With one boy away, it’s the little things I notice. The subtle shifts in the dynamics of our household that remind me we’re a man down.
It started the night before he went.
Every day, almost as soon as he gets in from school, he takes his socks off and dumps them exactly where he stands. Throughout the course of the afternoon and evening I repeatedly ask him to pick the socks up. Until I eventually I admit defeat just before bedtime and pick them up myself. And then I thought, ‘Who will pick his socks up when he’s away?’. He will have to do it himself, of course. Let’s hope it teaches him a small lesson for when he gets home.
He likes to fall asleep in his glasses. Every night, I sneak into his room and carefully and lovingly remove his glasses from his head. Then I give them a good clean. Who will take his glasses off when he’s away? Who will clean his glasses? They will get even dirtier than usual out in the forest on nature walks. I gave him some glasses cleaning liquid and a cloth, but I know the reality. He will fall asleep in his glasses, he will get up in his glasses, he won’t clean them. By the time he gets home they will be so thick with dirt he won’t be able to see at all.
I used to dislike taking three kids to school. They were always arguing. One was always hanging back, one was always rushing ahead. It was a slow and irritating process. When my eldest started secondary school, I found I really enjoyed the walk to school with two kids. They walked together, they didn’t argue and they chatted nicely to each other and to me. This week I’ve taken just ONE child to school. Very strange. It’s nice to chat to her, but there is something missing. I definitely prefer taking two.
I hoped bedtime would be easier, but it wasn’t really. It was just different. My daughter moved procrastination up to a whole new level with extra chatting, extra drawing and extra writing. Despite my high hopes when she got her pyjamas on at 7, she finally made it to bed at 8.30.
I’ll admit the main reason I try to get my eldest to bed at a decent hour (9 at the latest) is for his little brother. Yeah, I know, unfair, but that’s the reality of life for the eldest child in most families. So we let him stay up to watch I’m a Celebrity while his brother was away. He thought this was the best thing since sliced bread. He watched quietly without interrupting or attention-seeking and went straight to bed and straight to sleep at 10. If he could do that every night, I would let him stay up later.
But today it will all be back to normal. My boy will be home again, the socks will be on the floor, the glasses will be cleaned and we will be back to irritating bedtimes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.