My younger boy, my gorgeous 9 year old, is away on a residential trip. It’s two nights or three whole school days, so he will be back before I know it.
It’s the longest we’ve ever been without him. He had a 24 hour Beavers sleepover last summer and a night away on Cub camp (about 30 hours) earlier this year. I admit I found that hard and counted every single hour until he got back from that one (the evidence is there on Twitter for anyone who cares to scroll back through 10,000 tweets).
He’s never had a sleepover at a friend’s. He’s had the odd sleepover with my mum or my sister, but has barely been gone 12 hours. My husband and I are not the sort to take weekends away together (we’ve NEVER done that in over 11 years as parents) – or to have girly/ lads’ weekends or holidays. So, in short, we’re used to spending a lot of time with him. Although I’m finding him being away during the week is not as hard as the weekend Cub camp, because I don’t see that much of him during the week anyway with school and work.
I’m not going to say he’s too young or he’s not ready, because that isn’t true. He takes things in his stride. He’s one of the oldest in his year and he’s mature with it. Developmentally he’s probably three years ahead of some of the kids in his year. His brother went away on a three-night/ four full day Cub camp at the same age – a few weeks after his 9th birthday – and that was hard. I had the sheer length of time along with the worry about his food issues, which I just don’t have with my younger son as he will eat anything.
It’s easier for me than many parents. I’ve thought this through (and seen people worrying on facebook) and concluded that letting your middle child go is the easiest thing. It’s hard when you do it for the first time and wave your eldest off into the great unknown. Then letting your youngest go is upsetting, because your baby is growing up. If you’ve got an only child, your entire focus and purpose is poured into that one little being and the absence leaves a massive gaping hole in your life and your house. But the middle one? Been there, done that…
So I waved him off in torrential rain, with water flowing down the road like a river and then I drove to work. The world was flooded. The traffic was 20mph on the dual carriageway. And, suddenly, I wondered what I’d done. Why had I let that lovely boy get on a bus in this weather? They were heading for exactly where the rain and wind and floods were at their worst. Reports were coming in of impassable roads, of closed roads. I was soaked to the skin and my boy was out there somewhere in the big, wide, wet world without me.
The text from school to say Year 4 had arrived safely was probably the best text I’ve ever received. It was like a great weight lifted off my shoulders. He will be fine while he’s there. I’ll just have the bus journey back to worry about and then I’ll have my lovely, big, tired, dirty boy back with a suitcase full of damp, filthy clothes.
And I will be a complete mummy again.