Leaving Cert 2011…handling the results

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.”
“If”   by Rudyard Kipling

Tomorrow morning, 55,550 students will receive their results of Leaving Cert 2011. Some will be delighted, some will be relieved, some disappointed. No matter what their results, there will be a pathway into further training and education for each and every one of them. As adults, we know that. As young adults who have given their all to a merciless (but fair) CAO system, they may not see that so clearly. Emotions will run riot. Peer group pressure may lead to excessive consumption of alcohol with all its squalid consequences. The question is- what can we do to help?

Three of our children have been through this experience. The fourth hopes to do her Leaving Cert in 2012. While squaring up to the rollercoaster of the third, my friend, Mary T, an experienced Mum of 3 boys, told me her modus operandi…..

“They can’t eat their dinner the evening before the results…even if you’ve cooked their favourite meal, they just push it around the plate…they’re too nervous and excited.  On the morning of the results, they can’t eat breakfast either.  They down a quick cuppa before heading into school for the results.  Some prolong the agony by waiting till the results become available online at noon.  Once they’ve got the results, checked with their friends and taken it all in, reality strikes, there’s a gush of relief and suddenly they’re hungry.   As a parent, this is your window of opportunity- not lunch, not dinner in the evening but now- mid/late morning brunch.   Whether their results were good, bad or indifferent, most of them will eat for Ireland.  When it comes to the question of drinking too much later on, they can’t- they’re too full ”

So, in the spirit of prevention being better than cure, here’s a few ideas to try today, the day before the results.

1. Ring the mums/dads/guardians of your student’s friends and make plans. After 6 years of your child’s secondary schooling, many of these people will be good friends by now. This is a time for co-operation
(a) if you’re a stay at home mum, you can prepare for an invasion tomorrow morning
(b) if you work outside the home, take an early lunch break and meet them with their friends and parents at a favourite café.

2. Prepare large platters of fruit, beautifully presented. Girls love these and might even be tempted to have some with pancakes.

3. Lay on the full Irish breakfast. Rashers, sausages, black and white pudding, eggs, grilled tomatoes etc. etc. etc….everyone has their own favourite.  The lads may like to barbeque the sausages themselves.  Follow with mountains of buttery toast and copious mugs of tea and coffee.

4. Make a cake– a centerpiece. Even though they may not all like to eat cake, they will love the way it symbolizes an occasion. They’ll nibble away and will thank you for it.

5. Make the house lovely and inviting….flowers in vases, heating on if necessary, lovely perfumed soap in the bathrooms, patio table and chairs laid out.  Leaving Cert students are so accustomed to getting bad press that they love to be made welcome (don’t we all?)

6. Be prepared to abandon if someone is very upset. You can freeze the sausages. A close friend of one of our daughters got very disappointing results and we all spent several hours with the family trying to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  Many years later, in the throes of a successful career, that ordeal is almost forgotten. Mind you, I was still glad I had laid in provisions at home, as people needed something to eat at lunchtime.

Why it works…..
All that they really want is a place to hang out. Having missed dinner on the eve of the results and breakfast on the morning, they’re likely to be in energy deficit and short several thousand calories. If they get to a pint of beer or an alcopop before replacing these calories, the adrenaline letdown and sugar rush will take over and they’ll have several drinks down the hatch before they know it. High energy soft drinks are nearly as bad as they play havoc with blood sugar and insulin response, especially on an empty stomach. If you host a convivial, relaxed brunch where all are welcome (some will not have a parent available to them tomorrow), they’ll come and chill with their mates and will be properly nourished before heading out to meet other friends.  It’s not just ‘soakage’, it’s the oldest part of minding one another in a human relationship… anticipating and meeting needs before the person is even aware of their own need.

The first time I followed Mary T’s advice was on the occasion of our son’s Junior Cert results. We invited him and his mates to the Elephant and Castle in Temple Bar, Dublin where they downed glasses of the freshest orange juice, murdered Stacks of Pancakes and Full Irish Breakfasts. All had second helpings and waddled out like Tellytubbies. We had no trouble that night. And they dropped home mid afternoon to demolish the cake!

Buttermilk Pound Cake
from Marian Stanton’s Mom in Alabama


1 lb butter, softened to room temperature
1 lb caster sugar
1 lb cream flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
½ cup buttermilk

Bundt tin
Oven at 170 degrees C
1 hour 20 minutes


– Preheat oven and place rack in the middle. A fan oven may need a lower temperature..you know your own oven.

– Grease tin with melted butter, and a light dusting of sieved flour

– Sieve flour and baking powder together three times to aerate flour and give a very light cake

– Beat eggs with vanilla essence in another bowl
– Beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy
– Add eggs a little at a time, and a spoonful of flour, beating in fully after each addition
– Fold in remaining flour with a large metal spoon, adding air all the time
– At this stage, add only as much buttermilk as is needed to give a dropping consistency.

-Spoon into Bundt tin and bake for one hour before checking.
-When skewer comes out clean, remove cake from oven. Rest for 10-15 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Enjoy! It’s a huge cake and unless your examinee brings home their whole class, there’ll be some left for you to have with a serene cuppa after they’ve left.

And it’s one occasion when you won’t get much help with the clean up!  Nor need it.

About haysparks

Viewing the world, the human condition, our history, evolution and health through the prism of food.
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