The last Donegal school day in 20 years for mum

By Grainne McCool   @grainnemccool

This morning was going to be like any other school morning. I promised myself last night that I wouldn’t treat it any different. But alas, as the 7 am alarm went off, my good intentions drifted into space.

I stepped out of bed and I woke the teenager, I still regard as my baby because no matter how old he is, he is the youngest of my three sons.

I woke with a tear in my eye and the emotions seemed to be eating at me with every second.  I came downstairs with a few tears flowing down my cheek.

This was no ordinary school morning. This was my last ever school morning. As mother to three sons I have been doing the school morning routine for 20 years now.  

September 1996 saw my first born son go off to school for his first day. I recall how he told me to leave at the school door: “Mum you go home now.”

All grown up - Grainne's boys
All grown up – Grainne’s boys

I remember leaving and feeling proud that my little man wasn’t crying to come home with me like many of the other children that day.

September 1999 saw my second son go off to his first day at school and the experience was much the same as the one before.

Then in September 2002, the baby of the family went off on his first day of school. This was the hardest as now there was no one at home during the day except myself. During the two previous first day at school experiences, there was always another child to go home to.

Over those 20 years I woke the boys for school every day, and I was home every evening when school was over. Being here full time didn’t make me a better mother than a working mother, but it was just who I was. It made me into the person I am today, and I hope it helped shaped the children into who they are today.

Just last week someone laughed when I told them I had the 7 am alarm to set as it was yet another school morning.

This person couldn’t believe that I didn’t start work that day until 10 am and yet I was getting up at 7 to see my 18-year -old off to school. In 20 years, I’ve never not seen my boys off to school in the morning.

So as breakfast was eaten this morning, it was with a tear still there in my eye. The baby is all grown up and is nearing the end of last ever school day.

I’m so fortunate in that these 20 years of school days, they really have been the best that they could be. Primary school saw all three boys taught by the best possible teachers. Some of those teachers’ influence I can still see in the boys to this day.

Ultan with mother Grainne McCool and aunt Louise McCauley
Grainne’s youngest son, Ultan with aunt Louise McCauley

Secondary school was much the same. Teachers came and went and with each one and something new was learned. We were very fortunate that both schools served all three of the boys to the highest degree.

So now as the baby has left home for the last school day of our lives, I’m not ashamed to have shed that tear. It’s a very sad occasion but it’s also a very joyous one.

It’s a day when I’m going to pat myself on the back. A day I’m going to tell myself, ‘well done you.’ And it’s a day I will look back on in the future. A future filled with with new possibilities for the boy and for me. There’s no more school lunches to be made. For that I’m grateful.

So it’s here that the new journey begins. It’s here I set off on my own. Mum is no more the ‘school taxi’, no more the ‘7 am alarm’ and no more the mum of a school boy. Mum is off on her journey now. And that’s going to be a journey worth travelling. Maybe you’ll travel some of it with me.

And for the last time I said:  “Have a good day in school kiddo.”

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