The A – Z of Being a Parent in Northern Ireland

A – Arse crack of dawn. The time at which you will arise each morning once you become a parent. Civilised, child-free households often refer to this time as “the actual middle of the night.”

B – Barry’s. The psychedelic pit of hell loved by children province-wide. You’ll know you’re in Barry’s by the smell alone – a strange combination of candyfloss, WD40, burnt popcorn and body odour. You’ll enter as a financially comfortable adult and leave emotionally broken and penniless, all in the name of a couple of goes on the Cyclone.

C – Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall. Delightful in theory. But add a child to the mix, who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about roasted chestnuts, and you have the recipe for festive disaster. You’ll have Turkish hot chocolate down your top before you can say “I’m phoning Santa” and end up in the crowded, sweaty, teen-infested McDonald’s on Royal Avenue, wondering why you bothered leaving the house.

D – Dungannon. Home to the extremely posh Linen Green, where you shouldn’t bring your children in case they knock over a £145 lamp in Bedeck (I wouldn’t know what that’s like).

E – Everyday. The frequency with which you’ll serve your children potato based foodstuffs. We love a good spud here don’t we (Birdseye waffles and oven chips still count).

F – Funky Monkeys. If you drank the tea and survived, my heartfelt congratulations.

G – Gordon’s Chemist. You will spend more time here than you do with loved ones, mainly in pursuit of Calpol and Dioralyte (see S).

H – Hoke. Whether it’s hokin’ about in a nappy for part of a game that the baby ate or hokin’ in the laundry basket for the school uniforms you forgot to wash, Northern Ireland parents do a quare bit of hokin’.

I – Indiana Land. Being a parent has you reminiscing about the bygone years of your own childhood. A time when the only health and safety stipulation for a giant freefall slide with a vertical drop was a ban on wearing shell suits down it in the event the friction set you alight. Ah, the good old days.

J – July. An interesting month for Northern Ireland parents. If you hail from the unionist community here, you may spend much of this month draping your children in Union Jacks. If you’re from the nationalist community, you probably won’t.

K – Knowledge. Did you know that Northern Ireland pupils consistently outperform the rest of the UK in GCSE and A-Level examinations? See, I can be serious sometimes too.

L – Lidl. If you’ve never been into Lidl for a bar of (bloody delicious) chocolate from the continent and an excellent value for money multi-plug socket then you should be ashamed of yourself.

M – Munter. You’ll tell your mate how cute their baby is but you’ll secretly be thinking it’s a munter. The expression “a face only a mother would love,” exists for a reason. Provided you don’t consider your own kid a munter it’s all good.

N – Niamh or Billy? As a Northern Ireland parent, you’ll spend much of your time in playparks making immediate religious assumptions based on the names of the other children. I do want to say that nothing makes my heart happier than when my children make new friends from the other side of the community. Our children’s lack of prejudice is the breath of fresh air that will help to ensure peace here for future generations.

O – “Oh dear.” Not the exact wording you’ll use when you’re just about to go to bed and realise you haven’t made the ham sandwiches for the lunchboxes.

P – Protestant. Most Protestant children in Northern Ireland are chaotic, deafening, against sleep and drive their parents to drink wine in the afternoon.

Q – “Quite warm the day.” If you say this out loud in the direction of your children, expect to be blowing up a paddling pool 6 minutes later.

R – Roman Catholic. Most Roman Catholic children in Northern Ireland are chaotic, deafening, against sleep and drive their parents to drink wine in the afternoon.

S – Shits. After becoming a parent, you’ll use the term “a dose of the shits” more times in one month than you’ll have done in all your life so far.

T – “Tay.” Or “tea” as posh people keep calling it. You may have enjoyed a cup or two of the stuff prior to becoming a parent. Once you have children, the teabags will gather dust in the corner and you’ll develop a preference for alcohol.

You’ll have to think of other uses for your defunct teapot.

U – Ulster Museum. For when you take the iPad off the kids and take a wee race up to Belfast trying to be all educational. Turns out, kids don’t necessarily care for precious stones found close to the Earth’s core. (Disclaimer – I love the Ulster Museum for the kids – the Discover History room is a winner – definitely worth a visit!)

V – Value for money. See multi-plug socket at L. (Can you tell I’m running out of ideas at this point?)

W – Weans. If you were born in Northern Ireland and have never referred to children as “weans” then please deport yourself immediately.

X – X-Ray. Whether it’s Craigavon or the Royal, expect to see the inside of the X-Ray room of your local hospital at some point. You can help reduce the chances of childhood fractures by removing all the furniture from your home.

Y – “You’re talkin’ out your arse.” Used at parent-teacher meetings, this is a polite way of telling your child’s teacher that you disagree with their assessment of your child as being anything less than an all-out genius who is excelling in every single aspect of the curriculum and should skip primary school altogether and head straight to Queen’s.

Z –  Zoo. You will not fully comprehend just how steep the hills at Belfast Zoo are until you’ve pushed a pram up them in the sweltering 13°C Northern Ireland heat.



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