It's very quiet. Only me here. The breakfast things have been cleared away, the washing is on the line, the neighbours are at work. But there is a huge, house-filling sense that we have reached a momentous point in our family life.
I find it hard to believe that our 6lb baby boy and 4lb 12oz baby girl have gone to school today to take their last A level exams. After this morning we shall have only one schoolchild in the house. Yet far from feeling nostalgic and tearful about this, we are immensely and enormously relieved that this year is over. Of all the school years we have had with our three, this has been by far the toughest, trickiest, hardest for everyone, but most of all for Tom and Alice. Who would want to be taking A levels this year, when the media is full of dire warnings and daily experience confirms that, for once, they are right? The whole process is designed to demoralise, and the pressure on pupils is ridiculous. From visiting prospective universities (time, money, days off work and school), to writing personal statements that do nothing more than make every student sound like Superman/woman, from the agony of waiting for offers to the horrors of the student loans website (it's a long, long time since I've seen Simon so apoplectic), it's been twelve months of anxiety, deadlines, and living with predictions you don't know whether to trust or reject. Having two going through the mill doesn't help, either.
We are proud of our thirteen stone boy and his (still much lighter) twin sister having come this far. I remember when they were born, we were so pleased to have them that our hopes were really no more than that they could cope with mainstream life. We didn't have any higher ambitions in mind than fulfilling their potential (potential not being just academic, either). I think that's quite enough to want, and when you see what can happen to some teenagers, we always count the positives and remind ourselves of what they are not doing.
Any minute now, Tom and Alice will be putting down their pens, leaving the exam room, and walking off into a new phase in their lives. They have to wait until mid-August to find out what happens next, but one thing's for sure, we've come a long way, babies [sic].