Well the summer has flown by and my son started his apprenticeship the day after the bank holiday. And he had a special request for the bank holiday: that we didn’t just ‘do nothing and waste the day’ as it was his ‘last day of freedom’.
I must admit that we don’t do a lot in the school holidays. Yes, we go on holiday. We have the odd day out. But most of the time, we’re just at home. My husband doesn’t take any time off work (he has far too much work for it to be possible). I don’t take time off either, but I can generally fit my work into the morning.
Sometimes the kids see their friends and do their own thing. But their friends seem to be away A LOT. So often the kids are at home. Sometimes they are bored, although I think my younger son would be very happy never to see anyone as he seems very good at entertaining himself (albeit with screens). In the afternoon, we will usually go for a walk or nip to the shops. They might ‘need’ me to take them to town for something. (Even though my eldest is perfectly capable of taking himself to town, he still asks me to do it most of the time. I think he likes the company. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to pay for his own parking!)
Because my husband spends so much time working, he is very content to stay at home at weekends. We always go running on a Sunday morning, so in his mind, he has done something that day. I think he forgets that the kids haven’t done anything and that they can get a bit bored. He is happy to spend time doing the garden. I must admit that, for me, doing jobs around the garden and house is not my idea of a fun weekend, but sometimes needs must.
So I could understand why my eldest didn’t want us to get stuck in this rut on his ‘last day of freedom’.
On the rare occasions when we go for a day out, the kids usually want to go and wander around a city. Usually Bristol. This time, my son requested that we go to Oxford.
My husband wasn’t keen. He would be the driver. His car has no air conditioning and the forecast was for very hot weather. You often get stuck behind tractors on a single lane carriageway heading to Oxford. Oh, and the kids argue in the car.
But I didn’t want to turn down my son’s one simple request. I didn’t want him to look back in years to come and think that we hadn’t taken him on a day out on the last day before he started work – because the weather was hot and we might get stuck in traffic.
So we went to Oxford. The car was very hot and the kids started arguing within five minutes of setting off.
I don’t know about all teenagers, or if it’s just mine. But when my kids go for a ‘day out’, what they actually want is two or three hours out. Then they just want to go home, relax and look at their screens again. They like to walk a bit, they like to look in a few shops and they like to eat. Then they’re ready to go home again.
So we had lunch as soon as we arrived – in Leon. Leon is one of our absolute favourite places to eat. It is healthy fast food and, unlike most places, we can all find something on the menu that we enjoy. Going there is a real treat for everyone. Then we had a walk by the river. My younger son would have liked to look at the university buildings (he has ambitions to go to Oxford), but our walk didn’t seem to take us in that direction.
Before we knew it, we were back at Westgate, Oxford’s beautiful shopping centre. And I don’t use the word ‘beautiful’ for shopping centres lightly. We split up briefly – ladies to New Look, Zara and Urban Outfitters and men to wherever men like to go. Then we met back up again for another treat for my son’s special day – an ice cream in Hotel Chocolat. (Teenagers really do like to eat. The boys need feeding every couple of hours. Goodness knows how my son will cope with being in work away from a bottomless cupboard of snacks.)
Once they’d had their ice cream, everyone was happy that they’d had a good day out. So we went home.
It may not be everyone’s idea of a good day out, but we all enjoyed it. And, most importantly, it was what my son wanted to do on his ‘last day of freedom’. He could start his apprenticeship happily the next day, knowing that his family had taken the time to give him the day out that he wanted.
It is a strange thing parenting an adult (and I will write more about it soon). My son is old enough to take himself for days out, yet he still chooses to spend a lot of time with us. My husband would like to see him be more independent, but I think it’s nice that he still wants to spend time with his family. Turning 18 doesn’t mean you instantly have to do things on your own and with friends, so I will enjoy my son’s company as and when he chooses to spend time with us, for as long as he does.