Social media has been awash with ‘first day at school’ photos this week and as always it makes my heart smile to see so many lovely happy faces setting off on this new journey in life.


It’s one that starts out at four or five years of age and continues into the early twenties and nothing prepares us, as parents, for that first day saying ‘goodbye’ to our little treasures. It’s been a few years (quite a few) since I said one of those ‘goodbyes,’ but as the years continue, there’s always another ‘goodbye’ to say and they never get any easier.


As my middle son, my 23-year-old, moved from Donegal to Dublin last summer to embark on his new future, it may as well have been his first day at school. I cried. 


 My youngest ‘little’ boy who is now 19, packed his schoolbag and fixed his tie this very morning just 2 years ago. I had his school lunch prepared from the night before and as we had breakfast and talked about the year ahead, I began to realise that I was going to miss these days very soon.


I realised that in one years time, I won’t have this little morning routine anymore. I won’t be making that school lunch or washing that school uniform. For 20 years now, those things had been part of my daily routine. As he walked out the door that morning, I said ‘goodbye, work well and enjoy’ as I had said each morning to three sons over two decades.


The front door closed behind him and I knew that in just nine months, his life and mine were about to change forever. The life that I’d known for 22 years was nearing an end. The boy was then planning, like his brothers before him, to venture off to college.


Suddenly, I realised that the photo I took that morning was not just one of his first day back in school photos, but the last ‘first-day’ school photo I will ever take. I didn’t put that photo on social media. It was too personal. It’s one for the family album, not a World Wide Web album. It’s one I will treasure forever and one that will remind me that I did spend 20 wonderful years preparing, rearing, and caring for my children’s school years.


A tear escaped my eye that morning and I kept it to myself, but I cried yet again because my little boy was very much a ‘big’ boy that day. But really, I should have smiled that day because he’d grown into a delightful young man and be happy that on this first day of his last year in school, he left our home with a smile on his face.


That same young man is now preparing to return to his second year in college. And I still recall that first day in school. It never leaves you. 


School days really are the best days of our life, and that goes for us mums too. Don’t complain over making the school lunches (I did for years) because the day is coming when you’re not going to be making them anymore and it’s then that you realise how special they actually were and how special those school days were.


They are gone too soon.

Mother of 3 grown up sons. Wife of one. Freelance Writer, English Tutor and Children's Creative Writing facilitator. Parenting is a continual learning process and one in which we're never fully qualified. Sometimes the bigger children test us more than the little ones. I'm still enjoying my parenting journey and even the role reversal which kicks in nowadays - yes, the big kids do the parenting every now and then.

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