University plucks one from the cuckoo nest

Posted on September 25th, 2016

I thought I was done with the emotional roller coaster of the first day of school. At age twelve to eighteen my children are all growing up and finding their independence. Their need for me and their Dad is reducing all the time and this independence is something I’ve always encouraged. However I failed to factor in just how emotional taking the first to University would be. Suddenly I felt like a parent taking my child to his first day at primary all over again; except worse, I wouldn’t be returning to collect him with a big hug in a few hours.

One flew the cockoo nest as Alistair drives to Cardiff University

Off to Cardiff University

When Alistair secured his place at Cardiff University I was so happy for him, it was an exciting new world opening up. The days closed in and as we drove up I could feel the apprehension in the car. A cocktail of nervous excitement from Alistair and a quiet dread of saying goodbye from me. Thankfully it was a beautiful day and the bridge into Wales felt very welcoming.

Hello Wales! Cardiff here we come . #uni #cardiff #freshersweek

A video posted by Coombe Mill (@coombemill) on

Nick had driven up separately as Alistair was keeping his car with him. As we met at his new halls of residence it felt like time had stood still from 30 years ago and my own first day. That same smell, a cross between school and a hospital, the old fire doors, bike lock up and small rooms. However a friendly group of early arriving girls keenly welcomed Ally to the group on his floor and I felt things were going to work out at university. He even had a cracking view over the city and Cardiff bay from his 5th floor window.

University Halls Cardiff

We were blessed with the most amazing September weather and took Ally for brunch in Cardiff bay. I’m already looking forward to return trips and Nick is exploring the idea of hiring a boat to blast across from Padstow to Cardiff which he thinks would only take an hour.

Brunch in Cardiff Bay

With a big supermarket shop done there was no more need for us to be there. It was time for us to bid him Goodbye and let him find his feet alone. I was determined not to cry but as Nick pointed out the family photos he had secretly packed and pinned up on his notice board I almost cracked.  I walked out with a huge lump in my throat, but reassured this little cuckoo was well set up for his new university life.

So he’s in. Uni life starts here! #Cardiff #universitylife #uni #leavinghome #son

A photo posted by Coombe Mill (@coombemill) on

I had to wait a full 36 hours before I had my first Facebook message. He had been out to his first freshers party and it was “awesome” relief flooded through me. He is hopeless at staying in contact so I treasure the occasional message and I’m trying not to keep asking how he is. I don’t want to be an annoying parent, but it is so hard to just let go and not wonder how he is doing. I remember all too clearly blaming vandalised payphones when I forgot to ring home, though I guess the modern day equivalent would be ‘my phone was out of charge or credit’! 

Ally has left a big gap in our family life but we are learning to adjust, it is every bit as hard as I feared and I think about him all the time. Whoever is on dinner time table laying duty is still setting out eight places instead of seven. I can’t believe I may have to do this 5 more times over the coming years. If you have a little one just started primary, watch out, the heartache at leaving them certainly doesn’t get easier as they get older. Once a parent, always a parent, even when they fly the nest.