When you give birth, the last thing on your mind is the outcome of the child's education. As the years roll by you experience the first day at playgroup, first day of nursery or school with varying emotions. The transition between primary and secondary school is probably the most traumatic – as a parent you still have enormous responsibilities preparing, applying, managing entrance exams or SATS tests and then sorting uniform and equipment.
You support their interests and activities – providing a taxi service or, in our case, becoming a roadie, hiring venues and feeding band or cast members. Then comes the break. They go to university. You breathe a sigh of relief and relish the silence, supporting with finance and telephone counselling, but at least there is no active involvement with academic studies or writing essays (until the final dissertation when a plaintive voice asks, “Could you just write me a page on different kinds of eye diseases?”).
It has been such a long process, you don't believe it will actually finish. You plan retirement around how many more years of study you need to support. Then suddenly the day comes. It is all over. Degrees are attained and your heart bursts with pride.
We weren't expecting both degree ceremonies to occur in the same week for both remaining offspring, but they did. Despite freezing weather and snow for the final event, they were both glorious days full of smiles and laughter and hats thrown in the air.
Two of the three graduation ceremonies were held in cathedrals. Richard's in Durham with Bill Bryson as Chancellor, Kathryn's in Coventry. Stephen's was held in The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, with Sir Michael Parkinson giving the final address and congratulations.
It is a wonderful feeling to know you have successfully piloted all three offspring through higher education.