by Margaret McCaffrey

As a university Arts Graduate, I am looking forward to completing my final year of secondary school. That’s right! I am re-doing my senior years of schooling.

Today, for example, I missed a science test because my daughter was sick and could not go to school.
“But I’ve studied for this test,” I wailed to my husband.
“Yes, I know dear, but she’s too ill to go to school today. You’ll just have to miss out and put all your hard work into the next assignment.”

As the doting parent of a teenager, I nurture my child through her homework when Video Hits and U.S. teenagers from the Orange County are looking far more appealing (to her and to me).

In fact, when I come to think of it, I have been doing this since my daughter was in primary school – reading her stories, answering comprehension questions, looking up the French dictionary for word meanings, and scanning the internet for obscure facts that will fit neatly into a sociological essay.

And I am not alone in my educational pursuits. Lots of parents do it.

One lawyer friend of mine coaxed her four children through their Year 12 and now is only too happy to return unencumbered to her day job as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
“What a relief that we are all through,” she tells me with a sigh. “My own legal studies pale into comparison.”

When my daughter was in primary school, she took music lessons after school.

Each Tuesday I would leave work early to tote her instrument to class, sit with her during the session nodding my head like a slow metronome to the strains of Twinkle, twinkle, little star, and generally offer encouragement all around. A work colleague asked me how my music lessons were going, and I replied without thinking, “Great, thank you. I’m getting ready for the end of year concert!”

I almost believed it. I was even getting performance anxiety.

What surprises me through it all, though, is my overall success factor. I’m doing quite well in French and have discovered evolutionary patterns in Science that I never knew existed. (I’m sure my daughter still has no idea they exist.)

Other mothers I know are boning up on their Economics and International Relations for the big exam in Year 12 – stockpiling newspapers and analysing the foreign policy speeches of the Secretary of State. Personally, I feel more comfortable with Jane Austen, and a round of the symbolism featured in Wuthering Heights. I am certainly pleased that we have enrolled in Literature this year.

But what I am really looking forward to is “Schoolies” week? – after it is all over. I think the coastal town of Byron Bay has a distinct ecological advantage over the popular Gold Coast as holiday destination. But I’ll ask my friends what they think … or, even better … I’ll ask my Mum! She seemed to know a lot of things when I was growing up.

My mother is sure to have the answer.


© Margaret McCaffrey

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem