Saturday, 13 September 2014

Three years on - On taking my Son to University

2014 is shaping up to be a milestone year for us, and I will no doubt blog some reflections on that, with the hindsight of distance and time, next year.  For today though, I wanted to share some thoughts and feelings, which reference a previous blog from September three years ago Reflections on taking my Daughter to University and touch on taking my son, Sam, to university in Farnham yesterday.

Having re-read that blog, when I took Child 1, Natasha, to university, I am reminded why my social media profiles all start with the description "Husband, Dad..." followed by my professional description. That's where my priorities lie and have lain for the last 32 years, since I met Mandy. Up until then, I saw and validated myself by my career/job role as an actor, a role for which I was prepared to move anywhere in the country, for lousy money, mostly to do average work and with no career ladder or prospects in sight. That all changed after I met Mandy in 1982 and we became 'an item' and later married ("Husband"), moved to Hove to start a family and welcomed Tash and Sam into the world in 1992 and 1995 respectively ("Dad"). And I moved into Learning & Development ("the professional description").

So three years ago, I said about taking Tash to uni, "Niall's first rule of parenthood - there are no rules!  It's the ultimate seat-of-your-pants, non-formal, on-demand, experiential learning opportunity.  Just as you've managed to reflect and re-apply what you've just learned, the goalposts move and off you go again.  What works for child 1 does not necessarily work for or apply to Child 2.  They are their own people, from day 1, and I learned that I had to go with the flow, adapt and flex, whilst we tried to maintain a safe, loving and nurturing Home for them - and us - in which to grow."

And boy did they grow. Tash is currently in Cambodia, on a month-long tour of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand before coming back at the end of this month to do her final year of Interior Architecture & Design at Nottingham Trent University, after a year's interning at two design partnerships in London.  Sam starts at the  University of Creative Arts in Farnham UCA web page on Monday, having taken a year out after 6th form college to work and to reflect on what he wanted to do next. He interned for 6 weeks for a television production company, worked for a well-known electrical retailer and became the in-house sales expert for televisions, he continued to go the movies, to write and publish his ever-insightful movie reviews on his YouTube channel See his latest review here and finally decided that working towards a BA in Film Production at University was the way he wanted to go. Mandy and I had nothing to do with that decision and are thrilled that he has found his path via his own passions.

He got a place at the UCA in Farnham, but didn't get into the Halls of Residence. So, singlehandedly (with a bit of prompting & support from Mandy and me), he used facebook to hook up with some other 'Freshers' in the same boat, took on the responsibility of finding a student house to let, organised the legals and (more importantly?) the broadband and wifi, and even delegated some of the other moving in tasks to the other boys who were going to be sharing with him.

Yesterday, I took him and his 'stuff' to Farnham and helped him move in.  So now starts the next phase of my "Husband, Dad..." journey. Mandy and I are now 'empty-nesters'. Indeed, as I write this blog, I am sitting at the strangely-empty desk in Sam's room, able to see the carpet and with the windows wide open (if you got older teenagers, you'll understand those comments).

And I am sad. 

Joyful, but sad. Joyful for Sam, starting his new adventure and the next stage of his life; and sad, 'cos now our role has changed, as have the dynamics in our home. I will miss Sam's apropos-of-nothing conversations about random film stuff, the smell of over-cooked pizza and garlic bread, the hugs when I get home from work, the 'hey' from the hallway as he comes home and goes straight upstairs to his room... the general 'presence' of this charming, articulate, loving and funny young man in our shared living space. I hope his new house mates and university colleagues appreciate him as much as we do!

Mandy and I look forward to continuing to be part of Sam and Tash's lives for as long as we can, as they both grow and develop further; we'll just be a bit more hands-off.  But equally, we'll never be more than an email, text, tweet, facebook, Instagram or Skype away.

They can run, but they can't hide...

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