Rearranging the empty nest
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been having a very good sort out at home. I’ve got rid of so much stuff, I felt I warranted my own parking space at the local tip. I have to say that it’s not before time, as the vast majority of the clearing out has been because my two sons have left home – in fact they left over six and three years ago respectively. I could say that I wasn’t sure that either of them would settle away from home, but they couldn’t be happier.
No, it is all down to me, this clinging on to the clutter of the late teens. I would go as far as to say that I have almost wallowed in my empty nestedness. What makes it worse is that I was never supposed to feel this way. As a single parent, I was very aware of the possible dangers of ‘living through’ my sons. So when it came for them to leave sixth form college, and both chose to go to university, I was the one who encouraged them to look further afield than our local region. I felt it would be good experience for them both to live somewhere other than our rather sleepy town. Indeed, I have been known to have a barely concealed shudder when I have heard colleagues talk about offspring of a similar age still living at home, and relying on their parents for all things domestic.
It is roughly a year ago when I began to feel really – and quite suddenly - bereft. I felt quite out of kilter, not knowing where my place was in life. My sons are independent and successful and we are all close so I had no real worries and, after all, it wasn’t as though they had just left. It might sound melodramatic but I felt as if I was grieving but I’m not sure what for. Maybe it was because I have been my sons’ sole parent for the last ten years, following the death of their dad, but I really didn’t know what to do with myself. Around Christmas-time, I visited one of my friends whose teenage children haven’t yet left home and they were there, along with a couple of friends. The house was full of the noisy, joyful chaos that I remember so well and when I got back home, I could have cried in the quiet of the tidy living room.
I would really like to be able to say that I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and my attitude changed overnight. But the truth is that it has taken time. Spending last Christmas at my younger son’s flat really helped – not least because he’s an excellent cook and a generous host. I also remind myself that they are no longer my ‘boys’; they are 21 and 24 and when I was 21 I was living with their dad, and by 24 held down a responsible job and really resented my own mum still treating me like a teenager (which she did. A lot!).
So, the sort out at home has played its part as well. Over the years, we acquired lots of plastic boxes for storage of all kinds of toys, then later files of coursework and revision notes. Now they are going spare. However I find that they do have other purposes – not least for transporting seedlings to my allotment. Ah, yes, the allotment, the one I never had time for when the ‘boys’ were at home – not to mention singing in a choir, going to the gym, tai chi and the writing group, so maybe I am finding my feet in this new phase of my life. After all who knows what else it might bring?