So, last Tuesday evening my youngest son and I attended his Valedictory Dinner. As I sat there and listened to what sounded very much like the same speech delivered at my other two sons’ dinners, I realised this would be the last Valedictory Dinner I would attend as a parent.
Now the evening itself is not so spectacular that I’m going to miss it for its own sake, but to me it was significant that another milestone has passed on our journey to the end of my son’s school days and the end of me having any children at school. I almost felt sad. But perhaps it was the lack of alcohol that brought on the sadness? After all, a $70 dinner without a decent glass of wine is like dancing with your brother at the prom.
We did get to partake of one glass of bubbly at the end of the night, to toast the students with. By that time I was almost too tired to enjoy it, but I toasted away and clinked glasses with my son and the rest of our table.
The end of the Valedictory dinner marked the beginning of exams for Year 12 students across Victoria. It’s a period of time that has been known to tear families apart and send even the mildest of parents hurtling toward their first nervous breakdown. As thousands of 17-18 year olds hit the books in an effort to gain a coveted place in University, their parents pander to their every desire, running themselves ragged in the meantime.
Not this little black duck. Of course it helps to have a son who is, let us say, more than casual in his attitude to studying. The lack of pressure in this house is almost embarrassing. But my son has no intention of going to University and I’m not at all concerned with his decision.
I chose not to go to University when I left school. I only enrolled in my first University course when I was 37 and had three young children. I’m now halfway through my second University course. I enjoy what I’m studying so it is not a burden to me.
I work at a University and I’m well aware of the often low retention rates for first year University students. Many of them have been pressured into study by their parents who find it difficult to see the other pathways available to their children. I’ve seen first hand the misery these students go through, burdened not only by their parents’ expectations, but also by neither studies they like nor are good at.
Last weekend a student committed suicide on campus. I don’t know the reasons for his tragic act, but I know he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.
None of my boys have gone or want to go onto University studies. At times I have found this difficult to reconcile. However, I’m working on accepting their choices in life. I know I’d rather have my sons with no degrees but still with me than the other alternative.