Belfast Telegraph

Kerry McLean: School's out for summer... and a flashback of my son gives me hard lesson in swift passage of time

Daniel on his last day of primary school
Daniel on his last day of primary school
Daniel starting P1

By Kerry McLean

I love it when we hit this page in the calendar, when the school year draws to a close and I get to have my children all to myself for eight long, fabulous weeks. We've no timetables to stick to, no pick ups and drop offs at the school gate to organise and, best of all, no knackered kids to haul out of bed and pour into their uniforms at seven o'clock in the morning.

We're only a couple of days into the holidays but already my lot have switched to summertime mode, staying up late and yet somehow getting up early and washed and dressed before I've even swung my feet out of bed and started stumbling about like a female Frankenstein's monster.

Why can't they get up that easily during term time? It's a question countless parents have asked over the decades and I'm afraid I'm no closer to providing the answer for you today. Like the sudden arrival of swarms of wasps, or the ice cream van going around the houses, or the uncomfortable sight of middle-aged men sporting socks and sandals, it's just one of those things that happens when we hit the summer season.

The task I loathe most during school time and the one I'm most delighted to see the back of for a couple of months, is getting the uniforms washed and ready for a new week. The first challenge comes in finding them. No matter how many times I ask my kids to bring their discarded uniforms straight down the stairs and pop them into the laundry basket on a Friday afternoon, it never happens.

Instead, I have to go hunting, hoking out bits of uniform - a tie from under the bed, a white shirt from on top of a bookcase and, on one occasion, after driving myself bananas for half an hour trying to find it, a grey skirt from under the dog. Our dog and my eldest daughter are very close and it's rare to find one without the other. When she can't find her favourite human, Tarka will take anything that smells of her into her basket for a cuddle. Clothes, teddies and used towels have all been used as a fabric substitute, so, as my daughter told me after I discovered the skirt and gave off about the waste of time looking for it, "...you should have looked there first". It was all I could do not to turn into a talking volcanic explosion after that belated bit of advice...

In the last week of June, I normally get the clothes cleaned and hung up in their wardrobes, ready for September, but this year, I've had to make some changes. Instead of hanging it up, I've had to fold my son's primary school uniform and put it away in a memory box because he's off to big school.

The last year has been so swallowed up with the transfer tests, both practice papers and the real thing, waiting for results and waiting to see where he got accepted into, that I hadn't really thought about him leaving his old school for good.

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In fact, with life being so hectic recently, it didn't really hit me until Tuesday morning, when he was standing there at the front door for his obligatory last day at school photo. I suddenly had a flashback to doing the same thing when he was heading out the door to start P1.

He was so tiny, swamped in a uniform bought a couple of sizes too large on purpose, in the hope that it would carry him through to the end of term. I had attempted to smooth out his messy mop of blond hair but already it was going every which way but down. His big brown eyes were a mix of excitement and anxiety and I just wanted to reach down, take him in my arms and declare that I wasn't ready to see him head off to begin his school life.

I'm not any more ready to see him grow up so quickly and take the next stage in his education, but if the next seven years bring him as much fun, learning and friendship as the first seven did, I'll be a very happy mummy.

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