Tag Archives: growing up fast

On The Brink

The Leaving Certificate is the final, state-run examination which marks the end of our school cycle. After this students, depending on their results and upon their wishes, can go on to university or some other college, or out into the world of work, or, as it is known now in Ireland, unemployment.

Tinson2 starts his Leaving Certificate exams tomorrow.

He is eighteen now, and stands almost at a door between two worlds, one foot still in childhood, the other stepping towards the door into adulthood. After tomorrow that foot will be through the door and th other foot will have lifted from the ground to follow it. He will still be a teenager, wonderful and bewildering, daft and then brilliant, filling you with frustration and then with joy.

The ultra-laid-back manner which makes him such a lovely person has not been a great advantage when it came to studying and preparing for these exams, and I worry for him and for how he might get on.

But whatever happens he is still our magnificent, maddening, charming, baffling, super son, and we love him for that, for the amazing person that he is.

All the best tomorrow, my son and my friend.

Outward Bound

When they are babies and you lift them from the cot they cling to you, tiny, chubby fists gripping the shoulders of your shirt. When they become toddlers they run to cling to your legs, head-butting you in the process in painful places. When they are afraid they need hugs from you, when they meet strangers they hide behind you, staring shyly around your knees.

But when they are playful they run away, giggling gleefully as you chase them, happy in the knowledge that you will catch them. (By running away I do not mean filling a toy suitcase with necessities such as toys, taking your toddler brother by the hand, and announcing that you are leaving home, and anyway I apparently always gave up before I got to the front gate).

They slowly move more and more away. They find schoolmates, go to parties and sleep-overs. A morning comes, a surprisingly hurtful morning, when they announce that they would rather walk into the school themselves. Eventually they go somewhere most days with friends, or reply to the question “where are you going?” with the reply “out”.

They are growing up, and growing away.

Tomorrow morning Tinson1 will leave to go to North Carolina.

It’s an exchange program with Wake Forest University, where he will take part in some Physics project to do with solar panels. He will only be gone for three months, though those three months will include a special birthday of Mrs Tin’s (the one and only mention that I will ever make of this birthday here) and his own twenty-first.

(I say, by the way, that he will be back after three months, although having seen where the College are putting him up it’s hard to see why he would).

I hope he has a wonderful time, that he meets wonderful friends with whom he will stay in touch forever. We will miss him, his cheerfulness, his earnestness, his caring and friendly manner, but we know that these qualities are the ones that will make him popular over there, and help to ensure that he has a tremendous, life-changing experience.

I’ve shown the picture below before, but it sums up today, as he strides across the sands, one heel lifted as he takes steps away, but still looking back to us, smiling.

Have a super time, son. We love you, and are, as always, more proud of you than we can say.

Ice Maidens

When I was a teenage boy I was terrified of teenage girls.

Whenever I was in close proximity to one (or, more likely, a group, they congregated in covens) I could feel my face grow uglier, my spots grow bigger, my clothes grow uncooler. If one of them spoke to me I would mumble some reply, normally making fun of myself, in a semi-broken voice that would change pitch by two octaves in mid-sentence, making me sound like a hyena crossed with a donkey. All of us boys knew that we were shapeless lumps of shambling idiocy, whilst the girls our age were beautiful visions of cool sophistication.

When I got older, of course, I realised that this wasn’t true, that the girls were just as terrified and unsure of themselves as we were. The only difference is that while we were hiding behind a mask of shoving each other, playing air guitar and farting as loudly as possible, the girls were hiding behind a mask of liberally applied make-up and cold disdain.

How much easier our teen years would have been if each gender had realised this about the other.

Anyway, why drag these old (very old, unfortunately, when I was last a teenage boy Capricorn One was in the cinema and Yes Sir I Can Boogie was in the charts, and I realise sadly that most of you will have heard of neither) humiliations out into the public domain? Well, Tingirl (14 next month) had a friend stay over last night. When I got up this morning they were in the sitting room watching TV. As I walked through two heads turned toward me in perfect unison, stared at me expressionlessly for about one second, then turned in unison back to the TV. And for that one second I once again felt stripped to my soul, dismissed and two feet tall, all at the same time.

