This month Fenna, my youngest child, has finished university with a good degree and secured her dream job far away from my home. I have celebrated her success, my heart overflowing with joy, and that same heart has mourned at one more letting go, as she moves forth into her brave new life.
It seems no time since I was celebrating and mourning another letting go, as Fenna embarked on her university career. I wrote this poem in the sleepless early hours of that momentous day to express the profound double-edged emotion – the grief and opportunity – of the emptying nest.
My youngest child, my baby
Is leaving home today
To start a new adventure
In a city far away.
I’ve watched this day approaching
And prepared as best I could
And I’ll go with her to her new home
And act the way I should.
I will not keen or beg her
With arms around her knees
To stay and not abandon me.
I will not steal the keys
To her new place and super-glue
The locks so the replacement
Will not fit and I certainly
Won’t lock her in my basement
And say I don’t know where she is
And why she didn’t show
For her first important lecture.
Do you think I’d do that? No!
I will be a nice, sane mother
And I’ll kiss her on the cheek
Then I’ll stumble through the doorway
And my eyes will start to leak.
Perhaps I’ll try a different tack;
Perhaps I’ll find it’s nice
When my tidy rooms stay tidy
And the shopping’s half the price.
Not being woken up at five
After the clubs have shut
Might be a thing I quite enjoy.
Of course I’ll miss her, but
I think I might get used to
A bit of peace and quiet
I’ve never been a hands-off mum;
Perhaps it’s time to try it!
I recall I used to wonder
When my friends bemoaned the fate
Of empty-nest depression
Why they got in such a state;
But the change from being full-time mum
To ordinary being
After 30 years is daunting
And I find myself agreeing
That this is a rite of passage
That should not be taken lightly.
It requires some reflection,
And a box of chocolates nightly!
Yet there’s more than just a flicker
Of excitement as I think
Of the many new things I could do –
Like dye my hair bright pink.
I could go and have my nose pierced,
learn to kite-surf, start to jog.
I could dive for buried treasure,
I could write a saucy blog.
Eat only ice cream for six weeks,
Siesta every day.
Buy lots of fabulous antiques
And give them all away.
I could take up bungee jumping
I could have a bold tattoo
I could turn up at Heathrow and buy
A ticket to Peru
Or persuade my patient hubby
That we should move to Paris
And become a street performer.
There’d be no-one to embarrass!
But the thing that is most likely
Is that I’ll go home and be
The latest version of myself;
The post-child-rearing me
With only grown-up children
Whom I love and still hold dear;
Even though they may live far away
My heart will keep them near.
And I’ll feel my way in this next stage
And see what seems to fit
Then if something grabs my fancy
I might have a go at it.
The time’s come to remember
The wings I hid away
In the chrysalis of motherhood
And this could be the day
To wriggle out of my cocoon;
To turn to face the sky
Then shake them out and show the world
How beautifully I fly!