The Boywonder at 3 years old.

The Boywonder at 3 years old.

This evening I saw the Boywonder through security at Heathrow airport as he took his first grown up steps into the world. He’s off to Australia tonight (via Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines MH1- nervous? Moi?) for a couple of months to work in a vineyard. The wine estate in question also produces coffee and cheese and has a little on-site restaurant, and there was originally some talk of him working there, but the year became six months and six months has become two and it looks like he’ll be picking grapes and generally helping with harvest.

He’s found a room in a private house and opened an Australian bank account and somehow has to arrange a SIM card and transport but luckily he’ll have some help for this first weekend from some former classmates and their mum, who live in Melbourne. Goodness. He’s a lucky boy. How many of us would have loved this sort of opportunity had our parents been willing or able to support us through it?

His parents, who both found their overseas study years pivotal and formative in their education, are willing to do this because they can see exactly how mind-opening it is to travel and meet people with a different lifestyle and a different outlook. I hope he has fun and grows up to appreciate how life can be for real people in the real world. He has some tough life lessons to learn but he’s only going to learn them on his own.

The Boywonder and I are quite close. There is some sort of special bond between a mother and her son, especially her firstborn child. Not that I want in any way to undermine my relationship with the lovely MsDD, although she is more like her father in personality and a complete daddy’s girl. Stereotypes have got to come from somewhere, right?

People have asked me over the last few weeks how I feel about him going so far away and I’ve not known because I’ve not thought about it really. Having a tendency to overthink things can drive you insane, so I haven’t. But driving home this evening I wondered what was going through his mind.

When I went off to China I was full of trepidation and sadness at leaving the OH, who had already spent a year in Germany by then. But I can honestly say that I was never homesick for my life here. I had grown apart from my parents quite early and had virtually nothing in common with them. I couldn’t wait to get away, truth be told.

I hope the Boywonder doesn’t feel like this. Despite my trying so hard to be laid-back and non-controversial for the remaining time he had with us, we had an altercation last night and told each other a few lingering, saved-up home truths. This time, however, I think we both realised that we had better not go too far because our time together is short and not worth souring over trifles. Part of me is glad to have a break from the belligerent weasel-worded debater. Most of me will miss him forever, knowing that there is no going back from this first real separation.

He’s leaving his girlfriend and that must be tough. He shrugs it off a little too easily for him to be quite as nonchalant as he would have me believe. This was, for me, the worst part of my time in China: counting the days of separation; checking my mailbox daily in case the monthly letter on three sides of airmail paper had arrived. The Boywonder and GF have email and Skype and FaceTime so the distance between them is not quite so isolating. For this I’m really grateful because loneliness and missing someone is so very hard when you’re that young.

It’s only a couple of months but he’ll be away for Shrove Tuesday, he loves pancakes, and his grandad’s 80th birthday and his own 19th birthday and Easter. When he returns he’ll have, with any luck, a full set of university offers. His first choice university has asked for details of what he’s doing on his gap year. No, he’s not building an orphanage in Ecuador or saving polar bears at the North Pole on expeditions organised by a Gap Year Consultant. He found himself a Christmas job, dealing with the public and did very well at sales. And now he’s bringing in a harvest on the other side of the world. He’s set all this up himself so I hope that counts in his favour.

(As I write this, I’m tracking his plane and it’s flying over our house, which is an odd coincidence no?)

It’s been a bumpy ride, this adolescence. It’s exhausted me and driven me to the brink of despair so many times but he’s a nice boy, a well-mannered young man and I hope this will shine through. I hope he will take advantage of every opportunity that presents himself; work hard; make a good impression; have fun and not do anything that brings danger upon himself. He’s quite cautious so I’m not too worried.

This is the start, though. The first fledgling’s practice flight, trying out and strengthening his wings. A rehearsal for the real thing. The beginning of the end of the first part of his life.  Only three of us left to feed. This evening has suddenly made me feel older. Now I’ve started to overthink so I’ll stop there.

If you love them, let them go.