This morning I waved off my little lad as his bus drove away into the distance carrying him on his first classe verte. At the tender age of 5, one does not leave one's mummy lightly, and the teacher thought it best to take them away for one night only, but this has been sufficient to provoke anxiety and a few tears.
Still, once he'd arrived at the school, and got on the bus next to his mate, William, he looked cheerful enough. The bus was also seen off by a number of other mummies and the children from Grande Section who stood waving paper tissues like one of those scenes out of a steam ship movie. It was a very sweet sight.
My first trip away happened when I was in junior school, so I must have been about 10. We went on a PGL adventure holiday to Tan Troed in the Black Mountains. My elder brother had also been there. By the time my younger brother had to go, there was a choice between going on the adventure holiday, or, as my elder brother put it, going on the softies' cop out at Weston-super-Mare.
It depended whether you wanted to spend a week under canvas with the real probability of coming home soaked and filthy from Tan Troed, as did my brother after a week of rain, or stay in a cosy hostel doing civilised things. I enjoyed a week of sunshine and participated enthusiastically in everything from archery to sailing, to pony-trekking to canoeing. We sang around the camp fire and thought how wonderful it was to be away from home, confirming, in fact, what I had suspected all along: there's a great big world out there and it's full of more fun when parents are not there to cramp one's style.
So, with happy memories of not being with my parents, I'm sure my youngest will find his big boy feet and come back full of stories and shining eyes. It's good for them to break away from mummy's apron strings, but as the school director so astutely said in the parents' meeting, it's also good for mummies to have to let go. There were murmurs of dissent at this remark especially from one mother, who, the first and last time she let her son stay away at his grandparents', he came back with third degree burns from over-heated water in the bath's shower attachment which had overturned and sprayed his arm. She vowed at that point not to let him go away again, but, of course, there comes a time when you have to accept the inevitable, and just have faith a) in your child, and b) in the teachers accompanying him.
The only thing I regret is that I told my youngest I would get him a disposable camera to take, when he was being difficult about going a while ago, but forgot to buy it on Saturday. Oops. Let's hope he doesn't hold that against me in years to come. You never know what children remember and store up in their sponge-like memories in the section labelled 'Injustices and Things My Mother Forgot'. Mind you, considering my state of mind on Saturday, I'm not surprised the disposable camera slipped through the net, and if mummy forgets, the whole world forgets.
Ah the weight of it all...