It was the Princess’s 19th birthday in April. I always manage to do a birthday post before her brothers’ birthday on September 27, but it’s a bit tight this year, I would concede. I thought I might stop after she turned 18 but she asked me when I was going to put up her “GDPR breaching” birthday post, so I took this as royal permission to continue.
I usually look back on the 12 months up to her birthday when I write these and the first photo I came across was from late April 2021. It strikes me that she looks very young here even if she had just turned 18. She’s grown up an awful lot over the past year.
She became a big fan of getting up at the crack of dawn and cycling around the park during Covid. She was fit as a fiddle. I went with her a couple of times which was always very pleasant though early which is not where my strengths lie.
Building on her Dublin cycling, she went on a couple of very long cycles with my brother (40-50kms) which she seemed to enjoy. Here she is enjoying a late lunch after a 50km cycle. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. I think she cycles less in England but she still whizzes around on her bike in Dublin.
The big event for her last year was the Leaving Certificate. Covid uncertainty made it all pretty difficulty (would there be an exam, wouldn’t there? what would be examined?) but, in fairness to her, she worked very hard. We had some slight anguish about her French which she was doing outside school. The French woman who was doing conversation classes with her was a PhD student out in UCD with no real idea of what the expected level of French in Irish schools is. She (generously in her own mind) predicted a H2 (between 80 and 90 percent). We were all outraged on the Princess’s behalf. Students were allowed to sit the exams in person and get predicted grades from teachers and choose the higher of the two. She sat all the exams as well as getting the predicted grades and, very unsurprisingly, secured a H1 in French (over 90%) in the exam. In fact when she did the oral, the interviewer seems to have really stopped examining and started chatting explaining that the exam is designed for students with much lower levels of fluency. Herself noticed that the examiner made a couple of errors, so I think we knew we were alright there. She was pretty calm throughout the exams and broadly took things in her stride. Slight trauma about the physics exam (fine in the end, you’ll be pleased to hear) but otherwise she sailed through it.
The now traditional holiday with friends after the Leaving Cert was obviously much curtailed and instead of going abroad, she went to Killarney which, you know, was ok. Personally, I went to my friend’s parents’ holiday house in Rosscarbery so I know how it feels.
She finally got her braces off. Honestly, that whole process was disastrous. The pandemic delayed matters. The whole thing was lengthy and painful (and expensive, needless to say). But, I must say, her teeth look great. Still not sure that I would do it again. Or certainly not with the same orthodontist.
She had a summer of waiting. The exam results which are usually issued in mid-August were due to be later this year. She had a place in a college in England contingent on her results and she’d applied to colleges in Ireland as well but the tension in the run up to the results was significant.
While her brothers were off for a week in Cork we brought her out to dinner with just her parents – to celebrate the end of school and the end of the exams – which she is still young enough to enjoy.
She tidied out her room with alarming thoroughness and culled many books which ended up finding homes elsewhere in the house.
We went on what I thought might be our last family holiday (although in the event she came to Stockholm this year so my weeping and gnashing of teeth may have been premature). That holiday feels like a long long time ago now.
She and her brothers are getting on pretty well as they all shade from adolescence into adulthood. Of course they see a lot less of each other now which I feel may help a bit. They haven’t bickered much in years which I suppose is a good thing but sometimes I think it’s maybe because they lead such separate lives. I would love them to stay close. I am really close to my siblings even though we regularly drive each other crazy. And, as they say, it’s the longest relationship you are likely to have in your life, so it’s an important one.
She often seems more than two and a half years older than the boys. And, the fact that they are the exact same age means that they have much more in common with each other than they do with her. But I think, as they all get older, this will change. The boys will be in college next year (gasp) and they will all three have more in common again then.
To no one’s surprise (including her own, I think) she did very well in her exams and comfortably made her college offer in England. Still, I don’t think I will ever forget going into her bedroom after she had downloaded her results and seeing her radiating happiness. We were all delighted.
I honestly didn’t think that I would be the kind of person who would be sad when my children left home. Well, it turns out, I was totally wrong. I expected her to go to college in Ireland and I thought she wouldn’t move out until she’d got her degree which is what happened with me and my siblings and, indeed, most city dwellers in Ireland. There’s a tradition of not going away to college unless you have to. But I should have known that she would be different, she has always been fiercely independent and keen to live away. She loved her three months in France when she was 15 and I think it made her really determined to study abroad. All the same, 18 seems so young to leave home and I was stupidly unprepared for that development.
