"Put on your coat"....."put on your coat"......."YOUR COAT", I find myself addressing my daughters back on the way to the car, this grey and rainy morning. "Dont need it" "s not really raining", I hear this as I take in her long freshly shampooed hair, whipped this way and that in the wind and the long pale legs (dotted pink with goose pimples). "Yes, IT IS , its raining, what do you mean not really, Yes, it is, its raining. ITS EITHER RAINING OR IT ISNT!" Oh dear, oh dear, we had the Junior certificate results on Wednesday and I hav'nt quite . . recovered . Nerves still a tad frayed. "She thinks the school coat makes her look fat," the boss explains, warmly wrapped herself. The goosepimpled one beats a retreat to the house for the coat, as I splutter confounded "fat"? She thinks what!". "she thinks.....what?"
I deliver myself of a short lecture on the idocy and skewed judgement of people. who WILL NOT KEEP THEMSELVES WARM and do not understand the proper function of an appropriate leval of body fat. There is a fair bit of eye rolling in the back, but I know she' s listening. And far from an idiot she is. Her exams results were very good. Even she, her most exacting critic, is pleased. She got an A in honours maths and this was greatly wished for.
She was always a good maths student, but found herself struggling at the beginning of this exam year. "Mum, could I uh maybe do a few private tutorials in maths, " a tentative request, in October. I have to admit I brushed her off then, on the basis that she is a very bright student. And it was early on in the year. And its a good school with a good reputation. I told her to tell the maths teacher when she didnt get it, that it would come. Frankly I felt that this was a reputable school , and it was yet another expense I didnt need. I mentioned this to the teacher at the parent teacher meeting some time after, and was blandly assured " oh well they will find themselves challenged this exam year" and "she SHOULD have no problem". However, she achieved a very poor mark in the mock exams, so I did what she had asked me to do in the first place. She recieved a tutorial from a retired maths teacher, who gave her three hours and after wards told me that all my daughter needed was to have some vital concepts explained to her, that she had no problem grasping same, and that she needed no further tution. My daughter told me that it was an intensive three hours, most areas were covered, and she was confident now that she "got it."
I was not aware, then, that there is a major issue with maths teachers' qualifications in our schools. Was anyone else? Should I have known? I so regret the fact that my anxious daughter had to look for this herself, because , despite the knock taken to her self esteem, "I know I SHOULD be able to get it" she was determined to do herself justice in this subject. And you find yourself wondering what abut the other subects ? How rigorous and thorough are standards set, and required, before taking on teachers to teach specific subjects? And are we to know know, before demanding standards of performance from the hapless schlars?
The exams results were released two days ago now. Though outwardly calm, " oh well its done now" my girl seethed with expectation and fear from the night before. They assembled at the school at ten am, and a sort of mass hysteria embraced all, for the rest of the day, and evening, when there would be OMG a DANCE. As it turned out my calm was outward also. She phoned me from school to tell me her results, and my hand, suddenly nerveless, struggled to hold the reciever. Its a rite of pasaage, this I know, and I suspect that the fevered worry and expectation of the entire examined student body leaks quietly into each childs household.
Anyway, we had THE DANCE". And who knows with parenting, when you will be confronted with major if not actually life altering issues. . "Mum, can I have a drink, with my friends, tonight". "No",! "God no". But she comes prepared and tells me that her brother, my oldest child, now happily launched. told her he had his first drink on the night of his junior cert results.(thank you for that son) " but he was a year older" I say firmly. "Well then how old were YOU when you had your first drink. I mean if not now when?. When can I?". "uh, I was uh surely nineteen maybe twenty"?. "Oh, right, ok" she says and I think there is some relief on her part, she can let that particular one lie for the moment. And I know, I know, she asked me, and thats good. I also know she may do it anyway, but I dont think so. My own parents found an irish parenting solution to an irish parenting question, on this one, ie, if you do it dont let me know anything about it. And I certainly was not nineteen or twenty when I first tasted alcohol. There was an adventure with a bottle of poitin at 12 or 13, which my father had been given and shoved into the back of the drinks cabinet , where it lay untouched awaiting my curiousity. One glass of tortured sipping and I was adrift at sea in a leaky vessel without a paddle. It was weird and wonderful and very very scary. And that did put me off for a time.
So when can she.? I struggle with this one. I realise my preferred answer is never. I want for her to experience all the rights of passage, the exams results, the birthdays, the first love, sober, lucid with all the neurons firing straight and true, all the memories clear and stored where she will later find them. I sometimes wish I could go back and do that for myself in this drinking culture, and I know its even less likely for somone of her generation, that one could might travel seemlessly, soberly and above all safely to adulthood, but hey I' m on the case, or should I say, I m holding this line for as long as I possibly can.
And then there was the trip into our nearest town at 11pm to collect her from the dance. (its all over now). And driving past the line of bare legged glamour girls, be killer heeled and beautiful, sitting on the wall at the supermarket waiting for their mothers and fathers to come and get them, to take them home.