If your wean is going off on his own, you will want him to have a well-ironed shirt

He may not have chosen a career in physics, I may not be able to help him, but I do want the very best for him

Gregor Steele

OK, not everybody's going to like this, because I'm going to mention ironing again. Still, you can't please all of the people all of the time, unless you are a dancing dog, which I am not. It was a white, sleeveless formal shirt that put me in a mood simultaneously wistful and happy. The garment belonged to my son. Despite the care I was lavishing on it, he might never wear it again, for it was a school shirt.

My youngest child has sat his last SQA exam. It almost seems inappropriate to describe the taller-than-dad six-footer as a child, but you know what I mean. His birth was reported in these pages, as was his passage to primary school. Here's what I wrote then: "Perhaps it was the sight of him in his uniform. Maybe it was his sincere face beneath an even more sincere haircut. `Don't let him be as miserable as I was,' I implored silently, probably meaning: `Don't let me be as miserable as my parents were when I went'."

Well, he wasn't miserable, not very often. Probably neither was I after my first wee while as a pupil, apart from on Mondays, days following holidays, sunny days, days with a "Y" in them . I exaggerate.

As parents, my wife and I were rarely miserable concerning our children's schools. I have been that moany parent, on the end of the phone to a patient SMT member, aware that everything I'm being told about a timetabling situation is utterly reasonable. But I still moaned, because it was my child. You would do the same, wouldn't you? You would complain about a discipline situation being mishandled, even though you had behaved in an identical manner at some stage in life, would you not? I wouldn't call it double standards - it's just that doing right by your wean is to most people a greatly more important standard than "don't be hypocritical".

So, youngest child starts his pharmacy course after the summer. He was accepted for that, for biomedical engineering and for physics. Given those choices, I would still have opted for physics if it was me. It wasn't me, and he has chosen the right course for personality, needs and abilities.

Though both of us have been nicknamed "Sheldon", he is thankfully not my clone. He is off to study topics that I won't be able to help him with. If his lecturers are ropey or unreasonable, he will have to do his own complaining. However - and I'm prepared to put this in writing as a solemn promise - I am still prepared to help with his ironing, at least during term time.

Gregor Steele, Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre.

Gregor Steele is about to embarrass his son with a new car.

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Gregor Steele

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