I have an 18 year old son (believe me that swift passing of time came as something of a shock to me too !). He will be moving off to University life in a northern town in less than 2 weeks. I'm gonna miss him.
He hasn't been living with us for some 9 months now. We moved house last November to a town around 40 miles from where we were living. He was doing very well at the college he was at, he got fantastic AS level results, and wanted to stay there for his A2's. So, since last November he has been living with his Grandmother back closer to his college. It proved to be the right decision as his A2 results were every bit as fantastic as his AS's and he earned himself a place at his 1st choice University studying exactly the course he wanted.
So you'd think I'd have gotten used to him not being around every day by now. Well I haven't. But as long as he was at his Grandmothers he was only a 40 minute drive away, whether he was coming to us or we were going back to where he is. But very soon it will be more like a 2-3 hour drive away and that, to me, seems like a long way away.
I know he's going to do fantastically well at University. He's got that inner drive that I think I used to have when I was his age, but which has been beaten out of me over the years. My brother has it too, they're alike in a lot of ways.
He has been living for 18 years now on what was once Europe's largest council housing estates. When it was first built it must have seemed like paradise to the people who were moved there from old inner city neighbourhoods. My Mom says that when we first went there it was like being moved into a palace. Hot and cold running water, central heating, a bathroom and a toilet that was indoors ! But over the years it has succumbed to the same problems that seem to trouble most working class estates of its kind. Crime, vandalism, violence, a lack of respect for other people generally. One of the reasons (the main reason ?) we ended up leaving there was because of the people we were living amongst. Most of them were great and we got along well with them but just a few made it a misery for everyone else.
Our nearest neighbours you could only describe as the perfect dysfunctional chav tribe. Mom, Dad and their 4 kids, it seemed like. But the kids could boast 3 different fathers. Mother swore like a docker. The two eldest kids were both smoking before their teens and had no respect for their mother never mind her downtrodden husband. The Mother continually told me her kids were like that because of the environment they had been bought up in i.e. the same place my son had been bought up in. So go on then, explain why he isn't like that ?
He amazes me every day. He speaks French and German. After 2 weeks on holiday in Spain he was speaking enough Spanish to converse with the hotel staff. He is totally self-motivated. Never once have we had to prompt him or push him or hassle him to put in the work required to get the exam results he needed. When at 14 he found out his school wouldn't enter him for French and German courses he asked if he could study French at home with a private tutor. He did this and the school entered him for the GCSE exam. He got an A*.
I love music and will search out things that aren't in the mainstream. He has taken it further than that. We bought him a compilation CD of rock music in order to save him from the peer pressure to listen to the Spice Girls and Britney Spears. The band he latched onto fom the CD ? Rammstein, a band from the former East Germany who sing entirely in German. He persuaded me to take him to his first gig (well the first gig he asked to go to rather than the first one we had dragged him to, I think he went to his first sound check before he reached 1 year old !) to see Rammstein in Frankfurt. The show was fabulous and me and him slept on benches at Frankfurt airport to save the hotel bill. I loved every second of it.
February 2nd 2006 was a big day for him...and me. It was his 18th birthday, that's a big deal for anyone. And it was the first time he could legally stand with me at the bar and say "Dad, whaddya want". Might not seem much to some but it was to me. I told my wife when he was born, don't expect me to be much use before I can hold a sensible conversation with him about football and music . I was true to my word and I hope that now he (and she) thinks I've been OK for him (although I might possibly have bored him to death with tales of how great Trevor Francis was and he says he likes the Sex Pistols album but you never can tell).
He's grown up very fast (remember that you parents out there. One minute you're watching Thomas The Tank Engine videos and 5 minutes later your kids are leaving home). But he's grown up into someone I really, really like and who I know will do well in whatever he chooses to do. This might all sound like me blowing mine and his trumpets to you, but frankly I don't care. I'm gonna miss you when you're not around everyday mate. Love you. Dad x
3 days ago