My son went on what the Brits call a “gap year”. He took a year before starting university to work, save some money and then travel the world. He picked exciting destinations, three months in India and a month in Thailand.
As a parent one worries when his son goes off into the wild world. I kept thinking of a song from the play, the Fantastics. A duet between a wide eyed innocent boy and a manipulating vagabond:
Beyond that road lies a shining star
Beyond that rode lies despair
Beyond that road lies a world that’s gleaming
People who are screaming
Never a thought or care
He’s liable to find a couple of surprises there
I wasn’t too worried. I thought I had taught him well but still I wondered if I had properly prepared him for the real world.
At the very end of his journey I flew out and met him in Thailand. While sitting in a Phuket restaurant he regaled me with the details of his trip. It was fascinating and funny. Then he said the thing that would make any parent’s chest swell with pride.
“You taught me something when I was young, Dad, that practically saved my life on this trip.”
What was it? I thought. What pearl of geopolitical, or even scientific wisdom had I imparted on the boy that so helped him during his first solo walkabout. Or maybe I had bestowed on him some moral tale that helped better place him in the shoes of the fellow human beings that he encountered in far-flung cultures.
“It especially came in handy in the Himalayas,” he continued, “when I was on a ten hour bus journey.”
“What was it?” I asked.
“You always told me,” he replied, “‘ Go to the toilet when you can and not when you have to.’ So even in the dead of night I always got out to have a pee. Some of my friends didn’t and almost exploded.”
So there you have it – a lifetime of teaching, molding, imparting, caring and sacrificing – and the most important thing I ever taught my son was – have pee at rest stops.
Tags: John Lenahan