Eighteen years, one month and 21 days ago, as I held my newborn daughter in my arms, my mum said, “Make the most of her. She’ll be leaving home before you know it.”
Oh how I laughed. This tiny baby? This little person who needed me completely? She’d be leaving home one day? Never!
Yet this morning my beautiful daughter and two friends flew off to Zante on a post-A level holiday. And so long as she gets the results she needs, in three months she’ll be packing her case again and heading off for university. And though I know she’ll be home for holidays, I also know – and hope, really – that it’ll be the start of a whole new independent life for her, and she won’t ever be back for good. Because bringing up your kids to lead independent lives is the role of a parent, isn’t it?
At the same time her brother is away too, on a school trip to Wales. So for a few days there’s just Steve and me here. And in a lot of way I’m looking forward to it. No bickering about whose turn it is to load the dishwasher. No loud music (unless it’s mine). No grumpy teenagers to wake in the morning. And I’m pretty sure the house will stay tidy and the level of washing in the basket will be fairly static.
It’s not the first time they’ve both been away either, not at all. They regularly used to spend weekends and sometimes whole weeks at their dad’s house, so I should be used to being free from parental responsibility now and then. And I know they’ll be back soon, and the bickering will return, and the washing will be endless. I should be relishing this calm before the storm.
So why am I feeling bereft this morning? I guess it’s because this time it’s different – I guess it’s because they’re away independently. My daughter especially is away without an adult – hang on, scratch that, she IS the adult now, and that’s a really weird feeling to deal with. If this is how empty nest syndrome feels I need to start preparing myself for the future – because I don’t like it.