Guest post by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Summer is fading already; I'm starting to glance at the date and do a mental countdown - not long left until boarding school starts again. My stomach tightens at the thought; I'm very proud of the education my baby is getting but I'll never get used to sending my child away. At the end of summer, it feels like I've ended up losing custody of my only son as I'm reduced to weekends-only parenting until the first break in October.
And I know that if I'm feeling this way, Alex must be too: watching those last sands drop through the hour glass, the school grind about to restart. Ugh.
But I'm his mother, not his friend. So instead of simply sympathising, I end up lecturing. He has spent plenty of time lazing around the house, he should be making better use of his time!
"Get out of the house," I told him. "Your future self will never ever regret that you could have spent more time playing video games over the summer."
He gave me a dubious look.
"Honestly! There has never been a reported case of someone saying, 'This summer, I could have watched so much television - but no, I wasted it all going out and doing things. I'll never make that mistake again!' Not a single case, Alex. Ever."
"I'll think about it," he told me grudgingly.
"Make a list of all the things you'd like to get done by the end of the holidays," I said. "I'll do it too!"
And I did, making a big production of sitting at the table with a notebook, "thinking aloud" as I wrote my list.
It's true that I don't organise my free time as well as I should. Most evenings will find me at the computer with a glass of red wine, giggling at blog posts that other people have written. And while this isn't a bad thing, I have to admit I don't think my future self will thank me.
I made a list of interesting things I could be doing with my free time: swimming in the sea, birdwatching in the hills behind our house, taking photographs, reading classic novels. I left the list lying on the coffee table in plain view and then, because I'm not totally unreasonable, I dropped the subject for the rest of the day.
So imagine my surprise when he broached it again at dinner, without any prompting at all.
"I thought about what you said, about what I wanted to achieve."
I'm amazed that he's been this receptive. "And...?"
"And I think you are right."
Result! I positively glowed with admiration at my good parenting. "That's good," I told him. "That's great! So are you going to make a list?"
"Don't need one. I want to be very focused on a single goal." He shovelled another bite of food into his mouth. I waited to hear this lofty achievement that my son had chosen to aim for.
"I want to get the perfect tan."
I managed to swallow before laughing. "That's not a goal!"
"It's serious, Mom! The other boys laugh at me when I say I live in Spain, because I'm so pale. So I'm going to sit out in the sun and get tanned before I get back."
Every person in his genetic tree is northern European and deathly pale going back as many generations as I can possibly count. He's unlikely to go olive. I'll be amazed if he manages off-white.
But obviously, I know what he's after. Getting the perfect tan will, of course, mean sitting outside by the pool, dreaming the remaining summer days away. Listening to music on the iPod and rereading favourite comic books. Lying on the lounger with a cold drink and the warm sunlight playing on lightly oiled skin...
Come to think of it, it doesn't sound that bad.
Do you think it's OK if I take the laptop?