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After 13 years, school ends with both a bang and a whimper

After 13 years, school ends with both a bang and a whimper

Max is in his final week at school and I keep forgetting. It doesn’t feel like 13 years of school should end right here. With a baby-boy-man combo and a uniform set on fire.

Yet here we are.

When I forget to forget, I catch myself wanting to go large with a celebrations to mark this most markable of moments. It seems a bang is in order, though god knows Max would rather eat grass than celebrate with the old people he lives with who do his washing.

And, of course, there is still the business of the HSC to hurdle ourselves over. I say ‘ourselves’ because although I’ve effectively been banned from Max’s life since about 2019, I can’t help myself.

Like all Year 12 students, he’s got everything covered, of course. Knows everything there is to know and if by some fluke he receives an ATAR of less than 100, well, naturally that won’t be his fault.


Should I wax lyrical here about a small boy who started Kindergarten with a cheeriness that lasted a whole day?

“Aren’t I done?” he asked on day two when I told him he had to go in again.

Well son, here you are, done at last.

It blows my mind that Max is exactly the same and yet completely different these 13 years later. While school has taught him plenty, there were important things my boy seemed born already knowing.

Five of my favourites:

1. It doesn’t matter what others think of you if you think highly enough of yourself.*

2. Though the result looks much the same, there’s a difference between others not wanting to play with you and you not wanting to play with others.

3. Always give something a go if you think it will be fun. Winning is for one person, having fun is for everyone.

4. If you love something, you’ll always put your heart and soul into it. If you don’t, every moment is a slog. So do what you love.

5. Being friendly and open will get you everywhere you need to go in life.

But, oh boy, oh my boy, these final days!

Max is thrilled, of course. What teen has ever mourned the passing of 13 years of school? Probably none. It’s only hindsight that makes our school days so important.

13 years of schooling done now its time to fly

Our kids don’t yet know how it feels to have the very structure of their lives change completely. For 13 years, school has been both the scaffold and the ebb and flow of their lives. School time, out of school time, school days, holidays. There’s never been a moment when school wasn’t present in all its highly-regimented, completely predictable form. Though we rail against it while we’re there, it leaves a gaping hole when it goes.

So, what happens next, I wonder?

How will our Year 12ers cope with their school days scattered behind them?

Whatever they plan, however they cope, I hope they realise they’re golden. Charged with wonder and crackling with energy. I hope every single one of them knows that life is there for the plucking and they are soaked in riches to share.

Of course, they might not know where to put all that glitter just yet. The one thing I always tell Max, and any school leaver I happen to come across (right now, many, many school leavers) is this: you don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, you only need to know what happens next.** 

So, dear Max and friends, make a plan for after the HSC that stretches out at least a couple of months. See lots of bands, catch lots of waves, drink lots of drinks. Enjoy this perfect stretch of freedom because it’s like nothing you will ever experience again. Go forth and… fly wherever the breeze catches you.

After that, whatever happens next, dig deep within to find the answers and they’ll be waiting for you. That’s something school might have forgotten to teach you, but luckily all the mothers banned from parenting will always be here to pick up the slack. We can’t help ourselves.

* Yes, this one is both a negative and a positive! But he’s still only 18 and I have hopes that his teen boy ego will diminish over time.
**Also, “the only way to stick it to the man is to be welcomed into the man’s world”, but that’s a story for another day…)

Feature image Photo by Anuj Yadav; second image by Mehdi Sepehri

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Saturday 1st of October 2022

“We” are just about to start Year 12 and I can already see how quickly it will go… These kids ARE golden! “Charged with wonder and crackling with energy” is my favourite line, but this whole article is so good for school leavers (and their parents!) Thank you

Bron Maxabella

Tuesday 4th of October 2022

That's so kind of you to say, Heidi. I love hearing from readers so much. Best of luck to your new Year 12er! My daughter has also started the final year this term (nothing quite like back-to-back HSC years to feel like you're truly living ).

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