I read this piece on Office Mum this morning about whether Ireland is child friendly. Everyone experiences are different, for me, its a yes.
I’m a true blue. Dublin, is my home, it always has been. I know Dublin. I had to rediscover Dublin as a parent and I have never been let down. Don’t get me wrong, I can bitch and moan as good as anyone, yes things can be expensive, yes house prices make my heart break, yes you can always find something to give out about but there is a whole lot of good here too.
From my house its a ten minute drive to the heart of the Dublin mountains, in twenty minutes we can be on the coast. The city centre is 30 minutes away. We live in a typical subarban estate but there are parks, there are libraries, there is good decent public transport, there are improving bike lanes. Is Dublin child friendly? I really think it is.
My Dublin ten years ago was where is a good place to drink, what restaurant first. where is the best spot to find a taxi at 4am? My Dublin, as a child, is still there and now I get to rediscover it as a parent and an improved Dublin from a child’s perspective because Dublin woke up and realised children are its citizens too.
The national museums and art galleries all cater for the smaller visitor with activity packs, art supplies, workshops and more. The Science Gallery and Imma too. The three Dublin county councils run a host of activities and free events throughout the year – treasure hunts, outdoor movies, halloween events, Christmas markets, outdoor music and drama events and festivals. Libraries with huge children’s sections that also run regular events. All free. The parks across Dublin which boast upgraded and brilliant playgrounds. Swimming pools, cinemas that now offer booster seats so small children can see the movie. Play centres the bane of your life when you have a toddler and have to squeeze up a tunneled slide to rescue a stuck 2-year-old ( happened me at 9 months pregnant) that become a place of loveliness when your kids are old enough to play without your help and you can sit and read a book, once you tune out the noise. Bowling, trampolining, the national aquatic centre,The Ark, Zip Lining up the mountains, the zoo. If you want a day out with kids , your options are huge and varied with options for all budgets.
Then there are the constants, the Dublin I enjoyed as a child that my children enjoy now- Dun Laoghaire Pier, the seals at Howth, the dart along the coastline, the busker’s on Grafton street, the climb to the Hellfire Club, the botanic gardens,watching the planes on the old airport road,the panto at Christmas,buying fruit on Moore Street, chasing the tide on Sandymount Stand. Dublin that is steeped in history personal and national . The bullet marks that remain in the walls of the GPO, the crypts at St Michans , Kilmainham gaol, places I learned about Dublin’s history from my granddad’s as a child on day’s out, all there waiting to be revisited and seen through my children’s eyes, now.
Then there all the places of personal history too- my children can point out the bench in St Stephens Green where their Dad asked me to marry him and the one beside it where their Grandad asked their Nana to marry him. They know not to stand too close to the pond when feeding the ducks, because they know the story of my sister forgetting to let go of the bread and falling into the duck pond . They know the chapel in the centre of the city where their Dad and I got married. All their history.
Everytime I went out with my Grandparents when I was child, they bought me a book. We spent hours in Waterstones, Easons on O’Connell St and Hodges and Figgis. Dubray Books on Grafton St is one of my favourite bookshops now. My eldest daughters too. She can’t pass it without asking to go in. It brings me right back to when I used to stroll around town with my Nana and Grandad as a small child. The bookshops were always the best bit.
My Grandad and I. St Stephen’s Green. 1981 ish
I have had never had a problem finding somewhere family friendly to eat in Dublin. There are too many restaurants to mention and restaurants too have copped that children are customers too. No longer do kids meals consist of just sausage and chips or chicken and chips. Of course there are many restaurants that aren’t child friendly but there is enough choice ,that is fine with me. There are places I wouldn’t bring my children to eat and there are places on the rare occasion, I get to eat out without them, that I don’t want to listen to other people’s kids. Some places are not buggy friendly but I have never had a restaurant refuse to store a buggy at the door for me. I have breast-fed all over Dublin and never had a rude remark. I know this is not the experience of everyone, but it is mine. I have always found Irish people to be child friendly. Of course there are assholes who will tut or sigh at times but there are assholes everywhere whether you areout with children or without them. And for every asshole I have met, I have met 100 other people who have smiled at my kids, held open a door for me or picked up a dropped teddy bear or coat when my hands were full.
We have had so many tourist at home days in Dublin. Getting the bus into town where you can’t get the correct change ready because it’s the bus fare for children depends on the driver and the ticket price is never the same on the return journey. We have done the Viking Splash and shouted at randomer’s on the street, we have taken boats on the Liffey and learned about the history under the bridges. Last Summer we took a boat trip around Dublin Bay. Dublin looks magnificent from the sea just as it always does when you come into land over Portmarnock on a clear day.
Am I romanticising parts above? Perhaps. I love my city though. I forget that sometimes and need to fall in love with it again. Of course it’s not all good. My children don’t see people falling around drunk and vomiting in the streets at 3am but they do see the city’s homeless every time we are in town and have seen people begging, children begging. You can’t hide the bad and the sad in the world from them. There are lots of things that are wrong with Dublin but there are a whole lot of things that are right too. Businesses and amenities have adapted to become child friendly, we have the sea, we have the mountains and everything in between. The above is just a snapshot of Dublin and all that is good there. If you have had a bad experience in one restaurant or one event please don’t write off Dublin as not for children, give it another try. Dublin is child friendly, you just have to go out and find it.
photo credit: Cian Ginty via photopin cc
photo credit: Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits via photopin cc
photo credit: mirkuz via photopin cc