herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

We've just found our family motto

JUST weeks into all our new family routines of school and college and we're struggling to adjust.

After years of knowing where everyone is and what they're supposed to be doing, or rather, what we'd like them to be doing but they'd usually argue about NOT doing, it's suddenly a little like being beamed down on a particularly confusing episode of Star Trek to an alternative earth that's tantalizingly familiar, but bewilderingly different.

If we could only find the portal back, I promise to myself that I would never again take for granted the relative simplicity of the life I now realise we so enjoyed just months ago.

No member of the household has escaped this quantum revolving door of inescapable change, but it's probably been hardest on the youngest, gone from floating along the gentle eddy of national school, to flailing atop the terrifying Niagra Falls of secondary.

She's gone too quickly from bright eyes glistening with excitement for her first day, to eyes glistening with tears over the weight of a school bag or a forgotten locker key or a book for a class with a grouchy teacher.

"She'll toughen up," says my wife, as if trying to convince herself.

"She will," I say, wishing she didn't have to.

The younger middle teen, meanwhile, now basks in the relative daily dawdle of Transition Year, clearly feeling he has worked quite hard enough for the past three years.

"I don't actually have to do anything until September 2015," he beams cheekily.

"Then you can jolly well tidy your room," says my wife. ". . . and do the dishes," I chime in.

"Actually," he says, backing out the door, "I do have something I need to get on with."

"Well then," says my wife.

"Who knew?" I mutter.

His older brother has become the ghost his already college-going older brother was, when he was here, slipping silently out of the house in the morning without saying anything and commuting hours each day to a campus the size of an airport.

For two years he tolerated daily badgering over study as his Leaving Cert loomed, then all that parental hand-wringing paid off. His reward? The ability to disappear.

clatter

The first we'll know he's home at all is the click of a latch, clatter of a teaspoon, or creaking of floorboards in the room he took over from his older brother, prompting his mother to fling a cushion aside and rush to ask about his day.

She returns to the sitting room, dejected. "I can't get anything out of him," she laments.

I find him in the kitchen. "How was college?" I try. "Any good lectures?"

"D'know," he shrugs. "I guess."

"Been to any of the societies?" I try again.

"Yes," he sighs, looking up, glaring, then returning to his phone.

"Cool," I tell his fringe, wincing at the word. "Well," I try instead. "Great."

I go back and tell my wife. "Sounds like he's enjoying his lectures," I say to cheer her up. "And he seems to be going to some of those societies he joined."

"Wow," she says. "You get a lot more out of him than I can."

"Ah well, you know," I splutter. "It's. . . a 'guy thing'."

The eldest is making his own adjustment to dorm life on the college campus 8,226 kilometers away, where he'll live until next summer. At least, we presume he is as we rarely hear from him.

"I just talked to him on 'Face-Skype' or 'Time-Face'," says my wife excitedly as I arrive home one night. She squints at the notes she tried to scribble on the piece of paper she now clutches, her only tangible connection to the experiences he's having, so far away, without us.

The younger middle teen shuffles in and grins. "They were all told what to do if there's ever a 'shooter' on campus," he informs.

"A 'shooter'," I say.

"There's a procedure," nods my wife, pointing to her notes.

"They told him how to get down on the ground and play dead - or find a dead body to hide under," enthuses his brother.

"Well, I'm so glad you had that conversation," I say. "It's sounds so wonderfully reassuring."

At dinner we number just four. My wife announces that we have to decide on a family motto. "We're sponsoring a brick in the new park," she explains. "It'll be there with our names forever."

"What's a motto?" says the youngest.

"Something you say," I tell her.

"How about 'everyone just shut up'?" chuckles the younger middle teen.

"Something we ALL say," corrects my wife. "And don't say that."

"You always say it," he mumbles into his dinner.

"How about 'beam me up'?" I deadpan.

"No Star Trek," instructs my wife.

In the end we agree on the perfect phrase, one which seems to encapsulate our entire household ethos of pretty much trusting that everything will work out, eventually.

'Let's Just See What Happens' inscribes my wife neatly.

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