Jump from the 12th Step. What our Kids Missed.

I recently lost my Grandmother Mary Maguire (aka ‘More Nanny’) at the age of 94 (for an insight into the person Mary was see previous post; She was quite simply an exemplar woman and mother and passed to the ‘next place’ in her own house, where she had lived for over half a century, raised 9 children as a single parent, and was probably the most wise, resilient and non judgemental person I have known. We loved her.

At the wake and funeral you tend to spend time trying to feel helpful, and a bit strong (or at least a good attempt at ‘fake strong’) – trying to find a mission to keep the mind and heart occupied, throwing an arm around those struggling with the loss but generally feeling a bit useless and trying to remember the names of second cousins, children and long lost relatives that remain elusive, just on the edge of the tongue.

However images, sounds and faces all re-connect to remind you of the times you spent in that house in Lisnaskea as a kid, the games you played, the cousins you loved and the risks you took. I spent a lot of time at the stairs of the house during the wake – and then remembered on discussion with the slightly older cousin Stephen (who at the age of 12 might as well have been god because he was allowed to stay up and watch Starsky and Hutch) that all the cousins used to compete to see who could jump off the highest step. Hours of practice, unexplained sore joints and bruised ankles were order of the day. The record was step 12. I stood on it and looked down at the age of 42 and nearly passed out – if our 9 year old tried it now I would have had him fitted with airbags and handcuffs.

However we also played ‘123 I am free’ until 1am in the morning, outside in December (without coats… I know crazy right?), we made Clothes Peg Guns that fired little pieces of metal from a ‘dollop’ of scrap wood, we engineered ‘go carts’ from prams, old chairs and horseshoe nails and took guidance from the youngest Uncle, and therefore Yoda Uncle, Conor. It was bloody brilliant. We also had to organise ‘performances’ for Nanny Maguire. My repertoire included the Dallas theme tune, the Pink Panther and a rendition of ‘A Farmer was Ploughing a Field One Day’ that was her ‘proclaimed favourite’- at least in my head. I think she told all the grandkids that.

This was superseded by the younger bro who (even at that stage) had written his own songs, played 34 different instruments and was much more charming than me. The sister Sian and cousin Adele leaped across the 4 x 5 ft living room in full Irish dance regalia like River Dance on amphetamines, cousin Stephanie delivered Oscar wining drama soliloquies, cousin Sarah mischievously laughed her way through everything and aunts and uncles watched on with rapturous applause, laughter and statements like ‘you know they only started that last week’… excuses were required and welcome.

The art of performance and the acknowledgement of risk and its importance in childhood are some of the key building blocks for future ‘well rounded’ successful professionals and entrepreneurs. Did we know what we were doing was early ‘career prep’ or ‘junior hard-core apprentice shenanigans’ – probably not.

When I look at how much we confine and limit risk and play with our own children it makes me feel empty and remorseful. When is the last time you gave your kids freedom to play without Ipads, Xbox’s, PlayStations and now the massively brilliant but isolating VR. When is the last time we asked them to put together a ‘show’. More importantly when is the last time you let them jump from Step 12, climb a tree, ring a doorbell and run off… we have lost our way as parents and we need to find our way back.

Sometimes in business and in life we just have to jump from Step 12. Take a risk, keep your eyes open and bend the knees – always bend the knees. J.

RIP Mary Maguire, Lisnaskea Hero, Maguire Kingdom, Ireland.

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