There is nothing so glum, I now discover, as a teen who can’t see his girlfriend. It’s not just the permanently sad expression my 19 year-old now wears, or the slumped shoulders or the trudgy way he now moves from fridge to bedroom to back again. His whole body leaks misery. My son now greets the start of the day like a Malaga beach donkey faced with a long line of overweight tourists. His demeanour says; ‘Let’s just get through this’.
I do understand, really I do. I have had my share of tearful farewells when I was young. But, to be honest, I’d quite like him to cheer up. I have taken to going into his room and announcing: ‘It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you go for a run?’ to which his reply is to roll his eyes.
Of course, boyfriends and girlfriends have always had to endure separations: war, national service, university and jobs away. My son is supposed to be at Nottingham University and his girlfriend is at home, so their relationship has been heightened I think by separation. When I went to pick up him from Uni at the weekend they were really looking forward to a romantic reunion.
Instead, they now have had to endure my No Girlfriend Rule. I made the decision partly because I trying to work from home and look after three kids was enough, I simply couldn’t manage someone else moving in. But this is the point in my son’s life where he should be making his own decisions.
Since he was in Sixth Form he has been allowed to have girls stay over. I congratulated myself on what a right-on parent I was. Now I find myself having to row-back to become a Victorian parent. Yes, they can Facetime and they do. 24/7. I have to be careful what I say when I go into his room as she is probably listening. It’s like being bugged by MI5.
To be fair to him, part of my son’s Basset Hound expression is due to the fact that he is worried about her. He has the emotional intelligence to be attuned to her distress at their separation. ‘See what a great job I did?’ I think. ‘I have brought up a son who cares about others’ feelings’. But that is looking for the silver lining to the black cloud that is now hanging over our home.