Today my fourth and youngest baby (OK so he’s nearly 18 and he measures 6’3, but you know what I mean) starts his end of high school exams, and I am faced with yet another sign of the nest becoming inevitably empty.
Of course I am happy to see my boy set off confidently to his tests; I am happy to help him make plans for travelling with friends this summer, and for his studies away from home next year, and of course I knew all this would happen …. but it still feels like someone pulled the rug out from beneath my feet.
Don’t get me wrong. I realise that I will appreciate having more time to call my own and my husband and I look forward to travelling together and doing stuff just for us, but still ….
Why is it that the empty nest thing strikes so deep in us? Is it just because we love the material side effects of having our offspring around us: shoes in the hallway, the busy dinner table, the untidy bedrooms (who knew that I’d actually dread finding a tidy room?!); is it because the running around (taking them here, picking them up from there) which makes us feel needed; is it the physical comfort of putting our arms around those shoulders and whispering something sweet; or could it be those simple chores (the laundry, the cooking, the tidying) which are all part of our pleasure as the home maker and carer?
Or could it just be …. and I’m speaking to you now as if you were sitting in my kitchen, sharing a coffee …. could it just be that what gets us the most is that sinking awareness that we were only given the one shot at raising our kids?
These children are lent to us for a little less than twenty years and it feels like twenty minutes. We do our best, nearly every day, we feel like we are doing the maximum, but of course we could always have done a bit more. Our children’s younger years, are like the rest of life, they are not a dress rehearsal. What is done and not done remains for ever.
I talk about this with my kids, and they just laugh and tell me not to be dumb, and assure me they had a great childhood, and everything is cool, but still I’d quite happily go back 25 years and sign up for a second go!
So why am I telling you this today? Firstly, because I like to chat with you, and I love to hear your viewpoint too, and secondly because from my perch on the edge of this nest, if I were with a young mum right now, I’d squeeze her hand, and smile, and mouth the words:
“savour….. every….. minute”
Painting by Mary Cassat, nobody potrays women and children quite like her