The Leaving Cert; an Irish Mother’s Tale
The youngest and last has today begun his Leaving Cert. He was recently getting into his suit for his Graduation, and asked “hey Mom, how do you feel, your last baby Graduating?” I smiled and lied, saying, “Aw son, did I think this day would come so soon” (thinking, not bloody soon enough). So, he got me thinking of the previous three.
The 1st. I have had the Madame, eldest, who was “I can/will do it my way and stuff you”. She who of 13 years, yelled “why can’t I have designer jeans like, like, like and not your Monsieur bloody Dunnee of Dunnes Stores?”. So off she trots and gets a job sweeping hair in dungeon hairdressers.
Well, I will say it now, I do believe in child labour – that’s what Saturdays are for. However, she with her precocious vocabulary and opinions would not survive a minute. So….I got her a Saturday job in a Fishmongers. Ah, I loved that moment, thinking of her gutting a fish and naming the lobsters. However, to my eternal surprise, she loved it and stayed well into Uni.
With her Leaving Cert looming, I got a call from a friend in the library, did I know that my daughter was in there studying little other than the other sex? Lovely! Then the time of the one of the many bomb alerts in the town where her school resides. Her Dad was at work and got a call to clear the street of people including the local pub. Yep, you guessed it, she being IN IT. She swears to this day, it was her first time. Again, lovely! Teenagers will be teenagers I guess. Anyway, during those stressful few weeks of exams I cooked all her favourite foods, ran the car into the ground and juggled my work – barely avoiding being sacked – just to get her and me through the Leaving Cert. It came and went, and here we are 6 years and two degrees later and she’s still making us so very proud. She is doing what she loves, writing and juggling a business….
2nd. She who came out of me and never shut her mouth for nearly a year. Then became a lovely little independent girl only to re-emerge at 13, screaming “get out of my face woman”, horsing into town every five minutes (the major attraction being, I found out years later, a ‘free house’ in town). She’d refuse to say where exactly she was going and for how long, and in answer to my question “why can’t your friends come here”, she’d snap “why would anybody want to come here? It’s dead and you’re dull” She now says if she was me, she would have had put her away. Don’t think I didn’t think of that! Trying to get her through the Junior Cert, she asked me if I thought she could ever be a Doctor (ER was huge on TV) “Of course you can, you just have to want it so much you make it happen” I answered. I was top of the Mother class that day, you’d be proud of me. A lot of tears were shed during the Leaving, and there were lots of pains in the head, back, stomach and no, not just mine. 6 years later and final year for Medicine is looming. A stone of weight will be on for that one.
3rd. Ah, now here is Einstein, Gino D’Acampo and Bear Grylls. My first born son. He who said when I screamed at him, catching him hiding a novel under his maths book, “Mom, you don’t know how much study I need to do until the Junior is over. For all you know I might be studying enough or too much”. I closed the door and my eyes, said a prayer and cursed my way to the fridge. He who has made UCD night life the landmark it is today. When I would have a ‘chat’ as to how his exams are going, he would say stand back, survey me up and down and say, “Mom, you look great, did you lose weight?” Smart boy, eh?
He who cooks apple crumble and cookies going to parties (Gino) and goes off mountain climbing the weekend before his exams (Bear). His best moment was when he was doing his pre-Leaving. I got a call (one of many) from the school. He did not turn up for this morning exam. How I am still employed I will never know. Off I went, breathing hard, repeating to myself “calm woman, calm”. It took me 3 ½ hours to break him, but break him I did though. Later he said I should have worked for Mossad. His excuse? “I needed more time to study for my Irish Oral so I stayed at home and studied for it”. Totally missing the fact that he missed an English exam in the process.
OK, I then asked him did that also include the 2 bottles of Dad’s beer that were missing from the fridge. “yep, I took them to calm me”. Oh, sweet suffering Jesus, give me patience. He had a meltdown but we got through it, and here we are a couple of years later and he is near the end of UCD. Will the place ever be the same when he leaves? (This kid, in time, I will write a whole book on. Remind me later about his ransom note to the Virgin Mary re baby Jesus, his scrap in a Park, his four lost CAO forms… The list runs on)
4th. The LAST! My baby boy. He who is so chilled I actually take his temperature or a mirror to his mouth at times. He has such a soft nature, and an ‘all is good’ attitude. The hair is the most important thing, after girls of course. Even he however, had a pre-Leaving Cert meltdown. For years I would roar that a tazer wouldn’t stir him. If he was on fire he wouldn’t stretch for the water. He was the one with three mothers (his real one – me – and his two sisters) so when he came home from Primary School with the wrong books, or more often simply no books or no homework copy, his sisters of course would come to his rescue. It got to the point his teacher would call him up to her desk before bell went, to check his bag, every single evening. He would smile his smile and that would be the end of her and her rage…
Well, here it comes. Panda man (their Dad) and I went to Carcassonne to finalise the purchase of our 31 year dream home in France. We stayed all of 3 nights. Youngest son, the 4th, was given a “talking to”. Bed, study, take responsibility for yourself, real food, not crap. I cooked, froze and generally left him with absolutely nothing to do but study. Hah!
Each night I rang, chatted about his day at school etc. All was great, no problems, took his sandwiches, fed the fish and got sleep. So, now I am home and at work. Oh, yes, you guessed it. Another call from school, like the other son, one of many. The upshot was that I was asked was I aware that ‘Son’ was not at school for three whole days? What’s more the had in her hand a note. Penned by me apparently. This child will not not make his fortune in forgery, however, and the teacher had very quickly cottoned on to the true author. I asked her not to tell him that she rang me, as I wanted to trap him. (It’s not parenting, it’s warfare; I am the Mama who once bought an Xbox purely so that I could take it off him for punishment. Don’t judge, it was all I had to work with!)
So, in he waltzed at 4pm, having actually gone to school, and I asked “how was your day son?” “Great Mom, what’s for dinner?” he nonchanantly replied. God I was boiling but I was carrying out an Oscar-winning performance. I left him to stew for 2 days, all the while waiting for him to come clean. Eventually, Friday night came, and wham! He got it right between the eyes; he was barely in the door. I won’t bore you with the argy-bargy, but when I asked him why he didn’t go to school his defence was; “Mom, it’s like this, Monday I slept late so stayed in bed ‘cos am sooooo tired. Tuesday, I was already in trouble and Wednesday I was just….afraid”. So why, I hear you ask did he go on Thursday? “I had to go ‘cos you were on the way home”. The genius of it. This, my dear people, is the future people who will be looking after us in our dotage. I do hope they legalise euthenasia first.
If it’s of any help, my experience is that when they melt down it’s your melt down and when you melt down, bottle it. Keep it for a couple of days past the Leaving Cert, then open the door and let fly. OK it’s over, you’re finished your exams, now back to business - clean your stinking room, take that uniform and dump it, oh and while you’re at it, dump the attitude you think I let you away with. Oh, yes, we all have our day… Oh, and by the way, do you notice how little I have written about the two girls as opposed to the two boys? Yep, and there is so much much more, I tell you!