We can't cope as my son's finally left us for university | BBC Radio Solent's Alun Newman

To close the loop on some family free running emotion I’m pleased to say that the eldest child has been deployed to university.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 12:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 12:03 pm
Our son's heading off to university. Picture by Shutterstock

He’s the first one of us to ever go. I chose an apprenticeship (mainly because I lacked required academic alertness) and my wife chose to go to college instead of getting a job straight away.

No one really prepares parents for the ‘child leaving’ moments and I can confirm it’s been turbulent. Whether it’s university or simply flying the nest, it’s emotional and exciting. Those were our emotions anyway.

My son was just keen to get out (keen is putting it mildly, desperate is maybe closer to the truth).

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There is definitely something releasing about a child feeling excited to leave home. Aside from all those details, we were less than 48 hours into this nest-flying, new space.

We hadn’t really got past saying ‘the house is quieter’, every two minutes. Or asking each other 'have you heard anything?' or 'have you sent a text?’. As we sat at the dinner table, it was obvious even to the most unintuitive of people that my wife was still emotionally processing the fact my eldest had reached a new chapter in his life as a fully independent adult. (Her tears were the main giveaway clue. The main one I noticed.)

So, I came up with a brilliant master plan. For the more neutering or instinctive among us you’ll be able to predict the outcome before getting to the end of this story.

While my wife was out, using the mechanism of spending and shopping to process the pain, I came up with a brilliant proposition.

I’ll get into my son’s old bedroom. I’ll clean it. Go through the carnage that was left. Reposition the bed. Refresh, move things forward. Pioneer the new chapter mentality. I set about this task with great gusto.

Not since the big beach clean of 2006 have I collected so many wrappers, plastic bottles and crisp packets. I removed the slightly wobbly desk before I deconstructed and recycled it.

I chucked his larger possessions in the garage. I sorted clothes which had been abandoned and found them a home (charity bags).

I dusted, tidied and repositioned the bed, which took far longer than anticipated but it felt good. A new day. A new chapter.

When my wife returned, I was bristling with excitement. Imagine being married to someone as proactive as me.

Someone determined to be a constructive help, I flung open the door as part of the big reveal. It didn’t go as planned.

Clearly being married to this proactive mastermind was not quite the dream ticket I had imagined.

Once the waves of tears had ceased, and proper oxygen intake had stabilised, I was able to read between the lines that this ‘may’ have been premature.

Amid the shock was the news the bedroom ‘doesn’t even smell the same!’. Thank God, I thought.

Never in the history of the last 2000 years has someone ever been able to identify what the potent smell of teenage boy actually is.

I would have thought no one really wants to know.

If it was that desirable, Calvin Klein would have bottled ‘Scent of a Teenage Man’. I offered understanding and took full responsibility.

I’m no fool. I could see when I’ve got something wrong.

I was also relieved to see, behind the side of the bed, out of sight, I had moved up the paint and some rollers ready to start phase two.

‘The Wall Refresh!’. I didn’t mention this at the time, as I think we’ve got enough on our plate. It’s about support and listening, not about fixing things (I’m repeating words I’ve heard before).

As I said at the beginning, no one really prepares you for these moments, I think they assume you just won’t do anything too stupid.

Trapped face masks dilemma

There are often certain professions having a tough time and we know nothing about them.

These experts suffer in relative silence. I happened to catch the musings online of ‘White Goods Repair Technicians’ lamenting the latest issues impacting their world.

Several articles explained ‘hundreds of people have had to call on the pros’ to repair their washing machines.

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The reason being, they had left face masks in trouser pockets and thrown the lot in the wash. It turns out masks are the perfect shape and construction for getting stuck behind the drum. I’ve no idea how things get behind the drum. Maybe that’s where socks go? They are also perfect for blocking the water drainage system.

One engineer said the repair business hasn’t been this good since the ‘new’ 5p piece was introduced in the 1990s.

The tiny coin was small change to the UK, but a big change for the white goods repair industry.

It makes sense when you think about masks. Whenever I dig into a pocket on any piece of clothing, I seem to have masks in every available space. A few in a pocket and they form a mask ball!

I wonder whether we’ll ever get to the stage when masks in every car crevice, every cupboard and every trouser pocket is a thing of the past. It must make a pleasant change though for those people in the white goods sector.

Apparently, the second most popular item to cause problems after the five pence piece was… the thong.

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