Subscriber OnlyYour Family

Flights were booked quicker than you could say, ‘but what about the one doing his Leaving Cert’?

Jen Hogan: Children grow up so fast, I’m glad we’ve made memories that will last

I felt guilty right up to the day we left. I mean, the dog’s fretful little face as we left her with my mother didn’t help things, but most of my guilt was because we were taking the children out of school to go on holiday.

Which, even as I write it, sounds ridiculous to me. I mean, it was a week out of school.

Five days.

‘It wouldn’t make or break their education,’ I told myself. I’d have no hesitation telling someone else the same thing, but was holding myself to a higher account. The guilt you see, no matter how unwarranted.


It was the only way we were getting away. When you have Von Trapp proportions, travelling abroad is prohibitively expensive, so it’s a rare occurrence. And then there’s guilt about that. Worse guilt. So it was the lesser of two evils.

I had thought our final family holiday had passed without us realising it at the time. That Covid had got in the way of a last opportunity for all nine of us to holiday together. So, when the eldest indicated that she’d love to come along, the flights were booked quicker than you could say, ‘but what about the one who’s doing his Leaving Cert’?

There were memories to be made.

We walked through the airport and appreciated the ease with which we navigated security and check-in compared with the last time we’d travelled several years previously, toddler and baby in tow. The curly-haired dude was nervous about the flight. He couldn’t remember being on a plane before. But above all there was excitement of Christmas Eve-levels as we got ready to leave the country.

And everyone could manage their own backpack. Which seems a small thing, but was another reminder of how much had changed in a few years. There were no baby changing facilities to identify and no buggy to consider. And the strapping teenagers carried the cases with ease, rendering me surplus to requirements in that regard.

It was everything we hoped it would be. Just us, without the distraction of home life, mostly enjoying each other’s company – except for the squabbles, of course, because this is not the movies. Sun, swimming pools, meals you didn’t have to cook for yourself, and a week off work and school. What’s not to love? Well, besides the question from a stranger who, struck by the number of children with me, veered from the usual lines of curiosity that typically centre around what I drive and whether I’ve a job, and inquired instead as to how many fathers they had.

It was a fabulous week, in fabulous sunshine, that went far too fast, because of the whole time-flying-when-you’re-having-fun thing.

And then we came home. Back to reality. And May.

May, that chaotic month when inevitably some child or other is making a Communion or Confirmation. There are sports days and birthdays and summer exams for the teenagers. And the end of another school year beckons.

But this year, it won’t be just the end of a school year for some. It will be the end of school altogether for one. And the end of primary school for another.

And she who is oh so sentimental will spend the month lamenting her children getting older, even though all is as it should be. We’re at the point of getting the end of school yearbooks ready. Meaning I’m wading through old photos to send in for inclusion, and already I’m lost in the memories.

I didn’t wish a moment of their childhoods away. I’d get frustrated when people would say ”not long to go” when I was pregnant. “I’m not in a hurry for the pregnancy to be over,” I’d reply, wanting to remember every moment of it being just me and baby, although the swollen ankles, enormous, restrictive bumps and high blood pressure sought to remind me it was sometimes zero craic.

And though I longed for them to sleep, I pushed back against any helpful comments from people who said things would be easier when they got older. But still they got older anyway, and now the man-child is almost finished school.

I smile at the photos where he’s smaller than me. ”That didn’t last long”, I thought, humming ABBA’s Slipping through my Fingers in the involuntary, dramatical style my children have come to expect of me.

I picked out photos for the one soon to leave primary school too, feeling hugely resentful of the time Covid took from us.

And instead of working, I wallowed in the memories of childhoods and early years that seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye.

And I thought of our holiday, and was glad for the memories, even if it’s a Leaving Cert year.