I pity the teenage boys of our town.

Second Hand

This is a picture of the T-shirt I wore to work yesterday.

This photo will tell you a couple of things. The fact that I can wear something like this to work tells you that I’m not a barrister, a bank manager or (and you’ve probably already guessed this) the President of the United States. It will also tell you that ironing is not high on the “To Do” list in the Tinhouse.

But apart from revealing these facts, I’m sure you’re wondering about the point of the photo. In a week where many Irish Blogs are writing about our Minister for Defence, who’s had to resign after he lied, then lied about lying, then lied about lying about lying, and finally lied about lying about lying about lying (there’s my blog duty done) why would Tinman do a post about his clothing? Well, it’s because of where I got it from.

Tinson1 gave it to me because it’s now too small for him.

Now, I’ve loved watching him grow up. I rejoiced as he went from being our little man to being our medium-sized man, celebrated with him when he reached the same height as me, and even laughed with him when he overtook me. But getting his hand-me-downs is just a teeny bit humiliating.

I feel a bit like Goldilocks. On Tinson1 the shirt is too small, on Tinson2 it would be too big, but on me it’s just right.

I’d be a lot more upset about this if it weren’t for the fact that some of his clothes are actually quite cool, and I’m quite looking forward to getting my hands on them.

I might never have to buy my own clothes again.


For the first time since 1996 the adults in the Tinhouse outnumber the children. The number of children has dropped from three to two, while the adults have increased from two to three.

Tinson1 is eighteen today (Tinson18, I could now call him, but won’t). He is legally an adult, allowed to drink, vote, buy over-18 video games and watch X-rated movies. A whole new world is therefore opening up to him, since he has never voted before.

One year and a day ago I wrote this post about the day before he was born, and about how our life changed forever. How quickly the 18 years since that day has passed, and how wonderful it all has been. He’s been a ridiculously happy baby, a winning though occasionally scarily angry toddler, a successful and popular schoolboy, and then, although he’s referred to in our house as GT (Grumpy Teenager), he’s been a very personable teenager.

I know I sound laughably blinkered and rose-spectacled in this post, but it honestly is true. He’s a super kid, and will make a super adult.

Today we’re celebrating. It’s half past two in the afternoon, and already we’ve drunk Buck’s Fizz (thanks to his Godmother) and are heading out for a meal soon.

He is young, clever and charming. I envy him, I admire him, I’m proud of him.

We love him.

The Excitement is in Tents

Tinson1 if off to Oxygen this morning.

This is his “end of school” celebratory event. A load of the class are heading off to Majorca, and he was going to do that, but he came home one day and said “nah, it’s getting too messy” (and when a 17-year old bloke says that, you wonder WTF they were planning), so he opted for this instead.

This is his checklist, which I found on the kitchen table (sorry that’s it’s a bit hard to read, it’s not easy taking photos & uploading them at 5.30 am):


The list is apparently based on tips from the Oxygen website. The compilers, bless them, sound as innocent and naive as he does.

The second item, for example, says “something luminous to notice our tent”. Ignoring for a moment the construction of the sentence, which would lead you to believe that English is not Tinson1’s first language, a short reflection will quickly reveal the flaw in this plan. Attaching something luminous to your tent so that you can find it in the dark is a great idea, but only if you’re the only people doing it. I have a mental image of a load of half-asleep people wandering blearily around at 4 a.m. in a field eerily lit by a thousand luminous tents, the whole scene looking like a Sellafield housing estate being visited by zombies.

Item 6 – “Lock for tent” – is also touching in its innocence. It’s rumoured  that both the first and second of the three little pigs also invested in locks.

