On Monday morning I woke up at 3am in a panic, having been in denial until precisely that point about the fact my eldest son is leaving home. This weekend.

I’m dreading the moment when I get back from dropping him off at university for the first time, and I have to set one less place at the dinner table.

The chaos of this summer made it easy to squash my feelings down. 

There was the misery of exam results and trying to get him to the place he wanted; the ongoing uncertainty over whether he’d be allowed to move into halls; the daily changing rules about gatherings that mean as a family we can’t even get a few relatives together to send him off.

SUSANNA REID says she is dreading the moment when she gets back from dropping her son off at university for the first time

SUSANNA REID says she is dreading the moment when she gets back from dropping her son off at university for the first time

But now the deadline is approaching. 

It seems only a few years ago that well-meaning older people were stopping me in the street — a mum struggling with three boisterous under-fours — and reminding me to cherish every moment.

Of course, I smiled and thought to myself ‘You can’t be serious’. Like so often in life, I realise in retrospect that the oldies were right. 

‘What I wouldn’t give now to go back to even the hardest times when my children were tiny.

Then they become teenagers, and they need you, and test you, in different ways. 

It’s true I won’t miss nagging my son about homework and the mess in his room, but it’s hard to imagine the house without his calm presence and his ability to defuse any tension with a hug.

I tell myself this is just the next step. For my son, it’s a natural move towards freedom, but for me it’s a reordering of my entire world and, honestly, my heart aches.

Feeling mournful, I listened to Pam Ayres’s poem about her son leaving home, A September Song: ‘The energy, the racket, all the songs you loved to play. 

‘And I won’t know where to turn to when the music dies away.’

Take my advice and whatever you do, don’t look it up if your offspring is about to leave. It provides no comfort whatsoever.

One consolation is that we’re doing the preparations together. 

A trip to TK Maxx to get bed linen and towels. Sainsbury’s to work out how much his weekly shop will be.

I felt like the font of all wisdom — a rare treat for a mum — as I passed on tips about comparing prices, and finding extended use-by dates by reaching to the back of the shelf.

I’m keenly aware my mollycoddling days are numbered, so made a mental note to cook his favourite foods each night this week.

Something else I’m angsty about is how much he’s going to miss out on.

When I went to Bristol to study politics and philosophy 30 years ago, Mum and Dad helped me unpack and get settled into my room.

But this year, social distancing means I won’t be allowed into his student accommodation.

Perhaps he’ll be secretly relieved his mum isn’t fussing in the background, but I’m disappointed I won’t see where he’s living.

Freshers’ week won’t be like mine — an alcohol-fuelled haze of joining clubs (Entrepreneurs’ Society? What was I thinking?) that I had no intention of attending after the free beer ran out.

He’ll have an online-only ‘Welcome Week’ and no clubs at all, thanks to the new rule of six. 

Students will also be ‘bubbled’ by subject within halls of residence, so they’re less likely to make friends outside of their course. 

I shared my first flat with a vet, a pharmacist and a drama student, which made for rather more interesting conversations in the shared kitchen.

I fear my boy, and all his generation, are starting university life at a significant disadvantage — and still, unbelievably, being saddled with full tuition fees.

All I can say is that for £9,250 a year, I expect online lectures to be top quality, and tuition to be done in socially distanced face-to-face meetings wherever possible. Schools are doing it, so surely the universities can get their act together.

On the plus side, my son seems to brush off my concerns without a second thought. After the past six months, he’s just happy to be going to university at all.

I have to face the fact that what worries me most is my rapidly emptying nest.

With just two years in total between my three boys, this is the start of a staggered period of saying goodbye.

I’m determined to stick to my promise that there won’t be tears — at least not in front of them. So no more reading Pam Ayres.

OFF-AIR GOSSIP 

He is my favourite Doctor Who, but David Tennant is terrifying as serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV’s Des. In real life, David is a joy. 

After he finished playing The Doctor, he told me he’d snaffled a sonic screwdriver.

‘It’s under lock and key — and very safe,’ he said, in case any fans fancied pinching it. 

Susanna says David Tennant is terrifying as serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV's Des. In real life, David is a joy

Susanna says David Tennant is terrifying as serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV’s Des. In real life, David is a joy

SO MUCH FOR THE END OF AGEISM AT THE BBC 

Only a week after I wrote that the BBC wouldn’t sack an older woman these days, it goes and does just that to 64-year-old Sue Barker. 

Cue shrieks of ‘ageism!’ and ‘sexism!’ in the living rooms of A Question Of Sport fans.

I have met Sue a few times at Wimbledon and she is an expert in her field, a calm and unflappable presence. 

Susanna is sad to see that the BBC have sacked A Question Of Sport presenter Sue Barker

Susanna is sad to see that the BBC have sacked A Question Of Sport presenter Sue Barker

Moreover, for women who love sport, she has been proving for years that it is not an exclusively male pastime.

It’s really too bad; Sue was a pioneer and a role model before many of A Question Of Sport’s new producers were even born. 

MY FIRST CINEMA TRIP WAS LIKE WALKING INTO A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE  

I went to see a movie in the West End last weekend for the first time since lockdown, and I’m sad to report it was awful.

Tenet isn’t my kind of film, but there wasn’t much to choose from, and I was looking forward to the cinema experience I’ve missed: the buzz, the snacks, the anticipation in the darkness. 

Instead, on arrival, I felt like I was walking onto the set of a zombie apocalypse film.

I’d hoped going to a cinema in the centre of London would mean more of a crowd, but no such luck. 

Susanna went to see the new film Tenet in the cinema last week but was shocked to find what felt like the set of a zombie apocalypse film because the auditorium was so deserted. Pictured: Leicester Square cinema last month

Susanna went to see the new film Tenet in the cinema last week but was shocked to find what felt like the set of a zombie apocalypse film because the auditorium was so deserted. Pictured: Leicester Square cinema last month

Barely 20 people were scattered throughout the 200-seat auditorium, even on a Saturday night. 

It felt downright spooky, and the film wasn’t engrossing enough to make me forget the empty seats.

The rules stipulate wearing a mask at all times unless eating or drinking, which made the two-and-a-half-hour showing even more interminable. 

I noticed the renegades in the audience slipped down their face coverings and sipped their Diet Cokes very, very slowly.

SAY ‘I DON’T’ TO DISNEY 

I love a Disney film as much as the next person, but I’m bemused as to why a grown woman would want to dress up as Ariel from The Little Mermaid when she walks down the aisle.

As someone who’s never felt the desire to get married or have a big wedding with me dressed up like a princess, I felt a bit queasy looking at the new Disney Fairy Tale Weddings collection. 

The frothy gowns, such as the Belle, pictured, cost from £920 to £2,500. All that’s missing is Prince Charming. 

Susanna is bemused as to why a grown woman would want to dress up as Ariel from The Little Mermaid

Susanna is bemused as to why a grown woman would want to dress up as Ariel from The Little Mermaid

It felt downright spooky, and the film wasn’t engrossing enough to make me forget the empty seats.

The rules stipulate wearing a mask at all times unless eating or drinking, which made the two-and-a-half-hour showing even more interminable. 

I noticed the renegades in the audience slipped down their face coverings and sipped their Diet Cokes very, very slowly.



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