Friday, May 08, 2009

Leaver's Day

I don’t remember my last day of secondary school. It’s funny, you would have thought a day like that would stick in my mind. Strangely, it’s lost in the mists of my memory. I remember Graduation of course - how could I forget? But the last day of school itself? Nothing.

I wonder if my son will remember his last day of school when he is my age? The last day of school comes early in England, at the end of Year 11, just before the very important GCSE exams begin. For young people in Year 11 this year, it is today. Today. Today, my son leaves school. I keep thinking that thought, rolling it round and round in my mind, as if somehow familiarity will make the words more tangible, more real.

It is hard to take it in though, as the whole day has an aura of unreality about it. Although it is “leaver’s day”, the young people will be going back to school over the next few weeks for classes and revision sessions, and for their exams. So although they are officially leaving, they are not actually leaving, things are just moving to another level. No matter how I couch it though, it is the last official day of school.

It seems like only yesterday it was the first day of school, my son’s tiny hand in mine, so excited about the future. And then more first days, every year a new beginning, every year an ending. I vividly remember my son’s “last first day” of infant school in Year Six. It was one of the first blog entries I wrote, lost back in the archive. Someday I’ll republish it, but not today.

Today is a day for celebrating. It’s the end of an era - the latter part of which has not been easy but which we all have come our of stronger, both individually and as a family. More importantly, and much more positively, it is the beginning of my son’s life as an adult - writing exams, moving forward into further education and making a life.

I hope that the celebrations are good ones. I feel a bit sad that if my son had stayed at his old school, it would have been a much bigger deal. On Leaver’s Day there, the kids arrive at school in limousines or fancy old cars. Most of them dress up in formal clothes and the celebrations are talked about for months afterwards. Nothing like that is happening at my son’s current school, but at least they are getting an assembly and apparently a bit of a celebration. I do hope it is memorable for all the right reasons.

It’s important to acknowledge today for many reasons, not the least of which is the pressure these young people are under to succeed in a world with its fair share of problems. But has it ever been any different? With some very rare exceptions, has there ever been a time in the last two centuries that anyone has left school in a world at peace with the economy totally sound? I don’t think so. Still, it is important to recognise the challenges our young people are facing, and encourage them to rise above them. Optimism, a quality that is sadly lacking in our society today, is vital in order to enable this next generation to fulfill their highest potential.

As for me as a mum, it is a day to acknowledge that for a while now, my role has been changing. Although my work as a mum is far from over (thank goodness!), “leaver’s day” does highlight the fact that for a while now I have been needed slightly less. This is giving me a new freedom, and a chance to look to myself again, to take the time to explore more of my own dreams and aspirations. It’s wonderful, but like all change, it’s just a tiny bit scary at the same time.

Most of all today, I’m very proud of my son, not just for what he has accomplished, but also for who he is. And although I can’t profess to be writing this dry-eyed, my emotions today are primarily happy ones. You see, one of the things I wrote in that blog entry all those years ago is something I feel equally strongly about today. I wrote,

“Our children never belong to us, and trying to hold onto something that is only being lent to us by God is selfish in the extreme.  My Mother never clung to me. She always encouraged me to move forward in my life, even if that meant moving away from her.”

My Mom was a fantastic example of what it meant to hold your children close while giving them wings. I hope that I can manage that amazing feat as well as she did.

To everyone leaving school today, Happy Leaver’s Day!

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