If you are childless then I don’t expect you to “get” any of this or, indeed, be remotely interested so please move along.The decisions taken on behalf of children have to be of the highest quality. Unlike the choices an adult makes for their own life it is someone else, someone powerless, that has to live with the consequences.
This was a basic fact I tried to get through to people when I was a social worker.
Subsequently, where you decide to raise your kids and what school they go to are pretty big decisions.
My eldest has just finished with his school days. He has several weeks of exams looming, but he has had his last class room lesson.
In moving to Donegal when he was a toddler has meant that his education has been completely different to that he would have experienced in Glasgow.
His secondary education has been in a non-denominational Gaeilscoil at the end of almost 15 years of Irish medium education he has the language within him forever.
There are many cognitive benefits to growing up bi-lingual. One advantage is that as an adult picking up a new language is much less of a chore than to a monoglot.
Unlike the mainstream English language sector where the teaching of Irish has been a dismal failure the gaeilscoillana in Ireland have been a huge success story in both jurisdictions.
Tonight was the school prize giving. If his exam results go ok he’ll be off down the rocky road to university in Dublin.
The school my brood attend is consistently in the top four in the Republic when it comes to the percentage of pupils that go onto third level education.
They consistently trounce every private boarding school in the land.
At the end of the night there is a highly embarrassing slide show of the young people that are leaving. The parents are asked to provide several pics of when he was pre-school.
It was a further reminder of the little fellow he was in Glasgow and that,had we not taken the decision we did, he would still be there.
His mother and I decided back when he was the inquisitive toddler in those photographs that Glasgow was a culturally toxic place for a kid with a clear Irish identity.
Our moment of epiphany arrived one day when I was picking himself and his baby sister from a private crèche.
“I got a new name today” was the proud boast of my three year old son in the back of the car.
“My new name is Calum. My teacher said my name at school is Calum.”
I still remember the feeling sinking in.
I knew immediately what had happened.
He was forever telling people his name and he had a “tottage” in “Dunny Doll” and that his name was Irish.
In a well adjusted society it would have been endearing, but he wasn’t in a well adjusted society.
I have a flashbulb memory of those few minutes I can still see the dashboard of the car and the clock next to the speedometer telling me when his mother’s train would arrive. I had time, but should I do anything?
Should I just let it go?
I swung the Polo around and headed back.
“He left something” I told the owner of the crèche.
“Was it his coat?”
“No his name.”
She went pale, she was completely aware of what I was on about.
“His name is Cathal not Calum. For future reference. Ok?”[Note to Calums everywhere. Very fine name.]
There have been men called Cathal in my father’s line in West Mayo for as long as I can go back. In many ways it is THE male name in Connaught.
So we believed that we could give our brood a better chance of things here in Donegal.
It was a 70% positive 30 % negative assessment.
70 % that Donegal had advantages for rearing our brood.
The 30% was that the society that we had been reared in wasn’t culturally healthy for a lad called Cathal or a girl called Roisin.
Here in Donegal they don’t have to sit at the back of the respect bus.
Everything that has happened in Scotland over the last three years from the Famine Song to the treatment of Neil Lennon further convinces me that we made the right call.
Tonight as he and his two sisters went up on stage at the oiche bhronnta duaiseanna I knew his mother and I had made the correct decision.
Whether or not Alex Salmond can ever utter the term “anti-Irish racism” there is plenty of it in the land that he wants to lead to nationhood.
His government uses terms like “sectarianism” and “bigotry”.
The official fiction that there isn’t an ethnic component in this malaise ensures that the problem will continue.
Middle child just told the us good news that she has got one of the limited places for idirbhlian (Transition Year).
Transition Year (TY) is a year out from the academic grind with the focus on ski trips, hiking expeditions and cultural activities.
Her big brother bloomed in TY. He learned to ski, got taller than his old dad and completed his Gaisce award.
TY can be ruinously expensive for the bank of mum and dad, but it is utterly wonderful and worthwhile for the young person that grows and develops temporarily freed from the daily school routine.
As he took his place on the stage with his buddies to collect GAA medals I noted that today is the 90th anniversary of the Carrowkennedy ambush. My lad is, as they say in the Wesht, off good people.
I just know that my kin, at rest near Croagh Phadraig, would be as proud as I am of the man that my big Donegal fella has become. He knows who he is and he knows where he belongs. The profession he wishes to join means that he will travel the world. Wherever he goes he’ll be welcomed as an Irishman.
Meanwhile as Scotland’s first minister thinks about how to convince the world that there isn’t an anti-Irish sewer running through much of Scottish life I’m doubly glad I brought my brood home to Ireland.