Four countries, six schools, fourteen years, two and half thousand days, ten thousand arguments over the perimeter of a swimming pool and a million proud moments, there ends my daughters school life.
Of course, she’s delighted and can’t wait to say goodbye to school and get on with the next chapter, hard for a teenager to place it in context because it’s happening in real time, of course I’m happy for her too but as a parent, I can’t help thinking what else am I saying goodbye to after today.
No more school lunches, no more finding bruised and brown sweet smelling apples at the bottom of the schoolbag after the weekend, no more parent teacher meetings, no more trying to dry school shirts the night before, no more scuffle of the schoolbag in the footwell when I’ve said a million times put your bag in the boot, no more kneading yogurt of the front of the school jumper with a baby wipe at 8.55, no more arguments over pie charts and if the train leaves Dublin at 11.45 and the journey take 2hours and 35 minutes what time will it arrive in the Cork. I won’t miss that.
The satisfaction in seeing them wolf down a Shepard’s pie after coming home on a cold day, I’ll miss that. The sounds of excitement in the car when they’re bringing friends home on a playdate. The fridge peppered with ‘Certificates of Participation’ and the big celebrations that surrounded all that. The look of achievement after ten out of ten in the spelling test, the hair flicking independence of the first time eating ice-cream with her friends alone at the mall, when they’re too embarrassed to say ‘love you’ but text it instead. School concerts when they took a generous bow after their performance as a tree in the forest.
School life changed a bit when we moved abroad and suddenly we were more worried about wearing sun cream that a hat and gloves. The nativity play would be a thing of the past. National Day was Qatar Day not Patricks Day. They would gain an insight into people by religion and nationality. From being in set one for 12 years running, they would go to set three in Indonesia behind 50 ambitious Koreans; a good lesson in social context. They would enjoy the benefits of an international life but not the experience of going on the school tour, it being at the cost of Eu. 4,000 and to London.
Schools days differ for everyone and the biggest myth of all, of course is that school days are the best of your life. When it’s obvious, your twenties are the best days of your life. That glorious oasis in your whole life, when you have the figure, the cash and energy. When you receive pay cheques full of disposable income and spend Sunday hungover and scanning holiday brochures on where to party next, Ibiza or Kusi Dasi. I look back with fondness as I remember when it all began… on the last day of the leaving cert.
Here we are again, I had plans for her summer, long walks around the city to find her bearings for when she gets accepted to college. I dreamt of bus trials, from Carrigaline to Bishopstown, how long?, what route?, ‘and keep your phone on’. It was going to be real summer of discovery for her.
My reverie was punctured with said daughter, finished disposing of her uniform and books causally mentioned about her plan for the summer. ‘it’s cool, it’s nearly in Africa you know and one of the girls can get us all jobs’, was all I heard before I heard the word ‘Magaluf’ and my brain entered mental turmoil. I looked at her and flashed before me was an image a cross between the little girl holding her volcano model walking in the school gates and a coyote ugly barmaid, giving it all that on the counter pouring tequila down the throats of a stag party from Liverpool.
If this is the next stage of parenthood, then bring back the packed lunches and bruised apples of school days, because it seems they are the best days of a parent’s life.