Day three of the eleven-year-old's week-long trip to Torquay with his school and I'm still finding it hard to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes without breaking off to wonder where he is and what he's doing. It feels so weird for me not to know these things. I have no idea what his bedroom looks like or who he's sharing it with. I don't know what he's been eating or what clothes he's wearing. I can't even be sure what the weather's like where he is.
His room is starting to feel deserted. I suppose I shouldn't have tidied it. But I was so unsettled and kind of pacey on Monday, there was nothing else to be done but spend the day cleaning and tidying. Now whenever I pass his room, I'm drawn in by the feeling of wrongness. I go in meaning to open the window or draw the curtains or do whatever needs doing...then I realise the only thing the room really needs is an eleven-year-old inside it (slumped in his favourite spot on the bed, staring at his Ipad).
Although his bedroom feels emptier than the other rooms, there's also an unfilled chair at the dining room table every night and an empty hollow at the end of the living room sofa - which his brother doesn't sit in even though it's closest to the TV - because the eleven-year-old seems to have left his aura there, guarding his spot!
That's what the house is like now - his absence is so tangible it's become almost a...presence. An empty, silent space where someone we love ought to be.
And the fact that the space is silent, really isn't helping. If the space would only answer back, refuse to clean its teeth or yell at the seven-year-old for getting in the way of Mario Kart 8 - then maybe we wouldn't miss him so much...
(...no, tragically I think we still would.)
One of the hardest things for me to deal with is the sense that I ought to be embracing his absence more. I do want him to grow in confidence and independence. I do want him to go out into the world and have adventures - a life of his own. I know this is one of the steps towards that. There'll be senior school in September, then perhaps university or foreign travel. I want all that for him. But this week has given me some insight into how much I'll miss him. Always.
Despite his last minute nerves and the teary face through the coach window, I know he's ready for a week away from home. And I suppose he needs to know that he's ready too.
Although he's still very quiet, he generally speaks up when it matters. I know that if he's late coming out of school, it's always because he's helping a friend to find a missing lunchbox, or a teacher to tidy the classroom.
He's trustworthy too, unfailingly honest and quick to apologise if he's in the wrong - and none of these are traits that come automatically to eleven year old boys. His kindness (especially to younger children - and yes, I am including his brother in that category) seems less laudable than being...say, the fastest sprinter, the brainiest mathematician or the captain of the football team. But I wouldn't swap it for all those things put together.
I'm immeasurably proud of how sensible and considerate he is. And I probably don't tell him enough - not compared to the number of times I tell him - "Get out of bed! Hurry up! Sort your hair out! Finish your homework! Are you even listening to me?"
When he gets back on Friday, I'm going to tell him how proud he makes me. Right after I've finished squeezing him!