His proposed diet for the weekend is interesting. “16+ nutrigrain bars” and “canned fruit (must have opener tabs)” mean that at least he’ll be getting his five helpings a day, if in the least possible edible form. The second last item, though,  says “Jam sandwiches – keep for a few days!” (his exclamation mark). I fear he will discover that, while this may be true of the jam (there’s a reason why you find it in Tesco in an aisle marked “preserves”) it is unlikely to be true of the bread, and the only thing worse than eating mouldy bread is eating mouldy bread with strawberry jam on it.

I’m mentally blocking out the last line. It’s not just the word “vaseline” that worries me, it’s the “dot, dot, dot, question mark” that follows it.

(By the way, while I’m grateful that the list doesn’t include entries like “condoms” or “spliffs”, I have been a parent long enough to know that he might well have a second list).

I hope he has a great time, though, and I envy him. The line-up for the weekend is incredible (I’ve heard of more than half of the bands, which is saying something) and the whole thing will be a great experience, and hopefully great fun.

The weather forecast, for Saturday in particular, is absolutely shite.  It wouldn’t be a music festival if it wasn’t.

Put Away Childish Things


School’s Out… forever. Tingirl had her last day in the Bray School Project today (the picture above is from one of her first), and we now have no children left in primary school.

Tinson1 had his first day there on September 1st, 1996 when Tingirl was only six-ninths er, cooked, so the Tinfamily have had a connection with the BSP for her entire life. As indeed has she, as she was accompanying Mrs Tin on school runs and sitting quietly at school meetings long before she ever became a pupil there.

If leaving there is upsetting her, though, she’s hiding it very well (though not as well as Tinson1 did. In the car on the way home from his last day there, in a conversation with Tinson2 he referred to the BSP as “your school”). She is eager and excited about the prospect of secondary school, and keen to get on with what young people regard as the terribly urgent process of racing through their lives as quickly as possible.

Mrs Tin is similarly unfazed by the thoughts of leaving a school where she has been on so many boards and committees for so many years. She received many plaudits I think she will miss it more than she thinks she will, but only time will tell.

The school itself is wonderful, run by a bunch of really terrific teachers backed by ranks of dedicated and hard-working parents. It will still feature on the Blogiverse, as both Jo and Ciara still have kids there, and I’m looking forward to being able to keep up with events through them.

In earlier years I did a lot of the driving to school, so got to know the BSP quite well, but latterly have rarely been inside the door (today was only the third time in Tingirl’s final year) so I should miss it less than any of them, and I suppose I do. But I do feel that today is a significant one. Our youngest child has finished at primary school, and is growing up. She’ll be a teenager later this year, joining her brothers on the ever-shortening road to young adulthood. I’m happy for her, and proud of her, but I do feel a little bit sad.

We still have kids, but as of today we no longer have children.

Life’s Simple, in Theory

So Tinson 1 has finished school.

He sat his final exam, Chemistry, on Tuesday and left his schooldays behind him. He got home, gave us a carefully analytic summary of the exam (“piece of piss”) and invertebrated down in front of the telly, as if already settling into his future role as one of the unemployed.

After a while he admitted that he felt a bit strange, watching TV without a hearing a nagging voice inside his head telling him he should be studying (he usually had a nagging voice outside his head telling him the same thing, and I think Mrs Tin is now as at a loss as he is).

Anyway, when some friends rang to say they were going to play football down in the leisure centre he jumped at the chance. He played the game, went back to someone’s house and then walked home, getting in at about 4 a.m.

During the football apparently he got some sand or dirt into his sock, but instead of stopping and removing it he played on, so now most of the skin has come off the sole of his foot. Therefore he spent his first day as a grown-up lying on his bed with his foot in a bandage.

As his father, it is my job to worry about him when he does silly things, and I have to thank him for giving me so much practice.  But remember, this guy has applied to college to do Theoretical Physics, so now I’m starting to worry, not just for him, but for all of us, for our planet and indeed for the populations of distant worlds in galaxies far, far away.

