Dad’s Diary

Dad’s Diary

The kids are now in the final term of a very strange school year. My youngest, who is in senior infants, has had most of her school career disrupted by the pandemic. The older kids can learn remotely more easily, and could even stay in touch with their classmates online. The sense of isolation was greater for the smaller kids, I feel. They all returned gleefully after the Easter break, delighted to catch up with their friends and to be able to play games in the sunshine.

Theirs is a happy school. A small country school suits children best, I feel. Its scale is familial, and the kids soon get to know all the pupils and teachers. Since such schools are mixed, the kids get to know whole families of brothers and sisters. They have the benefit of making friends with the opposite sex. The older kids enjoy looking after the small ones, and the girls especially tend to dote upon them. Starting school last year was far easier for our youngest student, knowing her big brother and sister were there to look out for her.

I went to a boys’ school with more than 500 pupils. Although I was very sociable, I remember not knowing hundreds of the boys there – even some of those my own age. I didn’t even know all the teachers, and they didn’t know me. It was fine, but it was a much more impersonal environment for a small child than a little school, where everyone knows everyone and so there are no unfamiliar faces.

The summer is sliding towards us. It looks as though this year the nation will be holidaying in Ireland once again, as we did before foreign holidays were invented. Our water borne holiday, spent sailing along the coasts of Cork and Kerry was beautiful last year. The kids found a deep love of the sea, which I hope will never leave them.

I’ve been readying my boat for sea again, with the help of the older children. There’s plenty hard graft in cleaning, antifouling and painting, but it all brings the promise of freedom. In this weird time, when the State imagines that it may regulate our every movement, there’s something reassuring about the open sea. Twelve miles out, the Government’s edicts no longer apply. Even with airports shut, there is the promise of distant shores. I have lived for months at a time aboard boats, where I feel more at home there than on land.

Once school is out, I hope to spend much of the summer afloat with the older children. There are some lessons that must be learned outside of school. The children learn a great deal from the sea. It teaches them wonder at nature, as well how the tides work, and how to navigate. At sea, you begin to see the world in a new way. As you are immersed in the forces of nature, you learn deeply that there is more to this world than meets the eye.