They say your school days are your best days but as my eldest left school last Tuesday, I hoped that wasn’t true. I hoped that even though he’d had a great time and come out with some good grades that more good stuff is coming his way. I don’t want him to feel it’s all downhill from here.
The school very much put on a celebration of the kids time there and they were mostly all excited not sad. I expected to feel emotional. In the days leading up to the last day, I often found myself pondering the next life stage for him and me. I felt a little sad that school was all over and something that tied us together had ended. But mostly I felt philosophical that the time had come to let my little bird fly and that the main job of raising him is over. My own school days played on my mind and I layered my own feelings from those days over his. He has had a very different school experience to me, which I am glad for, and he has many mementos and great memories to remind him.
Summer seems to be on fast forward now – leaving school, A Levels, driving tests, University forms, summer holidays and then the stark reality of his departure. I’m trying to savour every day of these last couple of months, trying to not be too much of a nag and enjoying family time together before it changes inextricably.
The poet Cecil Day-Lewis wrote ‘Walking Away’ when his son Sean left school. I think it sums up this poignant time when a parent must let go and take a step back from their child in order for them to grow and flourish as an adult. I’m taking that step back, how about you?
Walking Away – Cecil Day-Lewis
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.