Daniel turned 12 on September 27. He is so tall all of a sudden. I feel like he is going to pass me out soon.
He started secondary school at the end of August. It’s been tough for him adapting to the new school. He’s the second youngest in the year (his brother is younger by 20 minutes – more on him later) and I did spend quite a while agonising about whether the change was so hard because he was so young compared to his classmates. On the social side, he seems to be good at making friends and he has made a few new friends in the school. Academically, he seems to have settled and he is quite enjoying doing new things now I think. Tuition is through the medium of the first national language and his Irish is really improving and he seems to be getting on top of the vocabulary needed for each subject reasonably handily. He has the good science teacher (his sister, had the bad science teacher, happily, since retired) and as I type he is in the kitchen with a classmate working on a science project for the young scientist exhibition and loving science. Oh happy day. Some of his teachers are a bit terrifying and, although he personally never gets into trouble, he fears for his classmates. It’s a bit easier for us as we saw his sister go through the same process a couple of years ago and we knew that it would be hard at the start but it would get better. Also, I am on the parents’ council and I know the principal and all the teachers and any new ones, herself can give me the low down. It’s a big step up though. He’s going on the school tour to Germany in February and, reading the itinerary, I see that they will have free unsupervised time in Munich for a couple of hours and I do feel quite nervous about that. His sister is going on the tour too and I can see myself ruining the trip for both of them by insisting that she keep an eye on him. Meanwhile, he’s working away on duolingo as well as at school to bring his German up to entry level for the trip.
He is still doing GAA to beat the band. He has training two nights a week and a match every Saturday. He’s also on the school team, training one afternoon a week and a match every second week. He’s starting basketball soon too. He is, undoubtedly, the fittest and the sportiest member of our family. He’s also the only one who wears glasses. It was slightly disastrous when he lost his gear bag after a match at school and we feared that his €200 prescription sport goggles, his football boots and his school tracksuit might be in a field somewhere. Happily after an unhappy 24 hours for everyone, they turned up in the art room at school. I foresee more of this.
He will play football with anyone and he is just delighted when someone turns up with a football. Here he is outside the Pompidou centre in August:
He’s also started cycling in and out to school. I am a little afraid of the traffic, I have to say, but there is an approved safe route which I have authorised and he is pretty responsible, so I hope my fears are misplaced.
He is a proper latch key child as we said goodbye to our last childminder in July. Now, from 4 to 6, he and his siblings are home alone. So far, so good, it seems although, I would have liked to have been there the first few afternoons to help him along with homework which was quite the shock to the system.
For the first time, he is not in the same class as his brother and he finds that strange but he is getting used to it. He enjoys the fact that it reduces the tendency of people to treat them as the same person – which we are all guilty of, not just school. All the same, they still get on like a house on fire; actually, if anything a bit better than in primary school when they were together all day. They do annoy each other occasionally but mostly they play or chat together perfectly happily and they have loads of common interests.
His sister is more disputed territory. They are getting on a bit better but he still measures himself against her constantly and, given that she is two and a half years older than him, she usually comes out better (though not in sport!). For the school trip, I gave him a copy of his passport and his sister’s to give in to the history teacher who is co-ordinating the trip. “Oh,” said the teacher, “I didn’t realise you were [the Princess’s] brother”. Daniel admitted that he was and confided that he was slightly dreading being known as [the Princess’s] brother. “I know,” sympathised the history teacher, it was the same with me and my older brother Cormac.” So, I suppose it was inevitable that the next time that Daniel stuck his hand up to answer a question in history class, the teacher pointed to him and said, “Yes, you, [the Princess’s] brother.”
He got a phone for his confirmation in June and he loves it. He watches loads of game videos narrated by Americans giving him a slightly American twang which we do not love. He is like a sponge for accents though; we watched Des Bishop’s “In the name of the Fada” and for a couple of hours after each episode you would have thought he was born and bred in the Connemara Gaeltacht. He also uses instagram to stay in touch with all his friends. It seems to be their main mode of communication. He tells me that one of his friends who went to a less strict school has now died his hair purple and joined a band. Hard to know how to feel about all this. I think he is reading a bit less since he got the phone, though he still reads a lot and enjoys it very much.
Daniel continues to be a spectacularly picky eater. If he didn’t drink milk, I think I would pretty much despair. I pretty much despair as it is. I hope he grows out of it and someday we will be able to go out for family dinners to places that serve neither pizza nor chips. He confided in me recently that his favourite food is the Lidl chicken nugget – something, I would like to emphasise, that his father brought into the house.
He is generally interested in things and willing to explore and investigate where his siblings might dig their heels in; the triumph of hope over experience as he gazes around another gallery.
He’s good at art and enjoys drawing things on the whiteboard in his room that his aunt got him and drawing manga comics. They did an art project at the end of 6th class and their work was hung in the Hugh Lane Gallery as part of an exhibition. I thought Daniel’s picture was really good. So good, in fact, that in a blind test to guess which one was his, I picked it last because it seemed almost presumptuous to guess that that picture might have been done by my child.
He’s also quite musical and I’m hoping that music class in secondary school will fill the gap which his parents have left in his musical education. Look, at least he sings in the church choir on Sunday.
Overall, it’s been a good year for him, I think. I hope that he will like secondary school; despite the terror of teachers and the horror of homework, he’s really enjoying learning new things. There’s a school games club and, of course, GAA and he’s enjoying both.
I would love to see him care a bit less about what other people think; he can get really upset and frustrated. I think he is growing out of this but it is hard when the world is full of very annoying people – many of them closely related to him. He has a clear sense of what is fair and what is not and he watches his sister like a hawk to make sure that there is equal treatment. He has parents who can be mortifying but he is resigned to this and bears us no malice.
He is very hardworking – at school, at sports, at home. If you want something done domestically, Daniel is obliging, speedy and efficient.
At the moment, now that he has settled in to secondary school, he is a pleasure to be around. His father and I went out for a cup of tea with him this afternoon and it was lovely. He and I walked back home together afterwards and we had loads to talk about. Let us hope that all will continue to be well as we stare down the abyss of adolescence but for the moment, things are pretty good.