It was so sad saying goodbye but she was so happy to be there. Mr. Waffle and I flew to England with her and spent an exhausting time setting her up.
She took to college like a duck to water, she liked the work, she liked living in England, she made loads of friends and she was just very happy and excited. My dentist’s daughter also went to college in England. I saw a lot of my dentist in the six months after our daughters both started college (it was a tough time toothwise, let us not speak of it). His daughter was always on the phone to them, came home for all the holidays and they had been to visit her many times. I think she was probably miserable and homesick and though I was thrilled that herself was not, I couldn’t help but feel a bit envious of the dentist and his ongoing access to his daughter. Herself informed me tersely that she was not enjoying being compared to the dentist’s daughter.
One thing that was really good about her going to England was that the college year started in person as normal. In Ireland, we were much more cautious and her friends who went to college in Ireland took a lot of courses online from their bedrooms which was a bit grim.
I was thrilled when she came with us to the Netherlands for a long weekend but already after only a month of college, she seemed to have grown and changed a lot.
She got Covid in December and I felt so sorry for her. Firstly, she was sick as a dog and all alone in isolation in her college room. Secondly, she had planned to go on a college ski trip and a weekend in Paris with a friend both of which had been paid for and she couldn’t get refunded for either. Then I began to panic that she might not make it home for Christmas. I suppose there will come a time when she can’t make it home for Christmas but not while she’s in her teens. I nearly cried. But, I am delighted to report that she did make it home and she got to go and visit some of her friends’ houses in England over the (very long) winter break. After the first, longest term, we were beginning to get the hang of our new relationship. Still every time I leave her off to the airport, I feel a bit heartbroken.
We went to visit her in England at the February mid-term. I think she enjoyed showing us around. We met her friends. Better, she was really keen for us to meet her friends. They were lovely. They were particularly nice to her younger brothers which is generally the way to my heart. It was good to see her happy, established and settled.
Her aunt and uncle in London were a godsend as, if anything went wrong, they were nearby and when she went to London (which she did a fair bit) they very kindly put her up. She gets on very well with her London aunt the author (who has in an absolutely delightful development dedicated her latest book to her nieces, herself is thrilled) who is extremely kind to her.
My own brother and sister are fantastic as well. She is constantly broke so cash from kindly relatives is very welcome. She met my brother in London and they went to some cool restaurant she couldn’t otherwise have afforded to visit. When he left her he gave her a lump of cash which she promptly went and spent on a (lovely) coat. Improvident but I suppose you are only young once. All her Irish-based relatives are relieved by the current relative strength of the euro against the pound.
Having missed the debs at home due to Covid, it was the year of her first balls. She liked them.
She was home for a good long break over Easter – when she celebrated her birthday. I loved having her home for ages. Herself and Dan worked on the design of the Easter table. I was suitably impressed by their efforts.
It’s funny, I was walking through our local urban village with her recently and I asked whether she thought a lot had changed. “Well no,” she said, “because I’m home all the time.” To be clear, this is not, as they say, my truth.
This birthday post is a lot more about me and my feelings than it is about her, I think. That’s largely because she doesn’t live with us anymore and I just don’t know quite as much about her life as I did. I am so pleased that she is happy and well and things are going her way. But the granular detail I had about her life from living in the same house all the time, just isn’t there. And that takes more getting used to than I expected. I still occasionally lay the table for five.
This year with me not working and her more settled into college life, I expect to see a lot more of her. She will visit home a bit more. I will visit her in England more regularly. I feel, however, that this year we have set out the parameters for our future relationship with our adult child.
Daniel, unhelpfully, said to me, “By the time your child is 18 you have, on average, already spent 90% of the time you are going to spend with them.” However as my friend D pointed out, a lot of that time is spent walking up and down in the middle of the night with a crying baby, it’s not a lot of fun but the time now is all good.
In that spirit, Mr. Waffle and I are going to Paris at the weekend to see her. She’s spending the month of September there doing an internship. Isn’t it well for her?