Dear Daughters, back in September 1991 I took you, my eldest, for your first day at school. You were just four years old. I don’t remember that much, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t cry. And I don’t think I did either. Like your sisters who came after you, you had already spent some years in crèche, so you were all used to being abandoned to the care of others during the week.
Now we are coming to the end of the academic year 2019 and you, my youngest, are about to walk out of school for the last time, well after the small matter of the Leaving Cert that is. And when you do, you will be bringing to an end a long, arduous 28 consecutive years of my being a school mom.
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Yep, three whole decades and in that time I have been it all. I began as the single mom, although back then, I was an unmarried mother, God help me.
Then, when you, middle daughter, started school I was the career mom. Yep, the one who arrived at school with make-up on and hair done and who slowed the car down just enough for you to jump out safely because I was always in a hurry. I was saving the world or something.
They were the years I spent dreading cake sales when all my insecurities and inadequacies would be exposed. Then the juggling had to stop before someone got run over as I did my school drop-off and so I morphed into the stay-at-home, full-time mom who baked her own cakes and was now available to make tea after communions and confirmations. A job I detested. But I definitely did it once.
But although being a secondary school mom isn’t quite as hands-on as a junior school one, I am so ready to wave it all goodbye. It has been a very, very long road.
So, will I be emotional, I hear you ask? Sad, maybe? Will I hell? I am so over it all.
What I will be though, is relieved. Relieved that I am done. That you are done. That it’s all finally over.
Relieved to be finished with school lunches and the panic when Monday rocked around too fast and I didn’t have the required special ham that one of you insisted on, or the sweetcorn for the vegetarian one’s wrap. Relieved that I will no longer have to go through the charade of buying apples every week – two kinds when two of you were still in school, because of course you couldn’t both like the same kind of apple. No, that would be too easy.
So, eejit that I am, I bought both, in case one of you might actually take one to school, like you kept saying you would. I suppose it’s better than the weekly apple of junior school. Remember the one that travelled in and out at the bottom of your school bag from Monday to Friday, when I finally flung it in the bin?
No – that’s a lie. It was Monday when I threw it out. In those days apples lazed about all weekend in your bags so that your books always smelt like an orchard in October. I suppose I should be thankful that none of you like bananas.
I’m relieved, too, that I will no longer have the panic of the Sunday nights when I realised that I had forgotten to wash your bloody uniforms. And of course, you never reminded me. None of you. How many times did we to put on a wash at 10pm and then turn the house into a sauna as I cranked the heating up well into the night and festooned all the radiators with shirts and jumpers?
And socks. I am going to make a bonfire of school socks. Why oh why are white school knee socks so different from each other even though they all look the same when you buy them? Some lose their elastic and some don’t. Some shrink, some don’t. I have spent too much of my precious time trying to reunite socks that look the same but aren’t the same.
No more notes, or emails or text messages from school. No more head lice – you are all on your own with that now!
Best of all, there will be no more of the torture that is parent teacher meetings. My daughters, you will never understand how trying these are, until the day you will have join a huge queue to talk to a teacher for three minutes, behind the couple who think they are the only parents in the room and chat on, oblivious to the queue forming behind them.
No more roaring up the stairs in the morning to ‘get up’ or ‘get in the car’. This is a dreadful way to start the day, but that’s what we did for nearly thirty years.
No more school-runs. That journey of two miles frequently felt like forever, as I sat in traffic with incommuncative teenagers who insisted on listening to the most inane breakfast radio imaginable.
No more shoehorning my life into your school calendar.
Okay, so I still have the leaving cert to get through. And I promise I will do my best to be a good and attentive mammy for those weeks in June. But once you’re done, my girl, that’s it. I am done too.
I am telling all of you right now that I may decide never to cook a family dinner again. I may take off for hours or days, just on a whim. Maybe I will go and live on an island. You can manage college yourselves, right?
Because soon I will be free. Free at last. Thank God almighty I will be free at last.
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