Empty nest syndrome –  the feelings of loneliness and sadness some parents experience when their children grow up and leave home…

Looking through Facebook this weekend I’ve found myself a bit more emotional than normal.

So many of my friends seem to be taking their firstborn off to university right now. I’m seeing and feeling their pride and some parents are admitting to a little bit of envy, but as they take that last photo and drive away, most of the mums are freely admitting just how much they are going to miss their son or daughter over the next couple of months, and how they realise that this is the beginning of the way it’s gong to be from now on.

I know this transition happens every year, but this year, more than most, it Is really affecting me. Even though I‘m happy for all these lovely young lads and lasses who have had a happy ending after a truly horrific summer, I’ve noticed there have been one or two real tears In my eyes as I read about their parents waving them off and coming home to an empty nest …

Then it dawned on me – I’ve reached the endgame. Next year it will be me.

This is the final year at home for my daughter – she is in year 13 , studying for her A-levels. The last year of dropping her at the station for her 7.30 train. The last year of her packed lunches and water bottles. The last year of homework, of helping her with her studies, discussing all kinds of weird and wonderful topics at the dinner table and in the car. The last year of picking her up at silly o’clock from her friends’ houses because I don’t want her on public transport at that hour…

The last year of her needing me.

She is applying for university herself this year, and I’m not really involved in the decision and application process. She has it all in hand and she doesn’t need our help. She’s already standing at the edge of the nest and flexing her wings and preparing herself to fly. I know that she is more than ready and she will be just fine. Whether I will be remains to be seen.

I’m a long term user of Facebook, so I have her entire school life in my memories. Her first day at primary and first day at secondary trotted past again just a few weeks ago and they both seem like no time at all ago. Her first communion, the time she broke her arm, the time we sang together at Abbey Road, the time when she ‘caught appendicitis‘ from her friend…

To be honest I can still remember vividly bringing her home from hospital the very first time in her little bucket seat. Neither my husband nor I had any experience of babies whatsoever, and I remember us sitting there vaguely terrified, staring at her for days, trying to figure out how it all worked this parenting thing…

But do you know what, we did it! We are in the final stretch.

Much as it pains me, the whole purpose of parenting is to shape and form a fully functioning adult, who can make their own way in the world, make their own decisions and define and chase their own dreams. The whole idea is to make someone feel so loved and secure that they are able, willing and excited to leave you behind and strike out by themselves.

And, I think we are going to get there.

Inexperienced as we were, we seem to have picked up some good tips along the way, and she and her baby brother (now six foot two!) seem to be turning out pretty much OK. It wasn’t easy – some of it was very hard indeed and other bits were terrifying, but overall I can honestly say it’s been fun!

I’ll freely admit I was dreading the teenage years, But honestly, from my point of view, they have actually even the best. I have learned so much from the two of them and I have really enjoyed seeing the world through their young, untarnished eyes. I’ve had some of my deep-held opinions and beliefs challenged, and in many areas, I have updated my worldview. They have introduced me to new music, new theatre and TV and a whole new culture on the internet. It’s exhilarating!

So yes, I will be extremely sad when it’s time to drive my daughter away next year, and my son two years later. I will miss them more than they will ever know, and, I hope, a whole lot more than they will miss me. I’m fairly sure they will both be absolutely fine, and I will be as proud as I can be, both for them and for myself for managing to raise them successfully.

Is it really an empty nest? Probably not, but I understand now why it can feel that way. Some of my friends with older children have reassured me that parenting doesn’t end at this point, they still need their mums even when they get older, and a substantial number of them end up coming back for while to live again too.

But, I understand deep in my being, that once they are adults and they leave, something will always be different. At the end of the day, I still remember doing it myself – leaving mum and running as far away from my home town as possible, in order to discover myself and to form a more distant and less dependant adult relationship with her.m She will find her own friends and they will become more important than family – some of them even may become her new family…

If it’s your turn this year and you are waving one of your children off on their first big adventure, I salute you too. Well done for bringing them this far! Give yourself a big pat on the back – you were amazing! Sending you a big virtual hug too as you get used to the empty place in the house.

If I’m this emotional about you and your children, goodness knows what I am going to feel like next year. I’m getting myself mentally prepared for the empty nest already and have made up my mind to enjoy every single day I have left…

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