It wasn’t meant to happen to me. The Empty Nest. I’ve already shipped Eldest and Middle off to University… and beyond. I know how it feels to drive with coat hangers stuffed into the last available space down the side of seats; how they scratch your hand when trying to manoeuvre the seat back to accommodate the box of kitchen essentials. The ‘must have’ shoes squashed into cup holders and the duvet having a hissy refusing to squish down so you can see out of the back window. More importantly I’ve perfected my brave ‘goodbye’ face enabling me to wave happily until the car turns around the corner just far enough out of sight to allow my throat to constrict and a small tear to drop silently.
On D-day this time around, I was prepared.
Sunday 5.30 am. Only the birds should be awake. ETD 06.00.
06.10. Silly me. Of course, it’s possible to fit two speakers, a boom box AND a desk top computer into an already bulging car.
07.15. First stop. An hour in. Why not multi task and deliver the shared car to Middle who needs to borrow it to start work? Only 350 miles to go, what’s a few more along the way? Unexpected bonus; full English breakfast curtesy of my thoughtful sister.
08.15. Back on the road driving through London on our way ‘up North’ to deliver Youngest to his chosen University, I wasn’t going to let the fact three bedrooms now stood empty at home distract me. I would not turn around in my seat to picture rose tinted visions of a curly haired toddler riding his truck around the garden. Instead an 18yr old, mouth open and snoring, sandwiched between a holdall and a rucksack but still with headphones in place, was the reality.
12 00. We’re eating up the tarmac. Time to stop and eat up plastic motorway food.
‘Embrace the change.’ I’d been told. ‘It’s the natural order of things. It makes them grow up. This is a time to enjoy the silence.’
Not just the silence in the car but the new silence of my life. No more grime music blasting out until bedtime (mine not his). No more calls for clean underwear. No more banging the front door on his arrival.
All wise words but my mind kept wandering. Have I done enough to prepare him for this momentous change in his life?
Would he still eat?
Stupid question. I’ve taught him how to rustle up a roux sauce even Mary Berry would be proud of. Of course, he’d eat. Maybe pasta and mushrooms with every meal but if anything made Youngest muster himself, it was being hungry. Anyway, he’d ticked the half-catered accommodation option.
Could he do his washing?
He’s been on my ‘How To Ensure Your Son Is Ready For The World’ course since birth. Admittedly he’s had to repeat the foundation stage a few times but I feel progress is being made. He knows that you can only turn clothes inside out once before they need to hit the tub. And what was the worst that could happen? Multi-coloured tie dyed clothes? His t-shirts end up looking like they belong to a younger brother? Probably not the best fashion statement but that could add interest to the crumpled look from their storage place on the floor.
More importantly would he be happy and make friends?
Of course, he would. He’s made friends at primary school, secondary school and ever since. He’s even charmed the old ladies in the village who stop me on my dog walk to ask after his welfare. Why would that change now? I must rest assured he will not be sitting on his own night after night crying for his mummy.
This is a time to be positive. He’s not the only one who’s life is going to change. I must man up – I have things to look forward to:-
- Food will stay in the fridge for the meals I’d planned – just where I’d left it.
- I can slump on the sofa without fear of finding a half-eaten sandwich patterning my trousers or of knocking juice balanced on the arm.
- The house will stay tidy. No coat and shoes left on the floor where they’ve been taken off.
And that’s just for starters.
15.30 Arrive at destination to find campus awash with youngsters aimlessly leading their parents laden with bags, bed linen and hope to find matchbox sized rooms. And that’s not a Swan Vesta matchbox we’re talking. Three trips later of squeezing ourselves and our lovely student helpers into the lift (which thankfully was working) up to the 7th floor we dispatch Youngest into his cell. Making his bed up was my last nurturing duty. Dumping his clothes out of the bags onto his bed was his father’s. This was love. Tough love. He’s 18. He can unpack his clothes.
My goodbye face in place we left him to his fate.