In a few weeks, my eldest is going on a residential school trip. He will be away from Monday to Friday. It won’t be his first time away from home – he did a two night residential in Year 4 and a three night Cub camp when he was only just 9.
It will be a brilliant experience – independence, fresh air, new activities, new friends – and it looks like an amazing place. They will be abseiling and surfing. They are right on the beach and the they will get to play there every evening.
We had a meeting about it at school the other day. They are going to the coast of West Wales. They are stopping at the Big Pit museum on the way – this will apparently take two hours to get to. Then ‘another three hours’ and they will be there. That was a joke, surely?! I was waiting for the smile or laugh, but it didn’t come. He is going to be FIVE HOURS away?!
At that point I felt something I didn’t expect to feel. My eldest is resilient and adventurous. I know he will have a brilliant time, but I felt anxious. I felt as if I was missing him already – and he’s not even going for a few weeks.
There were a few jokes at the meeting about the things the kids would be expected to do while they’re away that they ‘probably’ don’t do now. Things like MAKING THEIR OWN BEDS and KEEPING THEIR ROOMS TIDY and ORGANISING THEIR OWN CLOTHES AND POSSESSIONS. All the things my son has never done and frankly I don’t think he will manage to do until adulthood (and, let’s be honest, there are plenty of men who can’t even do them as adults). We are talking here about a boy who can’t even get his pants into the washing basket when he takes them off (despite me ‘reminding’ him every day), let alone make his own bed – actually put the sheets and pillowcases on, not just straighten it out. All the kids in the room looked aghast. I can’t imagine any of them have ever put the sheets on a bed.
Then there’s the food… The food is apparently brilliant and home-cooked and ‘no-one has ever starved’. Well, that’s a relief. Although I’m guessing my son will probably come pretty close if the previous residential and the Cub camp are anything to go by. He’s a pretty skinny boy anyway, but if he doesn’t eat much for a few days, he’ll be as thin as a rake (like he was when he came back from Cub camp). He’s got a big appetite, he’s just fussy and nothing or no-one will make him eat what he doesn’t like. I’ve heard it all before – ‘he’ll eat if he’s hungry….’ ‘he won’t starve…’ and then, on his return from wherever he’s been, confirmation that he really DOESN’T eat. Yep, tell me something I don’t know…
There will be a ‘vegetarian selection’ every day, but unless that vegetarian selection is margarita pizza, we have a problem. Because my son won’t eat Quorn – or vegetables. So it’s going to be toast and cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and crisps for lunch and probably nothing else. He likes apples and bananas – as long as the apples are peeled and chopped and the bananas are as black as the ace of spades.
So I’m not anxious about him trying new activities, I’m not anxious about him missing home. But I am (as ever) anxious about the food.
On a more positive note, I can’t expect him to be faced with sheets and pillowcases and not know what to do with them, so I will have to give him some practice. It’s not long until he goes – he had probably better change both his and his brother’s beds to ensure he gets enough practice. It’s also useful for him to have the valuable experience of changing a top AND bottom bunk, just in case…