A Family of Three
And now we are a family of three. The boys are spending a weekend at cub camp in Coniston. I’d imagined I’d be liberated by this weekend ‘off,’ but instead, as they run off to explore their temporary canvas home, I feel vaguely depressed like they are growing up too fast.
I attempt to shake this off on a bike ride to Tarn Hows, one of the classic Cumbrian beauty spots. Hannah falls asleep on the back of the bike, and for the first time in many years, no one is moaning, nagging singing or reading behind me. But I miss them. I also miss their pedalling; as I drag three stone of Hannah up steep hills. At the tarn, we view the sky beneath us in the mirror of the lake, and share a banana. Hannah is quiet.
“Are you missing your brothers” I ask?
“No.” she looks at me as if I am deranged.
Growing up too fast
For the last week Matthew has been holding a countdown of the days until he is eight and a half. Perhaps that is preying on my mind. Eight and a half years of Matthew means we have only another eight and a half years left with him before he makes his own way in the world. So much we’d like to do in that short space of time, and now we’ll have to share our plans for his time with computer games, GCSE’s, sports commitments, teenage strops, and perhaps even girls.
“It’s too short,” I want to scream as I hurl myself over the saddle and bomb down the hill.
Over fish and chips on the shores of the lake, there’s no one fighting over fair distribution of the fish or who gets the small crispy chips. No one cries for ketchup. No one sneakily feeds their portion to the ducks. We set up camp for the night at a nearby campsite, and nobody tries to be a wiggle worm in their sleeping bag, or spills their drink over the tent. We drift off into a silent sleep as the rain beats down. No small boys, no drama, no fun.
Or perhaps not…
Down the road at cub camp it’s a different story. Hours of rain and no groundsheets combine to flood the cub tent and sometime before dawn one of the boys wakes in his sodden sleeping bag, and crawls through deep puddles of water to find his floating glasses case. He wakes his fellow cubs and leaders and they are evacuated into the nearby school hall, snuggling down in shared sleeping bags on hard floors. In the morning, they top up their soggy belongings with an hour on the water slide; despite the fact that Coniston’s weather is now distinctly wintry.
Mid morning, we pack up our own tent and greet the boys with enthusiasm. But it’s not returned. They haven’t finished doing the long jump yet. We pack their bags and find they’ve lost some of our expensive high quality camping gear. In the car they fight and taunt their sister, who screams and kicks the drivers seat, almost causing an accident. They complain that they are hungry and bored.
“Welcome home,” I say, savouring every moment of the eight and a half years we still have together.