When we have children we are given them on loan. For the duration of the loan we do the best we can for them and for our sanity. We fall out with them; we do our best to fix their problems; smother them with love and as time goes by eventually embarrass the hell out of them . We support them and cheer them on; we cry for them and with them and then one day with an ache in our heart we wave them on and wish them the best with their future, making sure they always know there’s no place like home.
My eldest is sitting the Leaving Certificate and that stage of ‘letting go’ is one I thought and secretly hoped would never come to pass. In the build-up to the exams everything was fine and the atmosphere was one of practicality, what does he need to pursue his chosen path. However, and I even surprised myself, driving to the school on the first morning of the exams I found myself with a lump in my throat. I was melting inside as I watched him head in to sit his first exam. His whole life had just hit me like a bolt from the blue. I would be a snivelling wreck by the time I got home.
I stopped off and had a coffee to gather my thoughts about how I was feeling. Had that much time really passed? Am I really this old already?? My mind drifted back when, at about the age of three he was dressed in his green (what was I thinking…) dungarees ‘helping’ his daddy strip wallpaper whilst also decorating the fresh paint work with his markers and crayons. I remembered him being afraid of sand on his first ever visit to the beach at Bray. I chuckled as I thought of the nights myself and my husband took it in turns to sleep because the child only ever needed about three hours!!!. In the twenty minutes or so as I sat and had my coffee I felt an overwhelming sense of loss. That is the only way I can describe it, and I know to some of you this must seem extreme but I can’t think of any other word. I can assure you though that I do not lament the loss of nappies, sterilisers, teething and all the paraphernalia associated with having a baby.
To try and balance ‘my loss’ I tried to put myself in his shoes. Here he is almost 18 and leaving school with the whole world at his feet. He is living in a world that is much smaller and easily more accessible than it was in 1985 when I sat my exams. As this train of thought took off I began to feel more upbeat. What wonders will he experience when he leaves the ‘nest’? Where will his travels bring him? Will he go visiting mad places that I’ve never heard of and run out of credit in the back of beyonds? Will he achieve his goals and be happy with his path? Of course as mammy, I can’t answer any of these but I started to get excited for him. I found myself wanting him to go and live an independent exciting life before all the serious grown up stuff starts to happen. I found myself looking forward to sitting down with him and chatting about the future that would more than likely take him away from home. But of course in order for me to do this I would have to let go.
He’ll probably get lost somewhere along the way, and maybe take a dubious turn here or there, but as long as he’s safe and knows we’re here sure that’s all that any Leaving Cert mammy can do. The whole process of the past couple of weeks has brought our parenting skills to light, and to be honest I don’t think we’ve done that bad a job. It’ll tug on my heart strings for a while yet, that I do know and Lord help me when my other three get to that stage. But I’m a bit more positive about the whole thing now, I just hope he is too.
Through this whole process though there is one thing I am sure of, I am the proudest mammy walking, and so grateful for the gift that is my children. We can do no more than our best and hope that they have learned from us in the process and can carry those lessons with them on their own journey.
He may not need me to put a plaster on his sore knee or even tie his shoelaces but he’ll always know I’m there.