Jenny Ireland: Notes to my Parents

As it’s the New year, I thought I would do something nice, something I’ve never done before: Put down in words my thanks to my parents.

Dear Dad,

I’m writing to you first because you’re the oldest. Sixty-four, sixty-five? (Awkward). We both know that you’re pushing on a bit and I was concerned that you might kick the bucket before I ever got to say these things. So here we are.

I’d like to start by thanking you for bringing me into the world. Of course, I don’t like to think about how that came about (test tube I presume) but I am eternally grateful. I do believe that the world would be a much bleaker place without your favourite child.

When I was small I thought you were the coolest person ever – smart, funny, a doctor. That feeling lasted for an embarrassingly long time. I eventually saw the error of my ways and realised that ‘cool’ was definitely not a word that should be applied to you. In fact, it was a sort of oxymoron. I’m not saying I don’t respect your choice of dress, I’m sure mud covered gardening clothes with holes are the ‘thing’ amongst your generation. And of course, nothing could take away my admiration of your life’s work as a GP, although, when your second favourite child qualified, I did have to question how hard it really is to get a medical degree. In the end I figured it must have been a fluke and now I just say a small prayer for his patients.

There are some specifics that I’d like to give thanks for.

Firstly, buying me my first electric guitar, a blue and white Yamaha Pacifica bought on a whim that day in Belfast. This enabled me to believe that I might genuinely make it as a rock star, that ‘Four Foot Nothing’ would find world-wide acclaim. To your credit, you were enthusiastic and encouraging. However, here I am, not a rock star. Is it your fault? I wouldn’t like to say that out loud.

My first car, the blue Fiat Punto. Thank you for enabling me to develop such a thorough acquaintance with the AA. They are very helpful people and I’m sure it was part of a greater plan to help me manage if I were ever in my life stranded on the motorway.

Thank you for introducing me to The Pogues on those trips to Ballynahinch, even though Mum said I was too young. I don’t know what she was talking about. I learnt so much new vocabulary. Vocabulary I still use today. And besides, it made me very popular in class.

Buying me chocolate on the way to school. A rare occasion perhaps, but sometimes when I close my eyes I can still remember the joy of stuffing my primary school pockets with two full chocolate bars. Those were probably the happiest days of my life.

All in all, you have been a decent parent. I wouldn’t like to say the ‘best’ because who am I to decide?

Love from
Your Favourite Child

Dear Mum,

As with Dad, I’m writing to you because you’re old and will probably die soon. Not that I wish that, of course, but I am a realist. And death, I’m afraid, is knocking on your door.

I have quite a few things to thank you for. Firstly, my P2 haircut. I know you were only going with what I wanted, and at five years old I wanted to look like a boy. Boys had more fun, boys played football and so I wanted to look like one. Like any good mother you acquiesced. And now I have a lovely bowl cut portrait to keep forever. Seriously. Thank you.

I’d also like to thank you for ‘accidentally’ bunking the queue at McDonalds Drive Thru that time. Now I realise it was probably intentional. A bid to show me that I didn’t necessarily have to wait in line for what I wanted. That I was better than that. That I could be life’s queue jumper. I should have embraced the situation instead of hiding my face. For that I apologise.

I’d also like to thank you for my life-long hatred of kites, stemming from your invention of the ‘bag kite’. Now I don’t have to spend countless windy days detangling string with my own children and pretending not to swear. I’m sure you remember the bag kite? A piece of string tied onto a shopping bag with great enthusiasm. Enthusiasm that was contagious at the time. However, it soon came to light that the other children did not know what a ‘bag kite’ was. Their kites had colours and ribbons and didn’t sport the name of the local shopping centre. Not that I minded of course. I applaud your thrifty ways.

I was wondering though, when you do pass on, who will make those phone calls for me? You know the ones – appointments, bookings, general life planning. I assume you will hold interviews for this job in the near future. Grade eight piano and a teaching qualification will be a requirement, of course. When you go, I don’t want to have to pay for lessons for my children. They’re awfully expensive these days. And there would obviously have to be an age limit – I don’t want to have to go through this whole thing twice. And maybe you could stipulate that they hold a passing resemblance to you, just to make it all less of an upheaval?

Please don’t take it the wrong way – it is meant as a compliment. I’m not really sure what I’d do without you. Same goes for Dad, except finding someone to replace him will be much easier. No need for interviews, we’ll just drag some old curmudgeon off the street.

Love from
Your Second Favourite Child

Jenny Ireland lives just outside Belfast with her husband, two children and kitten Batman. Following completion of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children course she has almost finished editing her middle grade novel Salt Blood, a contemporary fantasy with a dark twist on selkie folklore. She spends her time procrastinating on twitter @IdreamofNarnia, staring at the sea from her window and wrestling her feral children.

Also by Jenny Ireland:

Be Careful What You Wish for
A Fear of Flying