crucial they’re both recognised and congratulated for the amazing human beings they are.

So, on behalf of fellow Dub Orla Hanley (who runs TNR South Roscommon and has the patience of a saint), the volunteers, supporters and the many cats who’ll benefit from your kindness, I’d like to say thank you to every single one of you, and to Ms Connelly.

I’d also like to say a massive go raibh míle maith agaibh to your parents, because, given your capacity for caring, it’s clear that when you were young children, they made kindness a priority – something which you’ll now pass on to your own families.

So moved was Orla by your donation, she told me: “This money will go a long way towards our vet bills. This is not the first time transition year students from this school have donated to our charity. I’d like to say thank you so, so much to them from us, and the many cats that will benefit from your imagination and generosity”.

Kindness has the power to transform lives, and the kindness shown by the Convent of Mercy TY students, under the direction of Edel Connelly, will help to transform the lives of many orphaned, abandoned and cherished kitty cats in Roscommon… dia dhaoibh!


Ladies, our bodies are our source of power and strength…time to start loving them!

The prevalence of poor body image, especially among young girls and women, is evident in the results of a study carried out by Dove which found that ‘over 87 per cent of girls between the ages of 10 and 17 in Ireland don’t have high body esteem’.

The airbrushed idyll, once promoted by Victoria Beckham, who now believes “it’s an old-fashioned attitude, wanting to be really thin”, is so strong, the majority of us are not just negatively comparing ourselves to it, we’re allowing ourselves to be judged and valued by it.

How did we get here? Why do we have a nationwide epidemic of poor body image? Why must we think we need to be stick thin in order to be beautiful?

Look ladies, whether we’re flat-chested or large-breasted, have bits we want to hide or bits we want to enhance, the thing is, we are all beautiful… why? Because our bodies are our source of power and our source of strength… time to stop the blame game, stop the war, stop judging ourselves and start the lovin’. Rant over!