To have one child leave home in a week might seem unfortunate. To have two looks pretty careless.
But that’s the situation I have faced this week as my two (and only) children both headed off to university – a situation faced by hundreds of local parents over the next couple of weeks who will be waving their hankies as their beloved youngsters head off to a brave new world.
On Thursday, I hurtled up the M5 to take ‘Child A’ off to Liverpool. A long day was then followed by an even longer one on Friday when I had a day full of meetings at work and then on Saturday it was back on to that pesky M5 again to take ‘Child B’ to Derby.
Although I’m immensely proud of them both and pleased they got positions in a very competitive year for university places, I was also very well aware that the moment I started to begin the whole 750 miles of back and forth travelling I would begin to suffer the first pangs of the phenomenon known as “empty nest syndrome”. This is traditionally only usually associated with mothers but a report recently showed that many fathers can also get hit by this dramatic change to their lifestyle. And I am under no illusions that if only ten per cent of dads suffer from it, I will be that one in ten.
The reality is as we all know from being parents – or even from being children of course – your relationship with your offspring changes all the time. Now, at this age, I’ve got into a wonderfully comfortable relationship with both my children where they are friends as much as family members and the thought of losing two of my best friends as well as my two closest family members over a 48-hour period seems pretty depressing.
Of course people tell me it’s not as bad as in the old days as we can communicate so much better now by texts, mobile phones and lovely inventions like Skype. But the truth is – and I have to admit to being exactly this type of person when I was a student – when you’re away and your life starts to become so much more involved with new-found friends and new-found towns, talking to the folks back home does not necessarily become priority numero uno.
The temptation to constantly text and email may initially be quite strong on my part but I suspect it is a temptation I will have to resist because the one thing above all that university is supposed to give is independence – and if you don’t give your children independence when they go to university, when can you?
But, of course, that won’t stop me worrying. Will they eat enough? Will they make friends? Will they like their accommodation? Will they like their new city? Will they like their university? Will they be able to survive on their limited budget? And, how come I’ll probably be spending more money on them when they’re in another county than now when they’re just in another room?
The truth is I guess we never stop worrying about kids whether they’re five, 15, 25 or, dare I say it, 55 or 75. It is what we are programmed to do but I can’t help thinking that to have two of them leave at the same time is probably too much for one doting dad to cope with.
Ah well it is only three years.
Pass the hankie.