Herself was 18 on April 12. This is a belated birthday post. They almost always are.
I’ve been writing about her here since she was 8 months old. She featured in my first ever blog post.
I sometimes wondered about the wisdom of including all this information about her online. I really started the blog because we were living abroad; I was lonely at home alone with a small baby; and I wanted to let my family know how we were getting on.
And then I have a personality that likes to finish things. So I kept going. Long after every other blogger in the world moved on, here I am still updating away.
I feel insofar as herself is concerned, it’s mostly pretty harmless stuff. I wanted a record for her of what her life was like in the small ordinary ways. When she was very small, I remember Mr. Waffle saying, we will keep all her medical records perfectly and we have a paper record of every vaccine and booster she got, safely filed away. Mr. Waffle and I are both avid filers but I am the family archivist: the blog, the carefully printed and labeled photo albums. It’s like I am trying to stop the endless, remorseless march of time.
Here’s an early photo of herself – before the arrival of her brothers – with doggy proudly displayed. How she loved that toy. How many of them we had to find online and buy as replacements for those lost on our journeys to and from Brussels.
Then her brothers arrived. It was undoubtedly a shock to her system. One to which she continues to adapt.
From the very beginning her brothers looked up to her and she whipped them into line. She still does. She asserts their rights (and her own) against the oppressive dictatorship of her parents.
We came home from Belgium when she was five. Unlike her brothers, she retains memories of the Belgian school system and the flat where we lived. We put her straight into an Irish language school. She didn’t even know that English language schools were available, the poor mite. For years, she loathed Irish but something happened when she was about 13 or 14 and she started to love it. She is so good at it now and did all her exams through Irish which is no joke.
I moved heaven and earth to keep her French alive, having a series of French childminders so that she never lost touch with the language. We sent her to France for three months in Transition Year. Honestly, it nearly broke my heart to send her abroad for so long at only 15 but she loved it and her written French improved immensely. Through the placement programme she met children from all over the world and is still in touch with lots of them giving me live news from her friend in Argentina or Iceland or the US.
She always wanted to be away and independent. She longed to go to an Irish language boarding school in Dingle when she was 12 but we resisted.
She likes harder books than me now but I remember when she was about 10 or 11 she read Amy Chua’s tiger mother book. And then she read it again and again. Why she wondered was she not playing Carnegie Hall. I am a pretty competitive person though nothing compared to my mother. She spent a lot of time with my mother when we came back to Ireland and I can’t help wondering about that formative influence. I remember one of our childminders saying, “She frightens me a little, she is so small, she knows so much, and she is so smart.” She added application and single mindedness to her natural ability and the results are impressive.
And then she became an excellent and competent public speaker: announcing, debating, chairing every type of student council and organisation. She loves that kind of thing though sometimes I did wonder whether she bit off more than she could chew.
She never really liked sport much. She did a bit of horse riding on summer holidays over the years and played GAA for a season aged 6 but it would be hard to say that she was an enthusiast.
She quite liked skiing but it’s not really a sport that lends itself to regular outings, at least, not if you live in Ireland.
While she always cycled to school, since lockdown she has become a champion cyclist, going all over the city and heading off on 30-40km bike rides with her uncle over the summer.
Since she was very small, she’s been interested in cooking. She’s kept it up and added to her repertoire over the years. She’s a much better cook than I am and I feel we are sending her out into the world with excellent survival skills in this regard.
She became a vegetarian when she was about 14. I was horrified. But she stuck to her guns. She usually does. I remember telling her irately that vegetarians have to eat vegetables. And she did, she expanded her diet beyond all recognition. I still regret that she cut out meat though but she is nothing if not determined.
I’m very glad we brought her back to Ireland when we did as she got a chance to know her grandparents. Three of her four grandparents have died since June 2019 and her fourth grandparent is in a nursing home with dementia. I love that she got to know them before they became ill. My mother was one of her greatest fans and she was a source of endless delight to my mother, even as my mother became more and more unwell from Parkinson’s disease.
One of the many things I like about her is how very funny she is. She is the most entertaining company. I love to talk to her.
She gives good advice as well and is insightful about problems. She has a mind like a steel trap and never forgets anything. She is inside my head. She always knows what I think about everything and what I am thinking at any given moment. This can be handy but is also a little unnerving.
Many, many years ago, before I had even met Mr. Waffle, I remember talking to a friend about having children and the pros and cons. She said to me, “You don’t want to have children, you just want to create adults to chat to.” A bit harsh but there might be something in it.
I feel so sorry for all the young people and the years that have been taken from them by Covid. Herself was 16 when it started, just about to turn 17.
She had such a great social life with friends from school and all friend she had met on courses and committees. She loved going out in the city centre. Wherever we went in Dublin, she seemed to run into friends and then abruptly it was all taken from her. She was so stoic. It was hard.
And then all the uncertainty about school closures and examinations. As part of her ongoing plan to leave home, she decided she wanted to go to college in England. She was offered a place which was an arduous process in itself but then she had to do really well in her exams to be able to take it up. The exams mostly went very well but Physics presented some problems. I wasn’t sure she was going to get what she needed. It seemed very unfair but a part of me thought it would be good for her to stay in Ireland. I know in England and the US, students mostly go away for college but in Ireland they mostly stay at home. And I hadn’t quite bargained for her going away.
She got her Leaving Cert results today. One of the nice things about this is that its such a big deal in Ireland that everyone knows. Loads of people contacted me to wish her luck. She did really, really well – better than both her parents who, may I tell you, were no slouches – and has more than safely secured her place in England. My mother would have been so thrilled; that was the first thing I said to herself and the first thing my sister said to her as well.
I am delighted for her, I really am. It’s going to be great. I have every confidence in her ability to live alone and manage swimmingly. She is going to love studying in college; she’s made for it. I have no worries about her, none at all.
No, it’s me, I’m worried about. I am just not quite ready for her to leave home. Who will read my mind now? She’s emigrating at the end of the month and, no, I’m not ready but she really is.