It’s that time of year again when parents wave goodbye to their teens going off to university. Three years ago I stood in a queue at Gatwick with my daughter who was flying out to Belfast to start at Queen’s University. I was a nervous wreck, sniffing, fighting back tears as images flashed through my mind of her life – her first words – ‘what doing,’ first walk and picking up every leaf on the way, her tantrum in the middle of a shopping centre. How had we arrived here? Her childhood was gone. All those school runs, all of those school lunches I made each morning, that whole routine that I thought would go on forever had stopped and it seemed so abrupt. When your teen returns that first Christmas from university you’ll notice subtle changes in their behaviour and by the time they graduate they’re cock sure, ‘I know what I’m doing mum’ is a phase you’ll often hear. I can’t believe all of the things my daughter has done since that first queue at Gatwick. She’s achieved so much and I’m very proud of her. She’s travelled to Bali, she’s worked with elephants in Sri Lanka and completed a successful year’s work experience. Everything changes in those university years so mums, brace yourselves, because your child has now flown and reaching the heights of their abilities and talents. Out in the world they’re at last testing what they are capable of and for many it’s so much more than we ever achieved.
I attended a talk by the Jo Cox Loneliness Foundation. Former MP murdered a couple of years ago spearheaded the campaign because she had been desperately lonely at university. I was surprised to learn about this campaign because I didn’t imagine people would be lonely at university. I didn’t enjoy this period of my life and it was the loneliest time but thankfully my daughter is more outgoing and hasn’t experienced this. Many teenagers are too afraid to admit to be lonely and out of their depth in their new life and it’s important that we pick up the signs and that we make sure they are happy because while three years can fly by it’s also a long time to suffer.