EinsteinThe Principle of Cause and Effect seems to have passed him merrily by, and the thought of him in a very few short years spilling coffee into a worm hole, getting sand in the Large Hadron Collider or sneezing violently into a bowl of Dark Matter (it comes in bowls, doesn’t it?) should strike fear throughout the entire universe.

Was Einstein that scatty? Actually, looking at his hairstyle (a generous use of the word “style” there) he was possibly worse. The Principle of Cause (using a comb) and Effect (neat hair) seems to have escaped him too.

At least Tinson1 always knows where his hair-gel is.

Into The West

Tingirl’s class left for their trip to the Aran Islands this morning.

The Aran trip is a rite of passage each year for the class who are about to leave Bray School Project. It’s a three day trip with just three teachers and no parents. This is its 18th year, and it’s something the kids look forward to from the minute they start their final year (please note the use of both “its” and “it’s” in that sentence, Jo).

The journey, after the first car trip to the school, features a coach to Heuston Station in Dublin, a train to Galway, another coach to some pier somewhere and finally a boat to Aran, arriving just in time to get ready to start the return trip home. That’s why the phrase “this morning” in the opening sentence was used in its most broad sense, meaning “well, really still last night, but the date is different so I suppose we’ll have to call it this morning”. In other words we got up at 4.30, and arrived at the school at half past five.

But the bus didn’t arrive till 6.15, as a badly parked Eircom truck at its garage had partially blocked it in. This left less than an hour for the journey to Dublin, though the scarily young-looking driver assured everyone that he would easily make it.

Otto Simpsons“He’s a bit young, isn’t he,”  muttered some parents, ” I hope he doesn’t go too fast”.

Right TurnPersonally I just hoped the journey wouldn’t involve him trying to turn right onto a road that had a car waiting where the STOP marking as in the attached diagram. Because I had just realised that I’ve met this driver before, about a year ago, when I was the driver at the stop sign, and it was only by reversing violently backwards as he turned that I managed to keep his impact with the Tincar down to a brief juddering. In fairness, he’s a lovely guy, was very apologetic, and fixed the tiny amount of damage that was done to the Tinbumper.

Anyway, watching the expert and effortless way he reversed the huge coach into the schoolyard this morning it’s clear that he has improved since my encounter with him, so I kept this information to myself.

So off they went, jabbering excitedly, ready for their first big trip away from home.

One Small Step

This is Tinson1, though admittedly not the most up-to-date photo of him.


It feels as though that picture was taken yesterday. Yet since then he’ s been to playschool, then real school, then secondary. He’s tried his hand at soccer, hockey, basketball and athletics, been on school trips from the Aran Islands to Barcelona, and had a go at the tin whistle, the violin and the guitar. Actually, come to think of it, he’s cost us a fortune.

And this morning he starts his Leaving Cert exams and, unless he finds a job dancing in Britney Spears videos, he’ll never wear a school uniform again.

He has applied to Trinity to do a course called (I’m not making this up) “Physics and Space Science”. I really hope he gets in. He’s loved science all the way through school and, since I once scored 26% in a Science Exam, I’ve always been baffled by his talent for it.

His class had their Graduation Ceremony last week (God, we get more American by the day, they even had a yearbook) and it was wonderful to watch this collection of 96 confident and good-natured young adults, and see the respect and affection that they obviously had for their teachers and for their school.

My generation worked our arses off so that these kids would have a better economic outlook than we had when we were leaving school. It seemed to be working. Just a couple of years ago our biggest concern was that none of the Tinkids might ever be able to afford their own house. Then a small group of selfish, stupid gobshites managed to blow the whole thing, and again we are looking at the prospect of a generation facing unemployment or emigration.

I hope things get better quickly. Because these kids deserve more. Tinson1 has worked very hard, as have a niece and nephew of mine who also face the Leaving today.

I’ve just texted him that we’re proud of him, and got the reply “thanks, dad, means a lot”, which made me well up in a most unmanly way.

And we are proud of him. So very proud.

All the best today, my son.