I’m a big old St Patrick’s Day curmudgeon. This is not news to anyone who was here last year or any other year. I don’t want to wear green today or get drunk today (well, sure, but children) or set up leprechaun traps today or listen to traditional Irish music today and I’m only just getting over the mortification of having to see Enda Kenny visit Donald Trump today.
When the word went out that this year’s international dinner at Dash’s school this Sunday would have live Irish music and dancing, I went from vaguely wondering if we could get out of it to deciding that I really didn’t have to show up to everything they put on.
Then I wondered if I was really a terrible person, denying my children access to their heritage like that. Am I like one of those immigrants who refuses to speak the language of the old country to their children so that they’ll assimilate better, thus taking the wonderful benefits of bilingualism out of their family’s grasp?
Actually, no. I don’t like traditional Irish music or step dancing. It’s part of my national heritage, but it’s not something I feel any personal connection to. Same goes for GAA (that’s hurling and Gaelic football). And we’re not even Catholic any more. But you know what my kids will grow up with?
- A Hiberno-English vocabulary that they can turn on and off at will.
- A bookshelf full of books by British and Irish authors many of whom are less well known here, from Oliver Jeffers’ picture books to Joyce’s Ulysses and a lot in between.
- Knowledge of the canon of Father Ted, Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, and various other bits and pieces of nerdy 80s trivia befitting children of Irish people our age.
- A better grasp of Irish and European geography and history than many Americans.
- An understanding that other countries are just as valid and real as the USA and that normal is an ever-shifting concept.
- Familiarity with the Dublin Monopoly board.
- Access to plenty of excellent Irish hits of the 80s and 90s, should they choose to indulge.
- Their grandfather’s watercolours of Irish scenes and historical maps of Ireland on the walls.
And then there’s that book I wrote, too. It’s set in Ireland.
I think they’ll be secure enough in their cultural heritage even if it doesn’t extend to a spot of the old diddly-aye.