The Final Countdown

As the calendar on the sidebar of the blog shows, there are now only 5 days to go before Harry starts college. We have been sticking our heads in the sand and trying not to think about it but I can’t ignore it any longer.

The pile of Stuff For College is getting larger: new sweatshirts, extra medical supplies, posters, Blu-Tak, a spare duvet cover and even a football strip. Harry has never had a football strip. Never shown any particular interest in playing football. But when the forms came through from college asking him to indicate which sports he would like to participate in Harry opted for football. Much to our surprise. How he will manage with the laces on his boots we don’t know. We’re hoping he can get away with having them slack so he can ease his feet in. We indulged in a replica shirt, partly because Harry has never had one, partly because we like the idea of him running around with ‘Van Persie’ on his back. But he doesn’t have any socks. The pair I ordered online arrived and they were tangerine; not black. More suited to the Blackpool strip, or Wolves maybe? So, today I will be going shopping to buy a pair of black football socks.

I couldn’t get to sleep last night for thinking about all the What Ifs. We have tried to keep the idea of going to college in Harry’s mind without dwelling on it too much. His responses have varied: “I’m not sure about college” cropped up regularly. And the other day he overheard me talking to a neighbour about it and he piped up, “I’m not at college yet”. Then he asked me “When will I come home?” and my heart caught in my throat. “At half-term. October.” “Half-term?” Harry has no real concept of time so this means little to him. The longest we have ever gone without seeing him is two weeks (and that only happened for the first time last year). How can I explain to him that it will be more than twice that length of time until he sees us again and until he comes home?

And of course, once I had set off on that tack I couldn’t stop myself:

  • Who will tell him that, actually, he has last night’s dinner on his trousers and should put them in the laundry?
  • For that matter, who will teach him how to use the washing machine?
  • Will he realise that the batteries in his toothbrush are running low and need replacing?
  • Will he remember to towel-dry his hair thoroughly so that he doesn’t emerge after his shower fully-dressed but with his hair still dripping down his neck?
  • And how will he manage those football boot laces?

We have made adjustments to his daily routine so that college is less daunting. He has been getting up to an alarm clock signal, having a wash, brushing his teeth, getting dressed and coming down to breakfast. Because that’s how they do it at college. It has been harder to persevere with the evening routine. He might be 19 but we were still in the habit of going in to his bedroom and repeating the “Night night” mantra: “Night night, sleep tight… Don’t let the bugs bite… Good night, God bless… Love you.” Harry would repeat all these phrases back to us and sometimes it was more than he had said to us all evening. He has stopped saying to his Dad last thing at night before going up to bed, “Want you to come up.” That’s a killer.

So many people have told us not to worry. “He’ll be fine”, “It’ll be the making of him”, “It’ll do him the world of good.” And deep down, we know this is true, whatever “the making of him” means. We know that this college course is a huge opportunity for him to learn vocational skills and to start him on the path towards independent living. We know that he will be surrounded by students just like him and by staff that understand his likes and needs. We know that he will have lots of choices of social activities at evenings and weekends and that he will enjoy participating. We know that he adapts fairly quickly to new surroundings and routines. We also know that he rarely, if ever, expresses homesickness, although he usually says that he has missed his sister if she has been away.

So, we are preparing to let him go. It is daunting and exciting by equal measure. And there will be tears. Lots of tears.

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