This summer has been dominated by preparations for the imminent departure of my eldest child Leila, who will be leaving home in 7 days to head off to university.
She’s ready and on the cusp of an exciting new phase of her life.
I am not ready.
Maybe mothers never truly are.
This week unbidden images of my daughter have been dive bombing my thoughts. A newborn infant fast asleep in my arms, a toddler breast-feeding her own doll whilst I nursed her new baby brother, a wide-eyed 4 year old ready for her first day at school and so the scenes tumble through my mind. It’s as if I am playing through film highlights of her childhood trying to fully savour the memories of her before she disappears into adulthood forever.
Relationships with our children are different to every other relationship we have.
With our partners we start from a place of the unknown and work to become closer, more intimate, together as one.
With our children it is the exact opposite. Our children are knitted together and formed inside us but from the moment of birth we are separating from them. If all goes well our children learn new skills and develop independence so that one day we can release them to move into their own lives.
I feel bereft, there’s a dull ache in my chest which seems to have made itself at home and I have a feeling it’s here to stay, for a while at least.
I know it will lift once Leila’s settled and I’ve got used to the shift in the dynamics of our family life.
In three years time Edward, our autistic son, will probably be preparing to leave home too.
I think he will be ready to go. I think he’s going to be OK. I hope so.
There’s still lots more things I want him to know and understand before he goes.
I’d like him to become more aware of the consequences of giving totally honest replies to questions.
I’d like him to Improve his time keeping and make sure his self-imposed routines work for everyone.
We’ve got time.
We need to use it well.
Looking back I think my parents were probably sick of me being at home by the time I left for university. I know I felt very ready to leave home at the age of 18 and I didn’t give any thought as to how my own parents were feeling about my departure and we certainly did not talk about it. As we drove towards my halls of residence we got caught in traffic on Camden High street. Camden Market was in full swing, with people milling about everywhere. The colours, noises and smells were alien to me; a girl from suburbia who had rarely ventured into any city, let alone London. I was incredibly excited by everything that I saw and couldn’t believe my luck at landing in such a busy, vibrant place – I think my parents were a lot less enamored by the surroundings. As soon as they had helped me get all my stuff into my room I more or less told them to go back home as I didn’t want their presence to hinder me from the task at hand, namely finding my new friends and living my new life. I was brutal. I can see that now as I find myself on the other side of this leaving experience.
Leila has, to her credit, realised that I’m struggling with this process. Nick will be away with work next weekend so I’ll be driving Leila to university by myself.
At least that was the plan until Leila announced, “Ivy should come too, you’ll need her for the journey home.”
I think she’s right.
I’m preparing myself for a brutal ejection from her halls of residence once we have unloaded all her stuff just in case she follows in my footsteps.
Whatever happens I’ll be glad to have my youngest daughter as company on the way back home.
We pour ourselves into raising our children, knowing we could have done so much more but hoping we’ve done enough.
It’s no wonder that when they leave us our hearts are wrenched.