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My youngest child

17 Feb 2017

My youngest child, the one the family has nicknamed ‘Bubs’, starts at USC in February.

And I can’t believe it.

Isn’t it just yesterday that I was dropping him to pre-school, sitting on a chair that was too small and helping him put his books in a little plastic slide out box which came out from under a miniscule desk? I placed his chair bag over the back of the chair. I had made his chair bag out of material he chose, with a blue duckling pattern, and I embroidered his name on the side just in case there were any other parents who had chosen the same material. I wanted to help ‘Bubs’ to find his way to his chair every day.

The school years have flown by in a daze of homework, birthday parties and presentation nights. Starting each year sitting covering books with contact (having a wine and a whine as I did, muttering something under my breath about the person who invented contact and their questionable parentage).

And now… Bubs is heading off to university.

I feel sort of uninvolved with the process. I can’t access his student details, because of privacy regulations. I can’t settle him into the classroom and put his books in the tidy tray for him. And I can’t direct him to play with the nicer kids in the sandpit, “sit next to this one for lunch, darling”, and hope that the right friendships will blossom.

He will need to do all those things for himself.

I tell myself he is too young, he’s not even an adult yet. He will be on his own. He knows nothing of life and the big world and stranger danger. Everyone else at uni is so much older. How will he survive without me? And with no chair bag to guide him.

‘Bubs’ is actually the same age as I was when I first went to university. But he is much better prepared. He is going to a smaller university. He is better equipped to cope with self-paced study. He has visited USC on Open Days and used the library. And he has already had three siblings, and his mother, study at USC.

My first university was a huge campus which seemed to have a thousand buildings. Everyone else knew where they were going, but I spent my first few weeks struggling to find rooms and asking people where the toilet was. I met no students from my old school. And I was sure everyone was watching me as I walked from one side of the university to the other, trying to find that elusive tutorial room without resorting to stopping at a map.

Gradually, my life at university became familiar, and then after a month or so, I was less lost. Uni became first, ‘less stressful’, then ‘not too bad’ and then, almost imperceptibly, I loved uni. I loved the subjects, I loved my new friends, … I loved the whole experience. But it took a few subjects, a few lectures, a few tutorials – it took a while. And there were speedbumps along the way, but I learned as I got bruised and I called those things life experiences. I learned how to study and research and find things out for myself.

And Bubs will too.

Even without me there to guide him.

I still have that blue duckling material chair bag. And on his first day, I may just sneak it into his backpack.

Just in case he needs it!

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