Way back in 2006 my eldest daughter, Carla sat her Leaving Cert. I wrote this letter which was published some years later in the Irish Times. I am reproducing it here with my best wishes to all the mammies and daddies who are currently watching their offspring tackle the final lap of study before the exams begin next week. And to wish all the Leaving Cert students the very best of luck!
A LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER…..
Dear Eldest Daughter:
It is 8 o’clock on a cold, autumn evening and the house is quiet. I am sitting here at the kitchen table, with my cup of coffee, in the company of Doc, the old cat. The clock keeps steady time, marking out the seconds with a deep ticking. All is well. All is settled.
But my sense of peace is rattled slightly by something in the air. A vague tension stirs my sense of tranquillity. My own inner peace and the conspiring quiet of the house, allows my senses to pick up an energy which is seeping through the ceiling…… from your room.
Without visiting your room, I can picture you clearly. Sitting, bent over your desk. Your face lit by the desk lamp which also drops a pool of yellow light onto the dog eared pages of your notes. Your face is tense and your forehead holds furrows of stress as you attempt to force the information from the page into your brain. In front of you, your notice board is full of post-its and timetables. Reminders of what has still to be done and highlighting deadlines which loom menacingly in the middle distance. I am so proud of the way you are tackling your study, albeit it in a room which looks as if it has just been raided.
I was 18 once and I was where you are now. I can remember so well, the constant feeling of drowning slowly in a sea of home-work and study. Like you, I was sure that my whole life path would be determined by my Leaving Cert. The grand finale of my school days loomed like a huge mountain which had to be scaled alone. And I too thought that my ability to climb this mountain would determine how the world would view me as a person for the rest of my life.
Oh my child….. if only you could have the gift of seeing into your future. If only you could know what it has taken me 30 years to know. Your life path is already determined. You, the person you are, is already set. This exam, once done, will fade so quickly in its importance that it will leave you wondering if you dreamt it all up.
But I cannot tell you all this. Not now. You have to do what you have to do. And just now, life is presenting you with this challenge which will consume you and your spirit for the coming months. And this too is part of your life path.
So I sit here at my kitchen table, decades further down the road from you and I write you this letter. I will not send it. No, I will date it and keep it safe and on the last day of your exams I will give it to you. As you embrace your new found freedom and walk proudly out of school and into the world, know that I have always known what a wonderful human being you are. Know that the world will not look for your exam results in order to understand what a kind, caring, good person you are.
So as you read this, some day in June, I say congratulations to you, my daughter – you have arrived on the other side of the mountain. And as you stride from school for the last time, stop and look back at the building where you have been guided and encouraged and taught for the last six years. And behind the school, can you see the mountain. And look, already it is shrinking.
With love always