As we approach freedom the next stage of parenting with mounting trepidation, I do question whether I’m ready. I adore both my kids and I will miss those rare moments of family harmony when the four of us sit around the table, laughing and joking together and I can almost forgive them for drinking my wine.
For the most part, I think we’re all ready and my easy acceptance of this change to our living arrangements has very little nothing to do with my children’s living habits that mean I have to clean the cooktop at least five times a day, wash towels after one use or am still woken up at all hours of the night when they come back home after a big night, quietly.
You reach a point in middle age, (and as a couple), where you need your lives back. I am ready to embrace the next stage of my life and as the chicks strive for more and more independence in OUR home, I assume that the resulting friction must be part of the natural order of things and it’s their way of telling us they are ready.
I have many syndromes, as many of you know, but I would bet my life that ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ will not be one of them.
While the buggers have shown some signs of a move towards independence, it is still very much on their terms, so sometimes it feels as though we live in a frat house. Not that I continue to mother them. I don’t cook especially for them – although there is still that assumption that I will knock up something wonderful to suit each of their exacting requirements and tolerances at the drop of a hat when they are at home, even on those nights where I’d prefer to replace food with wine. I don’t clean their bed linen or do their washing.
I realize I sound selfish and that some of you will be mumbling in horror, ‘you’ll miss them!’ And I know that I will. But I yearn for the day I can find a clean towel in the linen cupboard when I need one, or when I can stand in the shower and the shampoo and conditioner gloops stuck to the glass screen after my daughter’s daily altercation with them, don’t affect me.
When I see them in my newly empty nest in the future, I envisage it will be on my terms, on special occasions of my choosing, (like Christmas and my birthday), when we will finally be free from the deep-rooted resentment that cohabiting can exacerbate. Or until that day, I am told, when the first returns, tail between their legs, to beg for their room back.
While they need to escape my nagging, I crave silence and a time when I don’t have to be on call twenty-four hours a day; a time when I don’t have to worry that their friends drunken exploits will wake the neighbors or if they’ll leave the gate open for the Princess’s Great Escape. To be frank, I don’t know how families in other cultures continue to live together until their children marry. Some species of the animal kingdom have a “hatch and leave” policy, which sounds far fairer.
Right now, a solid eight hours sleep, a kitchen that doesn’t need to be hosed down each morning and a break from the bleats about our fucking Internet, sounds massively appealing.