So, on this day last year, ie Saturday 21st September, oldest son went off to university. We were on the road by this time, as the journey takes six hours plus stops. One of the things I particularly remember is being amazed at how many cars around us on the M25 and the M4 contained two adults, one slightly nervous-looking teenager and a lot of bags and boxes. I had also been amazed during the preceding three weeks to discover how many shops had "Back to University" signs and offers. I had never seen these signs before and had no idea that "Back to University" was a Thing. I assumed at the time that this must be because I wasn't looking, and sure enough, this year I haven't seen any at all.
Anyway, I'm reminded of all this because (a) his insurances and phone contract run out this weekend; (b) next door's oldest son is going away to university today (and I've just seen their car on the drive packed to the rafters except for space for three people to sit); (c) our middle son is going to an Open Day today at the University of Essex. He and OH set off about ten minutes ago.
One of the consequences of having three children all two (school) years apart is that you do some things every year for six years. Choosing a secondary school, for example - you really have to start looking while they're in Year 5 so they can get used to the process and what a secondary school looks like, then you do it all again in Year 6 so they can choose. Then you do it again the following year for the next one's Year 5...
It gets a bit more difficult when you have two doing Big Things at the same time. I find I really have to work at consciously reminding myself that the younger one's GCSEs are every bit as important as the older one's 'A' Levels. In the Summer Term of 2013, and again in 2015, we had and will have, one doing GCSE exams and one doing 'A' Level exams.
This Summer, oldest was obviously already settled, but there was still the issue of insurance etc for his new (private rented) accommodation, and realising at the last moment (he chose to go back two weeks ago) that he would need to pack up his desk lamp and floor lamp because while these things are provided in uni accommodation, private landlords don't have to follow the same Code of Practice. We had to fit in taking him back - a long day trip, leaving at 7:30am and back at about 10:15pm - around the days middle son wanted taking to university Open Days.
And now it will barely be a week or two after middle son getting his draft UCAS application to the school when youngest has to start thinking about his application for Sixth Form. This is something that didn't happen in my day - unless you were useless, you could automatically stay on into Sixth Form, but nowadays you can change schools if you want, and you have to officially apply, even to stay on at your own school. So he has to think about which 'A' Levels he wants to do, and that involves thinking about what subject he might want to do at University and researching what 'A' Levels that requires before he closes any important doors he may want to go through in September 2017...
Next Summer we'll presumably be helping oldest move to wherever he's going to live for his Year in Industry and getting middle son ready to go away for his first year at uni. And getting youngest son kitted out with suits, ties, shirts and office-style shoes, rather than the comfortable almost-moccasin style he's been wearing for years, because as we know from the older two, those look really stupid with a suit.
I've just heard next door setting off - his uni-town is only 3.5 hours away according to google maps; I had assumed it would be longer than that, but unlike our journey, theirs is motorway all the way. Also unlike us, they have a family member willing and able to come and look after the younger ones (they have two still in primary school) so they're staying over in uni-town tonight.
Anyway, with the new year beginning, we've been receiving a flood of post for oldest son. So I'd better go and scan the ones he's given me permission to open and get them off to him. It's just me and youngest here till about 4 or 5 this afternoon, so maybe we'll have us a treat for lunch. Don't know what yet, but some things just can't be done for four or five people, so the occasional meal for only two or three is an opportunity for a treat. Mmm, like steak for example...