Last Sunday. And another Rite of Passage moment. For Ben – and us.
Our youngest son was flying the nest. Literally.
Sixteen years and 284 days old he was off on the first holiday with his mates. Italy: a bungalow for four of them at Marina di Venezia.
Mate 1 was already there – with parents and extended family on the other side of the campsite. So Ben wouldn’t be totally cast out into the world. He would, however, be cast out into East Midlands Airport. With mates 2 and 3 he’d be negotiating check-in, security and boarding and – hopefully – ending up in a taxi from the Aeroporto di Treviso.
But not before a lot of instructions had flowed under the bridge…
“It’ll be hot. Don’t forget to put sunscreen on. Don’t forget your back.”
“Drink plenty of water.”
“Don’t take anyone else’s bag through the airport.”
“If girls invite you to a party don’t go.”
Jane and I volleyed increasingly alarmist warnings backwards and forwards. Ben smiled indulgently. He understood. Old people needed to do this. Finally my wife re-asserted order and turned to more practical matters. Packing. And the wretched baggage allowance.
The bathroom scales were hauled into the bedroom. God knows they’ve been lying about my weight for the last ten years – at least I hope they have – so I failed to see why they should weigh a suitcase accurately. But they were all we had.
“What’s the allowance?”
“I don’t know. It’s Ryanair so it’ll be a sock. Two socks if we’ve paid a supplement.”
Fortunately my wife knows everything: or rather her phone does. “Ten kilogrammes.” Accordingly I was despatched to find a lighter bag and Ben was ordered to spend the week in t-shirts. As he’s going to be ten miles from Venice and the temperature is a depressingly constantly 30° that looked a safe bet.
“There’s one more thing,” my wife said when we were downstairs. “You need to talk to him.”
“Sex. Contraception. Consent.”
“I did that before he went to his first all-night party.”
“Well maybe he’s forgotten.” I gently pointed out to my wife that sixteen year old boys do not forget about sex.
“You should still speak to him. Or I’ll do it.”
Nope, I wasn’t having that. I galloped upstairs and rapped firmly on Ben’s bedroom door.
“Your mother says I need to talk to you about sex before you go on holiday.”
He said it with such a pained expression, such an air of grim resignation that I burst out laughing. He did as well.
“Listen, be serious. I need to talk to you.”
“Stop worrying, Dad. I’ve already checked what I need to say on Google translate.”
“Vuoi tonare al nostro bungalow? Do you want to come back to our bungalow?”
“Stop that. I have to report back to your mother.”
Five minutes later I was back in the lounge: my wife reached for the electrodes. “Did you speak to him?”
“Yes. Absolutely. I went over everything I said before he went to the party.”
“Did he pay attention?”
“Good. It’s important.”
“Yes, I know. That’s why I was so insistent.” She looked at me suspiciously. Time to stop talking…
Finally 1:30 on Sunday arrived. I gave him a hug and ran through the instructions one last time. Just to prepare to him for Jane doing it again in the car.
“But above all, have a brilliant time.”
“Will do, Dad. And don’t worry. We’re mostly planning to visit museums and absorb the culture.”
I never doubted it…
Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here.