BIG lump in my throat last Monday, as our Dougie left for a school trip to an activity centre somewhere near Swindon.
It was a week away where he was doing abseiling, assault courses, aeroball, archery, canoeing, climbing, fencing, orienteering, raft building, zip wires and general 12-year-old boy stuff.
Meanwhile, I was fretting, quietly, to myself. (Because no one else would listen).
After 14 years being a parent, I shouldn’t be fazed by trips. After all, our elder two have both enjoyed the famous ‘first nights away’ trip to Everdon and the PGL centre at Osmington Bay, Dorset, and braved the windy wilds of both Overstone and Hollowell Cub camps.
But as well as the (concealed) separation anxiety, there’s the cost.
We have to have a rule in our house about school trips: they chose no more than one a year and pay half themselves.
It might sound hard, but we have four children and not a huge income. The kids do have to really decide how much they want to go on a particular trip.
It makes them appreciate how far money has to stretch, although it does you feel cruddy when their wealthier friends are going on several trips a year.
This is nothing new. Back in the health & safety-free 1970s and 80s, neither Bloke or I went on many school trips.
There were always those who seemed to go on cruises and ski-trips regardless of their family’s financial background, while my most exotic destinations were to Butlins in Minehead and a one-night stay in London. I try hard not to repeat that parent mantra “you’ll appreciate it more when you’re older” because as a teen who didn’t get to go, it drove me potty.
Our boys’ school has already organised 2011 trips to Tunisia, Sicily, Turkey, Cornwall and the USA.
We parents were informed about Dougie’s PGL trip way more than a year ago in their first term at secondary school. Not only were we given a huge amount of notice, but also a good number of months over which to pay for it.
The total cost for the week was £300, with instalments due in March, May and July, giving us time to save up.
Meanwhile, the same school didn’t give anything like as much time for a planned trip to China. Yes, China.
Poor Jed, aged 14, came home recently raving about the chance to go on an eight-day tour in February.
The cost? £1,225. First payment of £200 immediately, with the rest in sizable chunks each month until Christmas. There’s no way we could find that kind of cash that quickly.
We had heard about the epic Northampton School for Boys China trip, but hadn’t anticipated it becoming an issue until Year 11 or sixth form. Turns out the school takes them from age 14-18.
Jed begged and pleaded, saying his friends were going, but we simply had to say no.
If he, and we, can save, it’s something he can do in a couple of years. A great opportunity, but not just yet.
So as we packed Dougie off on his UK-based adventure, my fretting started. Would he listen to instructions and not fall off the abseil tower? Would he resist peer pressure? Remember not wear the same pants every day?
Don’t tell him, but I was delighted to get him back on Friday. Even though he did bring back a suitcase full of soaked and stinking clothes because he’s fallen in the river while canoeing. . .