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Mike Farragher as a toddler with his Irish dad

The Irish narrowback's corner

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Mike Farragher as a toddler with his Irish dad

The Irish Voice newspaper is by very definition an Irish voice, and within these pages is a weekly Celtic buffet of commentary on arts, culture, politics and sports.

The first page I turn to is the one written by my friend Cormac MacConnell. I marvel at how he writes his readers love letters every week in exquisite prose from across the pond, stoking the love we all have for our culture by reminding us that blackberries were delicacies that grew along stone walls way before they were buzzing devices in our pockets.

Though I don’t feel fit to dip my quill in the same ink as his, I have been thinking that the Irish experience from this side of the Atlantic is a bit different from Cormac’s yarns and is not well represented in these pages.

Don’t the narrowbacks, the people born in the U.S. considered unfit for the hard physical labor typically performed by those in the country of ancestral origin, deserve our own voice in the Irish Voice?

American kids that grew up under the watchful eye of Irish-born parents have a viewpoint unlike anyone else on the planet, a fact not lost on me as I try my hand at parenting two little girls. If this describes you, I hope you see yourself in this irregular little feature, “The Narrowback’s Corner,” on weeks when things are a bit slow, music-wise.

Here’s an example -- I’ve been reading a lot about this trend in upbringing techniques called “helicopter parenting.” Have you ever heard of it?

It describes the hovering mom and dad that rush in to shield the child from any harm or possible failure in life; they are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead at all times. It has gotten so bad that business journals have been reporting nightmare stories of helicopter parents making calls to their child's boss about work tasks and volumes.

How much do you wanna bet that not one pilot in these helicopters has an Irish brogue?

Irish parents may hover as good as their American counterpart, but they would only do so to monitor the scene just to ensure their kids got a snout full of failure as they earned the value of a dollar. The more the world kicked their butt and dished their kid a raw deal, the better!

I remember spending one summer home from college in a white coat and a hair net, cramming powdered sugar into caplets at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. While my friends frolicked in the surf, I spent 10 weeks making placebo doses for use in some blind study.

I hated my job intensely, and I am convinced that my parents loved that I hated it. It is impossible for me to imagine a scenario where they would complain to the foreman about my workload, because they knew that the never ending monotony was providing their hard partying son with a valuable life lesson.

“Well, if you want to escape that kind of life, you may want to think twice about whooping it up in college,” Mom would say. “Hit the books and make something of yourself.”

Funny thing about having parents that were raised on a rural farm -- they don’t really care if your hands blister over as you mow every lawn in the county, as I did in high school. 

In fact, their milky blue eyes dance with delight as they watch you peel the soft skin off of your fingers to reveal the angry red tendons throbbing beneath. As you soak your tired bones into the warm bath, they might throw in a treat and sit at the edge of the tub as they gleefully recount stories of bailing hay and digging up spuds for hours on end until they couldn’t feel their digits.

“What you did today would be a giddy holiday for us lot back home,” they’d say as they’d hand you a towel. 

At that moment, I’m sure I wanted to beat my folks to death with the plunger behind the toilet. But time has a funny way of making your parents look pretty smart. 

The way they taught me to appreciate the value of money is in sharp contrast to modern times, when most tweens are of the opinion that money comes from an endless supply in the ATM machine at the bank lobby.

I’m glad I never had helicopters swooping overhead. A good old fashioned Irish plow is far more effective when you’re paving your own way. 

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