Middle Child and I sit at the kitchen table, weeping. It’s 4:30am and in ten minutes he’s getting a lift to the airport, bound for the Algarve and a month working on a farm. He’s been to relatives before, but this is the first time I’ve launched him into the unknown and I’m trying very hard not to pass on my anxiety. But failing.
“This is why you can’t take me to the airport,” he says. “Other Parent will say, ‘Right then, good luck,’ shake my hand and off I’ll go. If you took me we’d just stand there crying,” he says.
True. I’ve been fretting all week, badgering him about his preparations.
“Let’s print off a map, see where your hostel is,” I say one morning.
“Already got it on my phone.”
“OK. Let’s see which bus you should get from the airport into town.”
“Oh.” I’m amazed, and redundant.
Another morning I try, “OK. Let’s run through your stuff again. Ticket, passport, tent, first aid kit, guitar…”
“Yep. All packed.”
“I know, condoms. I’ll get you two boxes.”
“Ha, ha, what if I don’t use them all, will I be in trouble with my mum?”
“Yes, make sure you don’t bring any back,” I joke.
So here we are, packed and teary. I try to think of something sensible to say to distract us.
“Remind me what your friend’s mum said when you told her about your trip. She’s a top parent type.”
“She said ‘don’t do anything risky’.”
“Yes, that. That was very good. And what did you say again?”
“No, I won’t.”
“Oh yes. Good.”
The doorbell rings and after a big squelchy hug, he’s gone.
A couple of days later, he texts: “Hello, how am I for tetanus?”
Aw no. “Up to date,” I text back. “And use the antiseptic in your first aid kit.”
Ha! I was right to insist on that despite his objections about space. Next day I decide to neb in his room. There on the table sits the first aid kit.
“I knew it!” I text him.
“No room,” he says. “Not with all those condoms.” n