It’s the bugbear for every mom, every summer, how to occupy them for 8, 9, 10, 11 or heaven forbid 12 weeks of a long damp summer in Ireland. Before the age of six a blanket and tent out the back garden can provide all the excitement and activity they need, after than you’re looking at GAA camps, swim camps, art camps, activity camps, that all ceases around 12, they you start issuing two euros for odd jobs around the house in an effort to occupy them and teach them the value of a pound. After a few years of that, you decide that a thousand euro is a small price to pay if it means you don’t see them for three weeks and you enrol them in the Gaeltacht, French College, Spanish College….whatever college, that keeps them for three weeks. But stalemate happens after 17, too old for the bean and ti, too full of attitude for the tent out the back or the two euro jobs, they need to get out and get a real job.
It’s the bugbear for every expat mom, every day, will their kids fit back in to Ireland. Dropped and collected from school, used to a level of service that simply doesn’t exist in Ireland and familiar with checking long haul flights on their smartphone, these kids know nothing about the ins and outs of having their own identity and living in Ireland. That’s right, sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year olds coming back from Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, after leaving Dunmanway, Dunmore and Athlone are possibly the most affected age bracket when living abroad. Emigrated since the age of 9, they are not living long enough in Ireland to fully understand the culture, these kids call Qatar home, but the problem is after the age of eighteen, Qatar doesn’t want them, so after spending their teenage years in the Middle East, they’ll be ultimately be back in Ireland for college, learning a new culture and becoming expats all over again!
Luck was on our side (and a bit of influence) when a hotel job fell into the lap of our eighteen-year-old who was more used to lapping it up poolside with a cool drink and her phone than serving food in a busy hotel environment, of course we feared that dinners would end up in laps, but so be it, if that was part of the learning curve.
Seemed carrying four plates a time wasn’t the challenge though, before she started work, she needed a PPS number, we thought she had one, somewhere, but where? She also needed to open a bank account. Asking an expat kid for two forms of documentation providing proof of address is like asking a cat who their granny was. So, the paper chase started for a PPS number, a proof of address in Ireland and to cap it all off, the application for a provisional driving licence. Well if reintegration into Ireland was the problem, this was solution. After a week, of holding on the phone, queueing at desk which open at 10, close at 1 and close for the day at 4, working with a bank that wants to be paperless but insists on paper, our eighteen-year-old was fast becoming au fait with Ireland and its workings.
Nearly there with paperwork, strings pulled for the job and the relief was palpable, start date was in July, and finger crossed she would have the paperwork to hand out those plates and collect them again. For her it was as simple as that, for us it was going to be the means for her to work part-time for when next year she would leave the nest in Qatar and live in Ireland for good! We were proud, after writing their own name, learning to tie their own shoelaces, seeing your child to this crucial point of independence was a big milestone. Thing is you spend so much time worrying about your expat kids, wondering if they’ll fit in at home, but when they turn around after all the effort of getting a job and ask, ‘can I take time off for Longitude?’ you can breathe a sigh of relief, they’re going to fit it just fine.