Mind the gap (published in Mslexia)
When my children fly the nest, I will pull the construction apart, twig by twig so they cannot return. My friends think I am heartless.
“But what if they want to come home?”
I ask them how my children will ever learn independence if there is somewhere to run back to. I have had twenty-two years of finding odd socks down the side of the sofa; entering rooms armed with ‘Febreeze’. I have done my time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys but my reading room is filled with gadgets I don’t understand, called PS and X and however much I clean, I can’t seem to remove all traces of testosterone.
“But it will be so quiet,”
I tell them I will manage to live without 3 stereos and the musical mayhem of taste. I will be able to cope without hearing ‘Whatever’ in three different bass tones when I ask them what they want for tea. I will certainly be more than capable of putting my feet up with a microwave meal instead of whipping up numerous different menus. I find it easy to visualise my life without the clothes piles on three bedroom floors, the size 12 trainers mouldering by my front door and the hair in three slightly different shades, welded to my bathroom sink.
“You’ll be lonely,”
How will I be lonely? I will still have my cat and my husband. Derek will be able to leave the garage and return to the house. We can reclaim our marriage and our lounge. We will be able to return to the hotel we honeymooned in, without having to book half of it for our children, and enquire after extra long beds. I will not have to re-pack the suitcases or explain to my children that one pair of pants does not last a week and even if you wear them inside out, they still only have two sides.
“What will you do?”
I will have no problem filling my time. The garden is long overdue for some TLC, and the inside of my kitchen cupboards have a film of grease on that be used for a swim across the channel. Then there’s the book club and my creative writing course. I am sure my writing will improve when I have more time to think. I realise that not everyone thinks infanticide is an appropriate subject for a short stories.
“Won’t you worry about them?”
I hope I have done my job and the incessant nagging has paid off. I hope that my grandchildren will hear the same words I have spoken, and my mother before me;
I wasn’t born yesterday; Go to your room and stay there until you can be civil; Not what, but pardon. I have taught them the necessities in life, please and thank-you, right and wrong. I am not sure I have been successful with empathy but it is hard to explain consideration whilst someone is beheading zombies.
“You’ll miss them.”
Of course I will miss them. They take up more than half my house. I have stains on my ceiling where their hair brushes against it. They are three giants in a house bought for children.
I think back to when they were born; bundles of blue, their footprints hardly noticeable. Now they are the environmental equivalent of a nuclear power-plant, their energy barely contained.
“You’ll feel empty,”
I will not feel empty. Empty is when you have used everything up. I will have energy again. I will be able to sleep all day and eat when I am hungry. I will be able to use a basket at the supermarket and carry the shopping home on the bus. We will be able to sell the people carrier and buy an open-topped sports car with no concern for leg room or MPG. I will not be at the end of my tether but at the top.
“They’ll miss you.”
My children will be too busy to consider the hole they have left in my house. They will be making friends, studying, travelling. They will return as my guests not my dependents. We will talk as equals.
I will not maintain their rooms as a shrine to their childhood and I will not sit by the telephone waiting to hear their news. I will be too busy.
Children are a gift and it is time for someone else to unwrap mine.