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PAR ENT ING A lesson in empathy

My children approached me one afternoon recently with a new pet that they decided should become a family member. I saw it as an opportunity to observe in them the complex but crucially important concept of empathy – the capacity to understand, feel and show compassion for the plight of another being. I regarded their concern for this creature appreciatively and found myself feeling proud that my two little girls would show such consideration for a being more vulnerable and needy then themselves. Their care for this creature would surely result in its longevity and wellbeing. They named him John.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent feeding, housing and entertaining John. My contribution was to interject occasionally with a complimentary narrative, within earshot of the two Florence Nightingales, about how kind they both were and how lucky John was to have such caring friends. The weather


brightened up shortly into this social experience and we decided to go for a walk on the beach – another location as it happens, for my children to demonstrate their caring natures where, when the tide is out, they become thoroughly engrossed in an exercise gathering ALL the periwinkles in the vicinity together in one rock pool to counteract potential periwinkle loneliness. On this day, however, the focus of attention was on John. The transportation of John was shared and snacks were assembled in his carrying device – it wouldn’t do to take the risk that John might be struck down with a pang of hunger that his adoptive mothers would be unprepared for.

We arrived on the beach and assembled ourselves in a good sandcastle making spot. John was carefully positioned to one side. Sandcastle making commenced with the usual ferocity and, dare I suggest it, John was relegated to second fi ddle. His temporary lodgings were moved to accommodate the growing sand town and then before he knew it his care was haphazardly transferred (in a gesture not worthy of my once faultlessly caring children) to me.

In the busy-ness that ensued John was, sadly, forgotten. The primary need being, I suppose, survival - though I suspect in truth

by Joanna Cunningham

that John might have hedged his bets on managing his own survival. My younger daughter at an opportune moment stopped her building and wondered how John was. She made her way to his lodgings and discovered to her immense dismay that John was gone. She was deeply shocked and reported the disaster immediately to her sister who suggested helpfully that perhaps John had gone back to the house. So we duly packed up our buckets and spades and headed home in pursuit of poor forgotten John.

When we arrived home the search resumed and indeed John was found and discovered to be in good health. Great relief was felt by all and John was deposited back in his home. I was proud and amused that my observations of my children’s empathy for their pet left me in no doubt that their compassionate responses were in good order. This realisation was secondary, perhaps, to my amazement that they could be so unwavering in their belief that John could, unaided, fi nd his way from the beach to our home in what would have to have been record speed for a creature of his size. Did I mention that John is a woodlouse?

Joanna Cunningham is the creator of the 'SMARTS Programme - an Early Intervention Arts Based Behavioural Support Programme for Junior and Senior Infants' -

by Martin Doyle Jobs to do in the garden

Roses can be sprayed for black spot, mildew, aphids etc. Trim conifers and evergreen hedges in May but remember to check for nesting birds before clipping. Keep hoeing the weeds in your garden and beds, but perennial weeds like dandelion and dock will need their roots removing to prevent re-growth.

May can be a hectic month in the garden. You will probably not need a list of what to do because it will be staring you in the face every time you walk through your garden.

This is a good month for lifting spring bedding plants and preparing to plant summer bedding plants. Put in supports for your tall herbaceous plants and you can also plant up your hanging baskets.

Bindweed can be a nightmare to stop, any small piece of root left in the ground will grow. It is much easier and more effective to use a spray of glyphosate based weed killer, which will go to the roots and kill the plant. Protect emerging shoots by placing slug pellets around the garden, beer in a container or saucer will also do the trick if you prefer a more organic or humane approach.

The middle of May can be one of the driest times of the year and most gardens will

begin to dry out. Use a water butt to collect rain water, this water is ideal for watering plants in the garden.

As your lawn loves the warmer temperatures, it’s now time to get into the lawn mowing regime for summer. Mow your lawn every week, gradually bring down the height of the cut by lowering the blade. May is the best month for using a selective weed killer or lawn sand on your lawn.

For any of those jobs that are too big to manage or that you don’t have the equipment to do, make sure to contact your local gardening contractor who will be happy to advise you.

Home & Garden Creations 087-6524421


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