Lynette Fay: 'I don't remember ‘back to school' being the big deal it is now'

Morning and evening traffic congestion is back in full force, the All Ireland football final is tomorrow and the school uniform buying panic is over. All these mean only one thing – September is here

The first day of school can be stressful for both parents and children
Lynette Fay

AFTER the summer break, normal service resumes on Monday – for those who were lucky enough to have any sort of a holiday, that is, and I’m still getting used to the football final being played on the first Sunday in September.

I don’t remember the beginning of a new school year ever being the big deal it is nowadays. We just seemed to get on with it.

The ritual began in early August with a visit to Kelly’s Drapery in Irish Street in Dungannon to get what I needed for my uniform – my blazer and skirt were always bought at least two sizes too big. I would grow into them eventually, and they were the most expensive purchases.

Mummy brought me to school on my first day. I walked through the doors of Sr Thomas's P1 class in the Convent of Mercy and waved goodbye to my mother who was worried about how I would get on.

She need not have worried, or shed the tears she did. School suited me. From that first day, I settled down. I enjoyed it and looked forward to going to school.

Well, I didn’t mind going to school after I had wakened up properly: I have never been a good riser. I am not a morning person and I can imagine the arguments that will be had in many households come Monday morning when the first early rise of the new school year becomes a reality.

The one single thing that I hated about the new school year, was the day of the official school photo. I dreaded it and I couldn’t hide it. There have been some classics through the years which, thankfully, are not on display anywhere in my parents' house. At least I hope they aren’t.

I am glad that part of life is over. Imagine the plight of the poor children these days, whose parents not only make them pose for photos on the first day back at school, but who also make sure to post these photos on Facebook, Instagram and whatever other virtual platform which will provide likes for the little darlings. Another reason to avoid socials for the next while.

That said, I did enjoy the morning and afternoon photo of five year old Lucie from Glasgow who looked pristine the morning of her return to school, only to look like she had been dragged through a few hedges backwards by the end of play on the same day.

September brings the hope of a new start for many students, and the pursuit of independence. Teachers and parents will impress upon children that this is their chance to make the most of their lives, that they are the future, they can be the difference.

I often think of my first day at school at this time of the year. I started school in 1982, blissfully oblivious to anything that was going on in the world at the time.

I really hope that the same can be said for the children starting back to school in September 2019. Some of the events of this week have been unprecedented and nothing short of crazy.

Yet, in this madness, a 16-year-old Swedish student is proving again to be a shining light. This week Greta Thunberg sailed from Plymouth to New York on a solar powered yacht. She has spearheaded a global movement of young people who recognise that the world is battling a climate change crisis.

Addressing crowds of supporters when she reached New York, Thunberg said that she wanted "a concrete plan, not nice words" to combat climate change. I hope that she succeeds and that someone somewhere will give her the hearing she deserves.

Greta and her activism have definitely made me re-think my approach to plastic packaging, to recycling, to up-cycling and to making do with what I have. I do believe that if we all make small, gradual changes, then collectively we can make a difference.

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