A bit of a change of plan
He's spent the past few months surviving on very little money and focusing intensely on graphic art. He's going away soon on retreat, at his own instigation, to finally work out what he needs to do with the first stage of his adult life, but he's very interested in our own local University of Huddersfield and has started to prepare a portfolio of his work to that end.
It's funny, but far from actively guiding, developing and taking charge of their education, I'm just increasingly awed and amazed as I watch them taking charge of their own with strong, quiet dignity and gentle elegance. All that worrying we parents do! There's no need for any of it. We just need to be there, be constant, listen and provide what they need. In the end they do work out where they need to be and take steps to get themselves there.
If Tom hadn't gone through the deschooling process - which seemed to take so long I often thought he'd never come out of it - he wouldn't have been so totally free to find his niche: that whatever-it-is thing that he's so passionate to develop. He went through his frantic work-all-hours to earn loadsamoney stage a few years ago, and if I'd have listened to my fears he would have never been allowed to get that out of his system.
His trip away seems to be an initiatory rite of passage - something he instinctively feels he needs to do. Just him, a tent, some camping gear and the Scottish mountains. No guidance, no company, no phone. No computer, no cosy warm duvet, no mother to make regular wellbeing checks and keep the freezer stocked. No freezer!
Of course I'm worried! But he's 18 now, so I couldn't stop him doing this even if I wanted to, and of course I don't want to. I can recognise, through my paranoia, that this is a vital and natural process for him, to test his mettle. He'll go away a boy and come back a man.
Luckily, there's plenty here to distract me from panicking about him - I get to clean out his room while he's away! Yes, I'm finally allowed in there with my bin bags, cleaning gear, new Ikea shelves and my plastic sorting boxes. I'm doing my bit: he'll leave behind his teenage boy's bedroom and come back to a much more adult space. I'm going to thoroughly enjoy doing that! It's been such a long time coming.
Ali is quite shocked and he actually seems a little unnerved by his brother's plans. He's been 'out there' doing voluntary work, making contacts and generally having fun, feeling safe in the knowledge that his sibling rival was safely ensconced at home in the basement, but not realising that it was actually a chrysalis stage, let alone that the time for emergence was imminent! The look of complete shock on his face was priceless when he heard about Tom's plans. "University???!"
But I think Ali has still got a lot of surprises in store for us, even if he doesn't realise it himself yet.