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Friday, October 29, 2010

Another milestone passed

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.


  1. We all find our way in life and going to university is not for everybody. At that age, growing up is taking all of their brain cells. It is a tough age and not one that handles pressure well. Focus on the positive and the hell what the rest of the world is doing. It's not a's life...You have a great attitude....

  2. Very sad about the student. :(

    I have mixed feelings about students going to college fresh out of school. On one hand I wish I would have (and should have), but I know at the time my heart (and brains) wouldn't have been on it.

    And I agree a $70 dinner deserves ALOT of alcohol!

  3. Is there a support group at the school?

    I did go to college right after I left high school, a billion years ago. BUT I had to fight my parents every step of the way for the field I wanted to go into.

  4. I have two daughters. The youngest wanted to go right after high school. She did and finished in four years. It was the right thing for her.

    My oldest took a year off, went for a year, left and got a job, started back up, and is still working on her degree now. It was the right thing for her.

    We have to listen to our children and this can be the most challenging part of parenthood imho. Do they need encouragement? Do they need us to back off?

    It's hard to call all the time.

  5. It's a very difficult time of life....being 18....not knowing which road to take! I would not want to be that age again!

  6. Congrats to your son! Your words about pressure and education are very wise. I feel the same way.

  7. I think you have absolutely the right attitude. So many children as you say go to University when it is not the right decision. If my daughter chooses not to I will on one level be sad, as it is not just the academic education you get but the education, a soft breaking in education, to being an independent adult and you meet people from all walks of life and circumstances. But I still agree, it is not for everyone so whatever my daughter chooses, if she is happy with her life then I will be too.

  8. You (and your son) definitely deserved a real dose of alcohol. Congratulations on the milestone, and on remembering what's important.

  9. Susan - thank you for your comment! I try to focus on the positives as much as I can.

    Martha - I think its always best if we undertake things when we are ready to do so.

    Domestic - there are counsellors at the University, but I don't know if the students utilise them or not. Well done for following your own path!

    Deborah - you are so correct! We do have to listen more and learn to provide backup as parents. After all, it is their life...

    nanny - I don't think I could do the whole "18 " thing again either!

    Marnie - thank you!

    Aging Mommy - I guess I think that University is always there and you can become a student at any age. After all - I'm 50 and studying for my degree!

    Robyn - Trust me we had a few drinks after! Thank you xo

  10. not everyone needs to go to college. sometimes we jut need to wait experience life and then go for it. sorry about the student who killed himself. need more programs at schools to offer help to young people. rose

  11. valedictorian? that's amazing! what a fine, young
    mind he must have!

  12. We all just want our kids to be happy. I'm glad you can let go and let them decide for themselves.

    Nice to meet you! :)

  13. My oldest daughter got her college degree and now is now a SAHM. Doesn't even use what she learned but is still paying off the tuition costs. My son on the other hand wanted nothing to do with college. He now owns his own construction business and is doing quite well. What we as parents think is the right course, isn't necessarily what they think is. You have to let them make decisions and choose their own course.

  14. Love the "dancing with your brother at the prom" line!

  15. I took a year off and worked and danced all night and just enjoyed that freeing moment of youth. You need a break, every once and awhile in life. And there is a path for each and every one of us. It would be a much happier world if more parents had the same attitude as you.

  16. I do think you are right in that so many kids that age really do not have a clear grasp yet on what they are going to do with their lives!

  17. That is a shame about the student :(

  18. My oldest is kinda struggling with going to university too. I try and back off and let him decide what he wants to do, but it is really really hard.

  19. Rose - I agree there needs to be more help for students who are struggling.

    myletters - much as I would love my son to be valedictorian, unfortunately he wasnt. Its just waht they call the dinner...

    Mrs4444 - thank you!

    Matty - I agree, even when its hard to let them make their own decisions, its necessary.

    Kazzy - thank you!

    Joann - I took more than a year off and did all those things too! I think I would recommend that path :-)

    Kristy - its difficult - I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

    WhisperingWriter - it is for sure

    Kazzy - it is hard, but just remember there are other options and pathways. As long as he does something he loves doing, its all worth it!


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