How to prepare them for university....

My friend Marion has three boys.  Marion is organised, practical and runs her own business so she needs to be. Nick, her eldest son is 18, and off to uni this year.  She won't allow him to take a "gap year" this year, knowing that his fees will treble if he went gallivanting. It only seems like yesterday when he was in his short trousers holding the hand of his younger brother on his first day at school and telling him not to cry because he would be there for him.

The thing I admire about Marion is her ability to look to the future and be prepared, although she wasn't as foresighted when it came to her husbands infidelity. The thing with Marion is that she is tenacious. She sticks with it....and she stuck with him.  I have to admire her.  I personally, would have kicked him into touch...or kicked him out.  When I asked her why she allowed him to treat her so appallingly she replied "But I love him!"...I really can't argue with that, now can I?  Love it seems can conquer all, and I'm glad.  I'm glad that she doesn't see marriage as a throwaway; I'm glad that she has had the courage to "stand" by her man despite the horrible blip that he made her endure.  Having spoken to her man, I can only conclude that he truly is sorry for the mess that he created, their subsequent financial ruin, and the role model he has provided for his boys. But he finished our conversation with "you know how Marion is.."

Marion is a stalwart, and although I can only assume she weeps behind closed doors she is ever the "loyal and reliable" wife and mother.  It's behind her now. "Onwards and upwards" she cheers.

So this brings me onto her new idea.  Marion is full of great ideas and actually gets to put them into practice.  Because Marion is a doer, her boys have never really had free reign in the kitchen.  She is Mother earth. Their clothes are neatly placed in their wardrobe after being painstakingly ironed.  Their lunches are prepared with on eye on their nutritional content and lovingly packed into their airtight containers.  Their suppers are freshly cooked (no microwave meals for them), with organically grown veg straight from their own garden.  BH wonders at her abilities and holds her up as a paragon. I know he secretly wishes for a "Marion", and when he mentions a particular dinner party of hers he "wonders" how she does it all and runs a successful business to which I counter

" know how Marion is!"

With Nick off to Uni, she fears for his life.  Forget about the liquid diet, the aftermath of a debauched night out, no doubt with kebabs or an artery killing curry.  She's worried that he won't eat properly...and she's damned right.  It's highly unlikely that he'll worry enough about whether he will have enough money for food, and worry more that he'll have enough for his booze.  But anyway, she is equipping him to be a veritable whizz in the kitchen.

Marion is spending the next 6 weeks preparing him and a group of his friends to whip up gourmet meals on a shoe string. One evening each week, Nick and 5 of his friends (who are all off to uni too) trot off to the supermarket armed with a  shopping list and a fiver which will enable them to cook the "meal of the week" for four. Nick says that this could last him four days leaving him three days in which he will be able to eat utter crap. She says that if they can master only one signature dish, then her work will be done. 

She is also teaching them to look for the bargains, learn about money management and to shop around, so she takes them to a different supermarket each week.  The boys have learnt that the more they save, the more they have left ...enough to pool for a bottle of wine to enjoy with their feast!!! She says it's like a mad supermarket sweep; these hulking young men with their floppy hair, rushing around with their baskets, asking each other for advice, grabbing and fighting over the "sale" items and all done in no more than 10 minutes. 

So far I think it's been a success. The boys have made lasagna and shepherds pie, all with a healthy salad and a pudding with none of it from a packet! She's also preparing each of them a little parcel to take with them when they all shoot off to "freshers".  Each parcel will contain salt, pepper, spices, garlic...along with some of the more obscure spices...and a packet of Berrocca! 

I hope that Marion continues with her project. It's something that all children/young adults need to know about when starting off on their own.  Too many resort to the pre-packaged disasters that line our supermarket chillers. I can see Bart and Finn with their plates full of sweets and icecream and shopping for packet mix cakes. Mimi will no doubt be making cornflake crispies. I pray that Marion will still be around to offer them the chance to "cook", and I pray that she will still be my friend.

Maybe this should be something that schools offer all school leavers?  Giving them the ability to fend for themselves if only with a couple basic meals. It's pracitcal and obvious. I think Marion could be onto a winner here!  How did you prepare your child for their next adventure?  Would this be something you'd encourage your child to do? Or is your child a whizz in the kitchen already?

I think I'd teach them to use the washing machine!

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