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Dear Tom 

I am pleased to be able to confirm in writing our offer of employment…

I’ve said many times that parents go through ‘rite of passage’ moments every bit as much as their children. Your wife shows you a stick with two blue lines on it. You hold your son’s hand and take him to nursery. Thirteen years later he rolls through the front door and throws up on your carpet…

Four years ago we dropped Tom off at university. This morning he e-mailed me – with an attachment from a Formula One team.

I ran down the letter. Starting salary … not bad, more than a junior doctor. Benefits … pension scheme, cycle to work scheme, complementary healthcare. Blimey, not bad at all.

And a car lease scheme after six months. What? Christmas 2017 and he could be driving a better car than me? Huh. Insert jealous face…

Thirty days holiday including public holidays. So – quick maths – just over four weeks, two of which he’ll have to take in the summer. So maybe he will turn up for Christmas in a better car than his Dad – but he won’t be staying for long.

That’s when the rite of passage hit me. Tom will be home this Easter: but only for a week. Come the summer he’s going traveling. Then he starts work. Real work – and real work means short holidays and fleeting visits to Mum and Dad.

How do I feel about this? I feel immensely proud. He wandered downstairs when he was 12 or 13 and announced he wanted to work in F1.

“Doing what?”

“I want to do aerodynamics.”

“OK, that’s good,” I said, and scuttled off to see what ‘aerodynamics’ really was.

And he’s never wavered from that commitment. School, university, work experience, and now – a job offer. So of course I’m proud. Beyond proud.

But I’m slightly sad as well.

He’s my son. I love him. I love him beyond all human measure.

I remember the nurse handing him to me. I looked down at my little boy and I started to tingle. The feeling washed over me. I was drenched with love. Stronger, fiercer, more protective than anything I’d ever known. Than anything I’d ever imagined.

(I’m sorry, there was a long pause there. I seemed to have something in my eye.)

And now I’m going to see a lot less of him.

Your children are at school. They’re with you all through the holidays. They go on to university. Blimey, the holidays are even longer. No, we haven’t seen much of Tom these last three summers – but mid-December to mid-January has been fine. Apart from the terminal damage to the wine rack…

Suddenly, that’s all going to change.

“Are you coming up for Christmas, Tom?”

“Yeah, I think so. Christmas Eve, probably. But I’ll need to go back on Boxing Day. Working the next day.”

And that’ll be it until Easter. Or until we go down for the weekend.

It’s going to take some getting used to.

Eldest son at uni sent me a copy of first full time job offer, I tweeted. So proud of him. But part of me a little bit sad. 

Don’t be, a virtual pal replied. You’ve given him the wings to fly.

She’s right. Of course she is. 22 years old and Tom has the wings to fly as high and as far as he wants.

I couldn’t have asked for more when I first held my son: when I cried tears of joy. I’ll just have to live with the other tear that rolls down my cheek on Boxing Day…

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Mark Richards

For a long time I had my own business in financial services – clients; nice suits; stripy ties. I also had a small voice inside me. “Let me out,” it cried. “I’m a writer.” Occasionally I did let the small voice out. When the moon was full I crept away and performed stand-up comedy – and in early 2003 I started writing a newspaper column: a humorous look at family life from a Dad’s point of view. In 2006 I self-published the first three years of the columns as a book – Chronicles of a Desperate Dad.

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