As my kids grow older, I have really begun to embrace their school breaks in two ways. The first is I try to keep our days as clear as possible in order to allow the kids and myself to decompress, released from the yoke of the school schedule and the burden of daily homework. I know a lot of other parents frantically try to get their kids into day camps and activities during the breaks, especially the long summer break. The first summer we were in Dublin, I received a flyer for a local art camp and thought, “Hey! This will help the kids meet local kids and get out of the house. Signing the kids for art camp backfired when my 6-year-old daughter came home the second day and said “Mom, we don’t really do art at camp. We just sit around and wait for the teachers to tell us what step to do next and we just follow the instructions.” I had paid €300 for a week of carefully curated crafts and my children came home with three exact duplicate sets of the same paintings and sculptures.
Second, I really enjoy pottering around at home rather than planning day-outings. When the children were slightly younger, open days without plans usually resulted in me packing up a bag of snacks and drinks and loading up the kids into the car (or onto the LUAS our first year in Dublin) for an “adventure” of some sort. Sometimes, it was the park or the beach or a museum. Recently, our oldest at 10 years of age, told me that “wandering around” was really boring as he slumped defeated on the couch when I told him that we were going out for the day. I suppose the lovely European cafe culture was lost on the kids. But I understood what he was saying. That he wanted to relax after weeks of working hard at school and play some video games. Going on an educational trip to the local museum to wander around looking at exhibits and eating home-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was just as much work as school sometimes.
I no longer insist on going out for the day and we now only go to activities that genuinely interest the kids. I prefer carefully planned excursions to be received with joy and elation. Groaning and flopping back and forth on the couch before slumping to the floor definitely hinder my planning mojo. Jason, however does like a good hike and he and our oldest child have enjoyed longer hikes and have explored trails around Seattle and the Dingle Peninsula. This mid-term break, I decided we try out a hike on Killiney Hill Park in Dalkey.
Nestled in a residential area, Killiney Hill Park has a smallish car park at the top of a steep hill. I found out the hard way that it’s a one way loop and turned at the first row of cars only to find myself driving back down the hill. There were cars parked on the left along the edge of the lane, but I’m a little bit chicken when it comes to parallel parking on a steep hill with a manual. I can do it under duress, but on this occasion, we decided to drive back down to the main road and park along a quiet residential street and walk up.
First observation of the footpath in front of the enormous mansions is that there was a lot of dog poo. A. Lot. Of. Poo. There was also a lot of dog poo. So, if you are considering a visit and have young children (toddlers to preschoolers especially), beware the poo. There was a lot of it. Everywhere. I’m just saying. Nothing ruins an excursion like falling or walking in some dog poo. Fortunately, after living in the Dublin city centre for a month, the children were used to walking with an eye to the path and looking for poo on the ground!
Winding our way up the path and taking detours, the children enjoyed exploring the small paths and taking turns choosing which fork to take. There were a lot of people out walking their dogs. Most interesting was all the off-leash dogs passing signs all over the park that specifically said that all dogs were required to be on a lead. Interesting. It made me wonder as I passed dog-owner after dog-owner carrying a dog lead while his dog ran about free. Do the Dalkey locals (Bono of U2 is supposedly a resident) not feel like the posted signs apply to them? Is picking up your own dog’s poo beneath you? Maybe they just expect someone else will come along and take care of it.
We wound our way around counter-clockwise and passed people rock climbing in the quarry, took some picturesque photos of the sea from worrisome cliff-like terrain, explored a pine forest while doing a little parkour and balancing, visited the pyramid and Obelisk, and the came around for the finale of a hot coffee and hot chocolates at the Tower Tea Room.
At the Tea Room, there are toilets outside and outside seating as well as indoor seating. The toilets and snack were both needed as the crew had already demolished all the snacks and rolls I had packed by the time we left the car. And, well you know, when you have four kids, someone always need the toilet. For a family of 6, it was a bit crowded at two tiny tables, but the kids enjoyed slurping hot chocolates, sampling a bit of brownie, and crunching on crisps on diminutive delicate china plates.
Refreshed, the kids launched themselves down to the playground. We’ve found that keeping the playground as the glistening carrot for the end of the walk always works better and the kids enjoyed zip-lining, and running about wildly from toy to toy as they are inclined to do. Exhausted, me not them, we walked down the path, careful to avoid the same giant poos we encountered when we first arrived, and returned to our car glad to miss the circus of circling vehicles in the upper car park. A Sunday afternoon well-spent.