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The weeks before university starts are really hectic. Can you believe how much needs to be done? Parents want their offspring to arrive with everything they need to cover almost every eventuality. Cars turn up, even vans and motor homes with things that just cannot be left at home. Going back 6 years when my eldest son was about to embark on his university life which did, in more ways than one, change his life forever. We were lucky, got on fine, other than the normal tidy your bedroom moans and we planned his university shopping list together with help from friends and the internet.
The last trip into town with the really essential last minute bits including a must have inflatable chair which then failed health and safety when we got there saw us struggling through town laden with bags. I am fairly tall but my legs in comparison couldn’t keep up so it was almost turning into a sprint just trying to stay in line as we jostled through crowds. “Hang on” I yell. “Don’t you want me to walk with you?” The answer shattered me. I thought we had a really good mother/son relationship. So many thoughts ran through my head when I heard a loud “NO!”. “Why?” I said, thinking he was joking. “Am I really that embarrassing?” The glare and grunt said it all. “What do I do, that’s so embarrassing?” I mumbled. “Breathe” came the firm reply!!! How can children say things, possibly in jest or truth and not realise the impact of what they say or in fact the impact them leaving for university will have on the whole dynamics of the family and the family unit. I still sprinted along behind with handfuls of bags dutifully handing my credit card over for those last can’t do without items!! “Done” I said when the last item was ticked off my list. “No” he said “one last thing. I am going to treat you to a milkshake.” I sat in the coolest milk shake bar in town not realising I probably now was being really embarrassing, grinning like a Cheshire Cat!! “What is so funny” he said. “I can’t be that embarrassing if you are sitting here and bought me a milk shake”, those raised eyelids and glint of a smile made me realise how lucky I was. An embarrassing mum maybe, but a lucky one too. Earlier, I had been the villain just for breathing.
A week later we arrived at the university with only just enough room in the car for us (we had to leave his younger brother at home!). So much stuff, literally only just enough room for us all to be squeezed in alongside all of the boxes, bags and holdalls. We arrived at the gate, wanting to create a good first impression. Our car window was wound down and a tuneful morning from all of us greeted the security team, who then looked and laughed as stuff was falling out of the window including the can’t survive without it, mobile phone!!
Cases, bags and the car unloaded. Almost managed to colour code the wardrobe, bet it didn’t last like that for long. Meet and greet friends and family was next on the planned agenda. We did go, but within several minutes we were again the embarrassing parents, loitering not wanting to stand out. I wasn’t going to cry, no big sloppy kisses, just a quick hug and see you soon! Hardly a glance, even then we knew he was happy with his new flat mates, he has since married one and the rest came to the wedding.
In the first few weeks we did get messages, I hated the Skype calls. Convinced that was the time he used to tidy his room and the call home was a must do job ranking alongside the boring tidying up. We would look at his bedroom wall, seeing his head duck up every now and again with a plate or a pile of dirty underwear. Is that how university is for us embarrassing parents? Six weeks before our next visit, I was so looking forward to that first trip, almost counting the days. We decided to make a goody box with all his favourite food and drink. Homemade cake was worthy of a little smile when we arrived. The box was carried up to his room and unpacked. Salad cream – life’s essential, peanut butter, beer, few more smiles. Then the piece de la resistance. Padded toilet rolls and a big pack, bought in reality just to fill the box up. Not just a smile and a hug from him but from all of his flat mates too. We were the best parents in the world. How do you do villain to hero in six weeks? Easy, with a pack of quilted toilet paper!!