This morning, removal men will be arriving to take one of my children’s possessions to their new home. Over the past week, we have been busy packing up all of their items into large plastic boxes. Their former bedroom is now empty and very soon it will be painted with a much-needed fresh coat of paint. Any physical evidence of the room’s former occupant will be gone.
This has left me feeling conflicted. As much as I know the time is now right for my child to move forwards and experience life for themselves, I feel that the emptiness of the room reflects the void in my heart. Something is missing and it can never be replaced. When I go into the room, I can sense the ghosts of past experiences rooted in the walls and woodwork: laughter, tears, anger, and joy. Even when the room has a new purpose, it will constantly evoke those memories.
I still have another four years until my other child leaves home, and I think the experience of one child’s departure means that I shall cherish every moment with my youngest and I am determined that when that inevitable day arrives, I shall not regret wasting a single second.
When our children are born, we never believe that the day will arrive when they will be gone. For many years, our role as a parent defines who we are. We are perhaps so consumed by living in the now and by caring for their immediate needs, that we never even envisage their departure. Yet in order for us to be good parents we need to accept that in common with the offspring of all creatures, in due course our children outgrow their family home, and they must go out into the world and discover life for themselves.
The other day a video came up on Facebook memories of one of my children when they were about three or four years old. As I was watching the video of a time from a decade ago, I could not help but compare that four year old child with the teenager that lives with me now. I loved that little child, but I also love the teenager. Yet it made me wonder, where did that little child go? When did they transform from being that naïve four-year-old into the self-assured teenager? For as much as we might try, our children never really belong to us for any permanence. We merely borrow them for a while. As much as we teach them how to live, they teach us far more about who we are. It took becoming a parent to make me a better teacher. Parenting taught me empathy because for once I understood some of my parents’ actions and frustrations. It taught me how to manage my time, how to be more resourceful, how to listen and ultimately how to communicate.
Of course, it is going to take some time to acclimatise to this adjustment. I may feel rather despondent at present but ultimately, I will look back on this as a positive change, just as my child will. They will no doubt be anxious about their future and the next few months will be an immense learning curve for them as they tentatively step out on their own and learn how to navigate the world. And for me, focusing on the positives will help to heal this emotional void. I no longer have to cook so much, clean so much, wash and iron clothes so much. I have more time to devote to writing my next book. I have more time for friends and other family members. And more than anything else, for once I shall finally see the bottom of my washing basket. Now that is something, I can truly look forward to!
Princess Mary The First Modern Princess by Elisabeth Basford is available here.