Of all the milestones our children reach, finishing school must rate amongst the top ones. I have three children and my eldest received his VCE score today.
I attended his Speech Night recently. Deservedly, a fuss was made of the Year 12 graduating group. A video montage was played with many of his peers appearing from kindergarten right through to their secondary years. Cherubic faces morphed into chiselled features, mops of curly hair to buzz cuts. Prizes were distributed and I contemplated the 15 years of driving back and forth, the plethora of parent/teacher meetings, school plays and music nights all of which will continue but now, without my attendance.
I consider my son one of lucky ones who managed to navigate school fairly unscathed. He experienced some harassment before his teens when his over-protective mother (that would be me) insisted he only be exposed to movies with a G or PG rating. Into his teens, I continued to be the source of embarrassment when I insisted on receiving details about the parties he attended, whether an adult would be present and alcohol served. Ironically, the boy who teased him most is now one of his good friends.
I almost managed to redeem myself in his eyes and the eyes of his friends when I agreed to an 18th birthday party. I’m certain he must have asked me when I was distracted or tired. To his credit, he revealed that as said party was to occur straight after exams, everyone would be looking for a “big” night. The psychoanalyst in me tells me he was looking for a way out. Who wants to be responsible for 100 kids with a big reason to celebrate? Needless to say, the party was cancelled. Instead, his friends opted for a much tamer night, attending the UFC. For the uninitiated (that would be me) that’s the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I’m told by my son it’s a mixture of martial arts with minimal rules, basically people bashing the shit out of each other. While I was tempted once more to spout my G and PG dogma, sadly I acknowledge, that time is over.
It’s time to say goodbye to many things. His school uniform, or what was left of it after muck up day, will be donated as will his school books. Following the supervision of 120 hours of driving (there are still 100 to go) a license will mean the end of our duty as taxi driver, for him anyway. Curfews will be a thing of the past. So too sobriety (I assume), at least when he’s not driving.
I’ve never been sentimental about previous milestones passed. I’ve looked forward to each new stage, to my children growing into themselves. But as I look at my son now, no longer cherubic, about to enter the world from the bubble that was his school, where teachers cared about his progress and pushed him to be his best, my heart beats a little faster wondering what’s to come. Because it’s not just children who are in a bubble for their school years, so are their parents. And while he might be ready for the bubble to burst, I’m not sure that I am.
(This is an adapted version of an article published in the Sunday Age.)