Dancing days — after-school clubs are a big step into kids’ future

My Irish dancing girls

This blog originally appeared on a different site, 22/9/2016

If anyone can point me in the direction of a modern parent who doesn’t feel like a taxi driver/cash cow, well, I have a bridge to sell you.

Extra-curricular activities consume your free time and cash with a ferocity that is as breathtaking as it is stealthy.

I started out with with one dance class for cub №1 and I’m now into the dance school for a mini mortgage payment for both of them. After-school activity letters arrive in the school bags weekly and they beg to do them: “I’ve always wanted to cook! I’m four and a half, I need to learn!”

I now meet myself coming back. I mean, I’m good, but even I can’t be in two places at once (science, get on that. No, you can’t do science club!)

At least the school-run activities are free or very low cost. Or so I used to think. We went to a “choose a club” night at the cubs’ school the other night, a chance for them to try some things running for the month of November. What the hell, I thought, it’s only around the corner.

How wrong can one woman be?

We get in and cub №1 is immediately transfixed. A group of girls are putting on an Irish dancing display in the corner and her feet of flames have to join in. Both cubs have their hands taken by these dancing sphinxes and I know I’ve lost them.

Within a few minutes, I’m approached by a young woman telling me cub 1 is a natural, have I signed them up yet? As I immediately start counting in terms of time and money exactly how much this is going to set me back, she runs over: “Mum, can I stay here?”

Any other clubs that may have piqued her interest now won’t even get a look in. As she whirls away, hand held by a girl who competes internationally, I dream of a lottery win. An hour and 20 minutes later, I have to drag her from her new heroines, as starry-eyed as you can be.

Of course she’ll do it. Of course I’ll then find the money to start lessons. Of course I don’t have the money or the time, but we’ll find a way. Of course I should be putting money away, accepting of our present financial situation, erring on the side of caution, accepting my place.

But fuck it.

A healthy bank balance is not what childhood memories are made of. Nobody on their deathbed ever thought back to that time when they were eight and mum’s financial affairs were in order.

Through these activities, my cubs are confident and outgoing meeting new people, in a way I wasn’t at least until my mid-20s.

Carpe diem. That’s what it’s all about. We may not be rich nor even comfortable. But as far as I’m concerned, fortunes may come and go, but childhood is priceless.

And as my mum and wee Auntie Pat always used to say, to hell with poverty.