Hello! I’m here again! I know, I know, I’ve been largely absent for nearly a month (in blog terms), but I needed a bit of a break. In fact, for a few days there, I had a bit of a wobble; I considered giving up blogging entirely. You never know, I still might. You see I’ve been feeling creatively uninspired, and tired of the relentlessness of it all. Or perhaps I’ve just been waiting for something blog-worthy to happen. I know what you’re thinking; ‘there was a general election the other week…‘. But that was too emotive a subject to write about, I’m not a political writer (no matter how anti-Tory I am), and also…well…I just didn’t want to. But from my frivolous and shallow point of view, last weekend, I suddenly did feel inspired.
So, the other day, I took my eldest to a university open day. It’s the first visit of three places of further education my child is considering. I personally can’t believe somebody as immature and parentally irresponsible as me has got to the period in her life where she has a child of university-going age. I mean, I’m the kind of mother who misses all the emails about non-uniform day (consequently sending in her child to school in uniform). I’m the kind of mother who is reliant on other parents to tell me on a weekly basis what the kids’ current homework topic is. I’m the kind of mother who accidentally-on-purpose forgets to make a cake for the class cake sale. But here I am.
And being the parentally irresponsible person I am, my main focus on this university open day (apart from getting my daughter to the appropriate lecture on the appropriate site on time – i.e. ‘Adele’s Taxi and Time-Keeping Service’), was to be the least frumpy mother there. Now, some might say that is an incredibly fatuous and possibly narcissistic endeavour. And they’d be right. But you see it’s always been a bit of an underlying ambition of mine to try to maintain my identity – as well as being somebody else’s mother. But if any of you should be finding yourself in my position in the near or distant future, I drew up a brief list, so that you can
avoid my mistakes be the coolest parent on university open day:-
Many universities have multiple sites all over one town. The insensitive b*stards. My daughter and I had drawn up a very rigid list of what talk to attend when, and where. So do programme your sat-nav with the relevant postcodes the night before. And even if it’s a town you are familiar with, do what the sat-nav tells you to do – unlike me – and find yourself in completely the wrong part of town. Oh, and expect there to be nowhere to park on campus, because there never bloody well is.
It’s not the MOST important thing, but the site on which your child studies ought to be aesthetically pleasing. But not every British university looks like Hogwarts (unless your little angel is going to Oxford or Cambridge, that is). You might just have to put aside your dreams of towering spires, intricately carved stone archways, and gargoyles and all that. But I must say I was hugely impressed with the first uni campus. It was set in the middle of the countryside with grounds designed by Capability Brown. It could easily have passed for National Trust. The second site was okay, but not quite so breath-taking; the building was a bit dilapidated, in my opinion (mind you, it was 4pm and I was tired and in a bit of a pissy mood by this time). However, this particular subject is moving to a new and more impressive site, but it could take some years, and my daughter may never experience that. Still, the next university visit promises to be at a very ‘Horwarty’ campus in a Cathedral town. So I’m looking forward to this one. Yay!
Like I say, it’s important to keep ‘frumpiness’ or ‘mumsiness’ at bay. Choosing your wardrobe for university open day can be a minefield. What you really don’t want is to be suited and booted in an outfit that screams, ‘somebody’s mother’. So avoid the twinset and pearls. And maybe keep the neck-scarves to a minimum. And fathers; don’t wear your ‘dad jeans’ with running shoes. I think I may have personally misjudged the tone a bit. I looked a little bit like I’d just rocked-up from the local skate-park in ¾ length jeans, shell-toe Adidas and a biker jacket. I mean, I’m only 45. But I wasn’t trying to make a social statement or anything, ‘hey, I’m down with the kidz!‘. That’s just the way I dress a lot of the time. But I think on our next university open day I might be a little more sombre; a little more collegiate, and go with my corduroy jacket and jeans. I may end up looking like one of the lecturers, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Don’t. Do you want the lecture to go on any longer than it has to? Do you want to listen to the Dean’s monotone voice for more than half an hour? Do you want to be ‘that annoying woman who kept going on and on about her little cherub’, and being the instigator of heavy sighs and eye-rolling from the other parents?’ No, you don’t. To be honest, I did ask one question, but I felt it was necessary as the lecturer just wasn’t selling her subject to me as well as I’d hoped – she was a bit too fond of impressing us with her ‘professional background’. The question was, ‘what percentage of your graduates find themselves employment within the industry?’. The lecturer didn’t know the answer, unfortunately, but I think we can all agree that it was a pretty damn relevant question, resulting in no sighing or eye-rolling whatsoever. You’re welcome to use that question at will when your time comes.
Embarrassing one’s child
Yes, it’s your constitutional right as a parent. My daughter was none-too-happy about my excessive photograph-taking (the grounds were very impressive, I don’t see her problem), or me deftly trying to sneak in front of the movie-camera pointed at a green-screen so that I was superimposed in front of 10 Downing Street on the Film-making set. She was also slightly displeased about my constantly widened eyes when confronted with ‘young people’s fashion choices these days’ (I mean, I just think a fury beret and bright orange calf-length culottes with heavy black boots is a difficult look for anybody to pull off – even those hoping to go into the documentary-making industry).
So, overall, I was very impressed with our first university open day. I think the only real drawback was that the site was a little too close to home, and a large part of your child going away to uni is getting some distance from family; asserting one’s independence, exploring an alien town. I personally couldn’t get far enough away from my home when I left for nursing school, but my daughter is a homelier child than I was. I’m going to miss my daughter when she leaves us in one year’s time – more than I can say. My first child is leaving the nest and our lives will be far poorer without her. But it’s the bridge between childhood and adulthood that she must cross alone. And if you have kids, and if it hasn’t happened already, it will happen to you too. No matter how awesome a parent you are. And we are. Did you not read the list?