Herself was 16 on April 12 so this is a very belated birthday post.
In the run up to her birthday she conducted a concerted campaign to get her nose pierced. We yielded though I fought a good, but ultimately unsuccessful fight, on the “this is cultural appropriation” angle. Once her birthday had passed, Mr. Waffle took her to a tattooed man on the quays who pierced her nose. It’s the outside of enough to have to support something you don’t even want but I didn’t want her going on her own so Mr. Waffle nobly took her. I do not love the nose piercing but it is reversible, I suppose.
Poor child, I was glad she had something to look forward to as she got braces on her bottom teeth and was absolutely miserable. I am slightly in the horrors about our choices on braces. Her teeth were fine and I feel I have been susceptible to American influence in my belief that they should be perfect. She bitterly points out that, as is often the case, I have learnt my lesson from her and would be pretty reluctant to put her brothers through the same misery unless the dentist insists.
This year in school is Transition Year where they do fewer academic subjects and more other things. One of the things they did was a school musical. She told me it was terrible and that she had a tiny part. I don’t know why I believed her because it wasn’t true and had I known the nature of the performance I would have brought along the extended family to admire her genius. It was held in a small theatre and the children did a wonderful job. Herself was fantastic, funny and clever and really engaging in one of the three main roles. I loved it and so did her father and brothers who are a much harder audience to please. One of the other parents said to me afterwards, “Is there nothing that daughter of yours can’t do?” and a part of me thought, “Nope, there isn’t really.”
Yet again this year she was on the organising committee for the school trust’s gathering of all its schools. She is now an expert conference organiser. She also basically runs the school and has got herself on to the student council for the fifth year running.
Although she missed three months at the start of the year, she still got a “Teastas Ór” – gold award for her year’s work. Not worth seeing she assured me as she gathered up her portfolio of stuff and hid it away from me forever. Sigh.
She has been very good about going to French class on Saturdays which she only finds alright. All the children in the class except for her and one boy, A, go to single sex schools. She and A sit together at the centre of the semi circle of students as they are the only two students who can speak to everyone in the group without embarrassment. “Once,” she told me, “a boy spoke to a girl and she went to the toilets and never came back.” This really takes me back, I was that soldier. I still cannot think of my debs without a slight shudder.
Due to constant efforts on my part, she realises that the rest of the country exists and that views outside Dublin may be ambivalent towards the capital. She was on a school day out to Tayto Park (the theme park devoted to a crisp, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) and seeing all of the other children wearing GAA shirts in county colours, her friend E said, “We’re surrounded by culchies.” Acutely aware of how this term is less than appealing to people from outside Dublin, she said to her Dublin friend, “Don’t say that.” E replied, “What should I say then, ‘people of the farm’?” My poor daughter, she has a mountain to climb.
She is still a vegetarian. I find this tough going but I am resigned. She’s doing it for climate change reasons which her father finds admirable. Like many teenagers (but unlike her brothers, it must be said) she is always off marching against climate change and trying to get us to buy less plastic and worry about the environment. It’s working a bit although, obviously, I bought the Aga which is an environmental mortal sin. Her vegetarianism and my poor cooking skills are not a great match. I find myself buying things in cartons (paper, recyclable cartons) for her from the supermarket which I know is not great. “What was your Indian vegetarian thing like?” I asked. “See the way it has a smiling white Irish man on the packet and it’s described as mild?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “It tasted like that,” she said. Alas, another failure. She’s a great cook herself and occasionally she cooks for all of us. I am hoping this will become more of a thing over the summer holidays. I came home recently to find she had made a very elaborate blueberry pie. I definitely regard this as a good sign.
She spent a weekend in Sligo with her aunt and uncle who were going to a wedding and retained her services to mind her two year old cousin. She found it tiring but lucrative. She’s working on her CV and is anxious to add to her list of skills. She did some work experience as part of Transition Year, so she’s got that as well. She would like to get a job. I am a bit unsure. I’m prepared to fund a reasonable degree of excitement and I feel she ought to have fun during her school summers. She feels a job would be fun which shows how little her work experience has taught her.
I find her a delight to be with. The two of us went to Cork together last weekend and she was such a charming companion. She was lovely with all of the elderly relatives. She was lovely with me. And she makes me laugh. We watched “The Lives of Others” recently and she commented, “I know it’s the fault of the repressive State but honestly, if we’d lived with you in East Germany, you would have been disastrous.” Funny because it’s true, people.
She is very wise. I am not sure why that should be but it is. I find her advice helpful and thoughtful. As she says herself, she is a wise owl in training. She reads a great deal; almost all of it very serious and worthy. A lot of it in French which is even more serious and more worthy. She gets this from her father who loves a serious book. Not from me, I’m rereading Harry Potter.
She seems very cool and trendy to me though, as she pointed out, if I think this, it is, basically, the kiss of death.
She is very good about telling us where she’s going and who she is with. She travels around the city, the suburbs and surrounding counties without any difficulty whatsoever. Her travel card is her most precious possession. I find myself praying she won’t be injured while riding her bicycle in town. Is it any wonder that I have become infinitely tedious on the subject of segregated cycle lanes?
This academic year has seen her change and grow a lot. The three months in France made a big difference but so did the freedom from the school academic routine. When she got back from France she had work experience one day a week; she also did a university law and politics course one day a week as part of an early university entrance programme; and then when she was in school they did different things – first aid, driving, the school musical, making a radio show. It was all pretty good, I think. It may be part of the reason why she described herself as being like a battery chicken who has experienced going free range but is now being sent back to the coop. I think she has strong views on our education system and they may not be entirely positive.
Earlier today, I saw her off on a plane to Zambia (via Madrid and Addis Ababa, mmm) where she and some classmates are going on a school tour (can I point out that all we got for our school tour was a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon?). They spent the year raising money for a school and orphanage in Zambia and they’re going to visit it as part of the trip which should be eye opening for them. I am terrified that she will get malaria, a terror not remotely helped by my father who snorted when he heard where she was going and feared that she would certainly get something. He’s a bit of a pessimist my father. I’m hopeful she will have a fantastic time but I am a little bit afraid. Honestly, this seems to be the basic state of being a parent of a 16 year old: I’m a little bit afraid at every new step but hopeful that it will all be fine, even better than fine, perhaps.