Our eldest boy has gone on his first ever school trip away from home. I’m not talking about a day terrifying museum staff or a day leaving chewing gum under the pews of a big city cathedral. I’m talking proper sleeping-away-from-home-for-several-nights and eating-food-that-has-not-been-specifically-catered-to-his-extremely-discerning-palate.
It is a momentous occasion in the life of a child. And a parent. It feels like that first big developmental step towards full independence and eventual adulthood.
He’s ten. In some ways he’s older than his years. In some ways younger. Like all ten year olds I suppose.
He’s bright. He’s developing a nice line in cheek that will stand him in good stead in later years.
But nevertheless you worry.
A week away from home is a long time. What if his DS batteries run out? What if he loses his asthma inhaler? What if he doesn’t like any of the 16 choices of sandwich fillings that the adventure centre offers him?
He’s a fussy eater, Goddamit. Maybe we should have snuck a few tins of tuna into his backpack along with all the “emergency crisps” and the “fail-safe chocolate bars”?
He was braver than I was at his age, I’ll give him that. My first trip away from home was a hike to farmhouse a mere 2 miles away where we stayed for a paltry 3 nights. I cried like a baby on the first morning, didn’t like the food when we got there and was convinced my room was haunted simply because the branches of a tree were hanging down right outside my window.
My boy however demanded the coach driver keep his two bags together like a seasoned traveller, settled into a double seat on the coach like a pro and immediately plugged himself into his DS like he was still on our living room couch.
I’ve a feeling he’s going to go far. Literally. Probably backpacking around the globe and making himself head honcho of the global village.
Meanwhile, the wife and I are looking around us, unsettled by the slightly emptier nest that he has left in his wake. The house seems quieter. The biscuit tin looks depressed at the reduced opportunity for human interaction. The PlayStation is sobbing like a betrayed lover.
We are seriously considering hauling a stray kid in off the street and paying him to talk over all the TV programmes we’re trying to watch and complain about the amount of vegetables on his dinner plate. If he can throw in a few pre-teen tantrums and refuse to honour the bedtime curfew even better.
Our boy has left home for the first time.
It’s only been one day and his mum and dad are already homesick.