Making time for just mum and me

Mum & Me classes aimed at allowing mothers and their children to spend quality time together are being hosted by Evaleen Whelton, who was inspired to set them up by her mum, who died of cancer, writes MARTINA O’DONOGHUE
Making time for just mum and me
Evaleen Whelton owner Konfidene Kidz with her daughter Maddie O'Regan , holding a picture of her grandmother Dolores WhletonPicture: Eddie O'Hare

ANY mother will probably tell you how her precious children grew up in the blink of an eye. And it works the other way too, when those adult children cling on to the time that remains with their equally precious, ageing parents.

Someone who sees both sides of the coin is Evaleen Whelton, founder of Konfident Kidz, who has come up with the idea of running Mum & Me classes so mothers and their children can share quality time together and create special memories.

Sadly, plans for this initiative were hatched after Evaleen’s own mother Dolores passed away last May following a cancer diagnosis in February, 2015.

As Evaleen explains in a Facebook page announcing the classes: “Three years ago, my vibrant, beautiful and fun-loving mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My whole life changed on that day. In that moment. That was the moment when everything else in my life took second place.

“My Mum, with her unbelievable positivity and determination, fought a brave battle but I knew that each time she said, ‘See you tomorrow, Ev’, that there would come a day where I would not see her tomorrow. I am lucky to have no regrets because I was able to rearrange my life to spend so much time with her.”

Evaleen Whelton owner Konfidene Kidz with her daughter Maddie O'Regan, with Noelle Brennan , teacher with Lily Murphy, Emily Hardman with her daughter Heidi and Sabrina Daly with her daughter Holly MurphyPicture: Eddie O'Hare
Evaleen Whelton owner Konfidene Kidz with her daughter Maddie O'Regan, with Noelle Brennan , teacher with Lily Murphy, Emily Hardman with her daughter Heidi and Sabrina Daly with her daughter Holly MurphyPicture: Eddie O'Hare

Those sad circumstances have given Evaleen a desire to create a space in which other women can also put aside their schedules and enjoy activities with their little ones because, as she says, “time is precious”.

She adds: “I had the idea for a while. There are lots of activities you can go to with toddlers but not when they’re older. Personally, I’m ready to do this now. I’m at the stage of grief where it’s nice to do something in her memory.”

Dolores received “excellent care and treatment” at the Bons Secours Hospital but ultimately the family were keen to have her live out her days in her own home, which happened with the assistance of Marymount Hospice and Hospital.

“We knew she’d be more comfortable in her own home and Marymount were amazing — they were out to us every day for the last two weeks.”

Evaleen calls them “angels on earth”.

For this reason, all profits from the Mum & Me classes will be donated to Marymount. There is no set fee — although there is a suggested donation of €8 — and there is no need to book in advance, making it very flexible for mothers.

When asked what her mother was like, the first words Evaleen utter are “very private”.

Respectful of her privacy, she is reluctant to say too much, although other adjectives she uses are “very talented” (she made her daughter’s wedding cake, for example) “very patient” and “perfectionist”.

“She was a fantastic mum, a great support to me all my life, encouraging me in everything I wanted to do”, says Evaleen.

“When there’s a diagnosis you start grieving straight away. It’s afterwards you realise how dreadful the last two and half years were.”

She recalls a bitter-sweet moment: “My mother loved shopping and I remember we were in Wilton Shopping Centre two weeks before she died and she was buying Skechers. I was trying to hold back the tears, thinking: ‘Why are you buying shoes?’ But she did what she enjoyed until she couldn’t anymore.

Evaleen Whelton owner Konfidene Kidz with her daughter Maddie O'Regan , with Noelle Brennan , teacher with Lily Murphy, Emily Hardman with her daughter Heidi and Sabrina Daly with her daughter Holly MurphyPicture: Eddie O'Hare
Evaleen Whelton owner Konfidene Kidz with her daughter Maddie O'Regan , with Noelle Brennan , teacher with Lily Murphy, Emily Hardman with her daughter Heidi and Sabrina Daly with her daughter Holly MurphyPicture: Eddie O'Hare

“She had an amazing outlook, to never give into it. Her motto was to get on with things. Although she didn’t drive from the day she was diagnosed — and she was always a very independent person. That was hard for us as well, being used to someone who is independent and suddenly they’re not any more.”

Dolores’s determination to enjoy life meant she had one last holiday to France with her husband eight months before she passed away.

“It was fantastic they had that time together, even though her energy levels wouldn’t have been the same,” says Evaleen.

Evaleen had been a drama teacher for 15 years when she set up Konfident Kidz three years ago, just one month before her mother’s devastating diagnosis. With classes running in various locations around the county, the aim of the organisation is to build children’s confidence, esteem, social skills and general happiness through drama.

This is done through classes in acting, communication and speech and drama, as well as Halloween and summer camps.

It differs from other drama schools because the focus is not on getting the lead role and becoming a star. In fact, parts are alternated to give everyone a chance to participate.

“The aim is that they believe in themselves, not just on stage but also in real life. It’s about bringing out the quieter kids in the class who can sometimes get lost — and giving them the spotlight at their own pace. Since I started teaching, I realised you can’t build people’s confidence unless you give them a chance. I remember one girl [in a previous establishment] begged to have a part because she’d been the narrator for eight years.”

Evaleen, who lives near Bandon, is now a mother herself to four-year-old Maddy — and is looking forward to creating special memories with her, just like the other mums and children — aged four upwards — that she hopes will gather for her Mum & Me classes.

What can we expect from the classes?

“It’s just to have the time with your kid; it’s fun, we have a few games and role reversal; maybe a party piece — a song to sing together in the car later. The focus is on enjoyment and quality time with your kids.”

The first of the classes took place just over a week ago at St. Catherine’s national school in Bishopstown, which was attended by the young Evaleen when she lived in Waterfall. Assisted by Noelle Brennan, a drama and dance teacher, the group played games and learned a dance which they performed together on stage at the end of the session.

Mum & Me classes are to be held at that venue every Monday from 3.45pm to 4.30pm, while Evaleen has also launched Saturday morning classes at Carrigaline Educate Together at 11am. The intention is to run these until May.

For further details, phone 087 2945977, e-mail info@konfidentkidz.ie or find Konfident Kidz Ltd. on Facebook.

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