As parents we cherish our children and mind them well, and when they reach their teenage years we realise that it's time to release the reins. Or rather, replace them with extremely loose and invisible ones. You know, so you can give a little tug every so often, when they stray too far or lose the run of themselves a little too much.
It's not an easy thing to do but do it we must, trusting that we've prepared the way well with discussion and by example. The age of 14 to 18 can be fraught with battles for complete independence, so we must tread carefully and make the most of this window of opportunity. Releasing the reins bit by bit.
And so it was that our Teen Boy headed off to Switzerland with his scout troop last week. Scout camp went so well last year that we really looked forward to him having another amazing adventure this year. Another opportunity to mix with others and to be part of a team; to spread his wings and blossom. All the while being supervised, by trained scout leaders. With finely tuned, loose and invisible reins all of their own!
There was nothing so extensive in my day, and even if there were the money wasn't there to fund it.The Gaeltacht was available though, a fact that might amuse my son given that I apparently hail from the prehistoric era. I hated Irish as a school subject, thanks to a teacher who didn't like me, but friends of mine came back from a Gaeltacht trip positively raving about it. The fun they had! Dancing at the ceilís and hanging out after Irish class and at the beach. With boys! I just had to give that a go and so the following year, at the 'mature' age of 14, my parents found the money, released the reins and off I went. To dancing and beaches....and boys!
It was a coming of age, of sorts. The technology allowing instant contact with home was not available in this prehistoric era and weekend visits from parents was not the norm back then. Instead we wrote and received precious letters to and from home. Although I would have received mine sooner had I known what my name was as Gaeilge when letters were handed out at assembly! Oops...
I hoped for a similar coming of age experience this year for my boy, who coincidentally is of the same age as I was back then; back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The fact that his is a mixed scout troop is one that I conveniently ignored. Besides, scouts don't 'do' Ceilís - not that I'm aware of anyway! It's a chance for him to break away from parental constraints, wi-fi wars and household chores. Although he may have been sorely disappointed with the latter two! Scouts have to prepare meals and wash up afterwards you know, and although the technology is available it was banned and a 'no mobile phones' order was firmly in place. No need for concern though, mid-week phone calls home were made available for those who needed the security of touching base with home, restoring confidence and equilibrium until once more into the fray they ventured.
Ultimately a good time was had. Adventures into the Alps, hiking higher and higher and viewing things the budding geologist never thought he'd see for real. Like glaciers for example. I bet he went looking for dinosaur fossils too, no doubt hoping to share the genealogy links with his pre-historic mother!
He has since happily returned to the familiarity of home, a little older and a little wiser in lots of little ways. With all manner of life skills learned and a willingness to share them. He enjoyed his break and his freedom. As did his parents, it must be said.
But it is really good to have him back home, as we continue on with our summer school holidays. There are undoubtedly plenty more walks and talks to be had and enjoyed in the weeks that remain.
And it's very true what they say you know......
Absence does indeed make the heart