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Rites of passage: A whole world of choices, chances (and tattoos) awaits


More than 50,000 Queensland parents send off sons and daughters on the next phase of their lives this week as another year 12 cohort reaches graduation. Madonna King offers a few words of advice

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Dear Maddie (and perhaps your daughter too),

Your graduation day, and I can’t stop crying.

Tears of joy. Tears of relief. Tears that time is stealing you away from me and gifting you an independence that can be hard for any parent.

Your joy was tattooed in the smile you wore, as you walked out of those school gates for the very last time. Can we leave the tattoos there?

And in the ear-piercing screams of your 250-strong year 12 cohort, as you all belted out tunes that would make Tay-Tay proud. For mine, I think the single piercing, just on the lobes of your ear, are perfect.

But that’s the thing. Tattoos and piercings, along with almost everything else, is now up to you.

Whether you go to schoolies, or not. Whether you drink, and how much, or you don’t. Whether you grasp every opportunity that falls in your path, or step around them to stay on the safe road.

I know you have this. You’ve been making these decisions, more and more, as you climb through high school.

I saw, from a distance, you hug the head of senior school yesterday. You were lucky to have her. But she was lucky to have you, too.

I saw you nod when the deputy principal told all of you that you were always enough, just as you are. And when Archbishop Mark Coleridge gave you all a tip. To have the strength of a tree and the gentleness of a morning mist. And you do.

After 13 years of school, you also have a head full of content. History and English. History and Maths. History and Legal. History and the Study of Religion.

It wasn’t a surprise, when you said you were planning to teach students, just like you. History. And English too.

But it’s the other lessons, the ones you learnt along the way, that will be the colour in your life.

Curiosity and kindness. Perseverance and hard work. To listen more than you talk. To value different viewpoints. To prosecute your argument with passion and clarity, and respect.

They’re the gold nuggets that will keep you rich in life.


One day you’ll understand how a Mum can stay awake, all night, praying to ease the angst over a botched friendship or a book full to the brim with trigonometry questions.

You’ll understand how difficult it is to watch your children try and fail. You’ll hope, like hell, the exams they do match the answers they know.

And you’ll probably even take sneaky photos of the formal dress, and your date, because you don’t want the march of time to move any faster.

And you’ll learn, as you’ve taught me, that that’s life. Those friendship tussles teach you loyalty and trust and forgiveness too. Those trigonometry questions add to your perseverance skills, but good God, there needs to be an easier way to administer those lessons.

Each fork in the road requires judgement. Do I cut corners, or not? Do I take the easy road, or the right road? Do I lead, or follow?

You get to answer those questions now. At schoolies with 53,000 other teens, or at home with Dad, me and your sister. At the party you’re going to tomorrow night, or driving the car, you now call your own.

It’s scary and thrilling at the same time. I saw that, in your smile today, too. You looked 12, so you better take that licence as ID wherever you go.

Remember that the excitement of what tomorrow promises should be tinged with thanks, for the lessons learnt yesterday.

And that whatever you do counts. But how you do it counts more.

And if I call too often next year, as you are grappling with the wonders of university college life, it’s because I care.

I’m not checking up on you. And I will not ask about tattoos, nor piercings. I’ll ask Dad to do that.



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