Leaving Cert parent’s diary: ‘School is over. Now it’s time to let go’

‘We have to stand back and let them make their choices and their mistakes’

‘We can read to them, study with them, send them to grinds ... but perhaps now school is over it is time to let it go and see where life takes them’

‘We can read to them, study with them, send them to grinds ... but perhaps now school is over it is time to let it go and see where life takes them’

 

And so the Leaving Cert begins and my son’s school days end.

It’s got me thinking of an essay known as Wear Sunscreen, published more than 20 years ago in the Chicago Tribune by columnist Mary Schmich.

It was a hypothetical commencement speech in which she gave much pithy advice to students (it was subsequently a chart-topping hit when set to music as a spoken-word song by Baz Luhrmann).

Among her advice was the important idea that we should “understand that friends come and go but for the precious few, you should hold on, work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get the more you need the people you knew when you were young.”

School is a place where, if you are lucky, you can make friends for life and if we do, we should hang on to them.

When my son and his classmates made their graduation speeches recently, he made some of the same points: “Even though we got astroburns and sunburn on sports day we all left with smiles on our faces.

“Our journey through school hasn’t been easy but I think we are all truly glad to have been in our school. We’ve all got to know each other well and have made friendships and memories that will last for life.

“I can look back at the time I’ve spent here and say from the bottom of my heart I’m sad that it’s over but very happy that it happened. Thank you to my school.”

Parents’ community

It gave me cause to reflect not only on how important it is to be part of a community for students but also how being a parent and being part of a school can give you a second chance to make friends.

We have celebrated our children’s achievements together and supported each other through the inevitable difficult times and I hope we will continue to do so. A school provides adults with the environment and opportunity to connect with people we would never have met had it not been for our children.

Schmich also advised us: “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives – some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.”

Lots of students sit the Leaving Cert and fill out their CAOs without really knowing what they want to do.

Students go to college and don’t continue with their original courses, or change their minds and do something else afterwards. It’s great if they get it right first time but if they are being productive and supporting themselves, is it the end of the world if they don’t?

My sons have ideas about what they want to do (one is in college and the other about to sit the Leaving Cert).

They aren’t quite sure where they are going and I can relate to their indecisiveness.

I don’t know why or how it happened to me but my career has changed hugely over the years and hopefully it will keep evolving. It feels insecure and sometimes I wish I had the ability to stick at one thing, but we can’t be the way we aren’t meant to be, no matter how hard we try.

It’s the same for our children. There is that moment when we have to stand back and let them make their choices and their mistakes. We would love to run their lives because we think we know best and it is hard to let them do it for themselves.

We can read to them, study with them, send them to grinds and try to force them off their computer games, but perhaps now school is over it is time to let it go and see where life takes them.

I’m going to try very hard to hold back on my never-ending stream of advice, but despite my good intentions I think it’s okay, no matter how big they get, to hand them a tube of factor 50 and keep reminding them, especially on sports day, to “wear sunscreen”.