This week is my youngest daughter’s last week at primary school. The Headteacher is also retiring so the week is passing with great aplomb. It culminates in the Year Six Leavers’ Assembly; always a tear jerker. I know because I went to my eldest daughter’s last year and managed not to cry, oh, at least until I sat down. My equally stoic friend and I rallied ourselves and stemmed the sobs until the sight of one of the leavers at the edge of the stage bawling her eyes out. Sadly, it transpired that she wasn’t looking forward to secondary school one iota but, you’ll be relieved to know, is absolutely fine now having raced to the end of her first year.
I don’t have a good record of coping like a brick. I remember when my eldest daughter was finishing her first year in reception and word came out of the Leavers’ Assembly. Said daughter knew nothing of it but she was only five. Off I duly trotted, hand in hand with my youngest, taking our seats in church only to realise we’d mingled with a different set of parents to whom I usually attached myself: this special assembly wasn’t really aimed at everyone, more the parents of enormous children, six years older than mine.
I stayed, it would have been rude to leave, and this time lasted a minute or so longer before reaching for the tissues to dry the tears shed at children, and their memories, whom I’d never met before.
I was thinking about crying, how these kind of tears are more about happiness than sadness and that nature has missed a trick. Yes, it’s the end of an era and that’s always a moment to ponder. Yes, every milestone is a more tangible reminder of the fact that the day will come quicker than we ever imagined that our babies will leave home for ever. But mostly, these are exciting times. This transition to secondary school has enjoyed much frenzied anticipation and it’s hard not to be swept along - separate classes for every lesson, just imagine! Bunsen burners, tri-pods, language labs, computers in every classroom, not just the ICT room, or rather, suite; not just one but four netball courts, more people in their form than there were in their whole year group at primary school, more than double the amount of students in the year as there were in their whole school. It’s a world of newness and a slurry of peers and opportunities which we know, as adults, have the potential to make these next years the best of their young lives.
So nature, why the tears?
I see how love and hate can be closely aligned. I see how disappointment and anger that something so powerful didn’t work, could take energy from the original intensity of love and tragically transfer itself to bitterness. I understand how great despair and sadness can literally lead to an outpouring, a very basic way of showing our dislike for the situation in a way we did as babies.
But happy and sad? They’re poles apart aren’t they?
I think that human nature is wanting and as we evolve further as a species, a new emotion, a new sound, a new method should form to show we are feeling great pride and enjoyment, no longer to be confused with pain and despair. Children would understand this reaction to their performances; adults would no longer feel physically drained at the end of the show.
My daughter and her friends have been rehearsing for weeks for their end of year play to be performed twice today - don’t get me started on how I’ll react to that one - and, I wondered to myself, could be perhaps a little performance-d out. I asked my daughter if she was looking forward to the Leavers’ Assembly which follows on Friday.
Oh yes, she said. It’s funny watching the parents cry.