SECONDBORN is feeling murderous towards the ducks that live outside her university accommodation.
Last weekend, when we moved her in to the room, we thought the picturesque view of the campus lake was a definite plus – in fact, the best thing about the place, which is otherwise a little on the tired side – but it transpires that this is not so. Particularly as the room has no double glazing.
“They woke me up with their quacking,” she complained of her first night spent there. “I couldn’t get back to sleep.”
This, of course, is a Fresher’s Week nightmare, as catching up on missed sleep is vital to ensure full participation in all the many nocturnal social events.
Her brother, a fellow student in York, went round to see her on Monday and reported that she looked tired. I rang up to remind her to take her vitamin C. For some reason I have an almost evangelical belief in the magical powers of vitamin C and have promised myself that she can avoid fresher’s flu, if only she keeps her immune system functioning. The Boy says there’s no way to avoid it.
“Everyone gets it,” he said, with conviction.
“You’ve got thousands of people coming from all over the country and all over the world, bringing their germs with them. Then they stay up late, don’t eat properly and drink too much.”
He rested his case.
Which is more than The Girl has been able to do.
The Man-in-Charge is also worried, and has been texting her a lot to ask if she’s OK.
Her phone, quite mysteriously, seems to be going straight to voicemail.
By mid-week I suggested that perhaps we should both refrain from telephonic communication of any kind and assume that no news is good news. We, who have sneered at the idea of helicopter parenting, seem perilously close to acquiring our own Westland Apache with spy cameras.
But, as we are finding out, letting go is hard to do.
My friend Eileen confessed that when she became an empty nester she’d sneak into her daughter’s vacated bedroom and sit on the bed to have a bit of a weep. “My husband thought I was mad,” she said.
I found myself feeling tearful while watching Neighbours the other night. She likes Neighbours, does my daughter, and introduced me to its sanitised brand of Antipodean drama some years ago. Now I’m watching it alone while she’s goodness knows where.
Secondborn knew before she left that we were going to be bereft and couldn’t quite understand why. “Most people seem to look forward to their children leaving home,” she said.
And, of course, she’s right. I would be lying if I said there hadn’t been times when I felt it would be quite nice to have the house and my husband to myself once again. But they were fleeting thoughts, because we have both enjoyed the company of our children and their friends.
Now, however, it is time for us all to forge new lives and new directions.
We went for a walk to the pub on Tuesday night and talked about joining a badminton club or brushing up our French. Our house could probably do with a bit of attention too. And then there’s the allotment and our overgrown garden. Not forgetting the Ironing Fairy’s garden.
We’d also like to have a couple of weekends away to climb mountains and visit family in far-flung corners of the UK. “I’d like to go to Scotland as well,” I said. I’ve just read the latest Scotland Street novel by Alexander McCall Smith and fancy a trip to Edinburgh.
Next week I have plans to go through all our cupboards and be ruthless with their contents. The attic could do with an overhaul as well.
As it turns out, it would appear we’re going to be far too busy to keep tabs on Secondborn after all.
I must text her immediately with this news.
P Universities say they are facing the growing phenomenon of “helicopter parents’’ – the over-involved, hovering, parents who want to continue interfering in the lives of their children at university.
Frank Furedi, social commentator and professor of sociology at the University of Kent, says that such parents are “destroying the distinction between school and higher education’’.
“All universities now have to take the parent factor into account. On university open days you can see more parents attending than children,” he explains.
“There is a powerful sense of infantilism, where parents can't let go.”