Last week I wrote about that lovely long summer just gone, the one when the kids are eighteen and have finished school A-levels in mid June and have right until mid-September before their next chapter begins.
I wrote about the summer and concluded with the promise of a follow-up to this:
“…….I was determined to discuss with you the trials and tribulations; nerves and nausea caused to these teens in the preparing and planning for their next chapter… ……… As I type this (or in between paragraphs ) I’m preparing his ‘final supper’; his favourite meal; one he feels he’s unlikely to ever eat again…. …… I sense a heart warming afternoon…..possibly a few tears (mainly mine); probably a sleepless night and then tomorrow a drive to Cardiff. I plan to be the ‘cool mum’ the one who offers ‘just the right amount’ of support/detachment/emotion/comment… I plan to leave with a hug and a smile and let him get on with it…. we all know what they say about the best laid plans…..”
But it’s interesting, having let the weekend pass, arrived home and spoken to other ’empty next’ mums I realise what I need to write more about is not the teens next chapter but ours.
We all spent the last 18 years preparing our children to be capable enough, independent enough, wise enough, balanced enough, skilled enough to move forward and flourish in that middle earth between childhood and adulthood; that place where they can practice independence with the safety net of lecturers, faculty heads, parents, family, to turn to and return to in times of insecurity, panic or concern.
We each spent the whole summer ensuring those teens had the best final summer they could. We spent our energy, talking them through their options; preparing them for the results; creating plan B’s and plan Cs ‘just in case’; helping them fill in forms; organise accommodation, grants, loans,; purchasing kit; opening bank accounts; maybe teaching them to cook or use a washing machine. We were their mentors, therapists, agony aunts, parents. We help them with nerves, we helped them pack, we lent them or gave them whatever we could. We then drove them with positivity and confidence to their new locations where we stayed ‘brave and strong’ and helped them unpack; deal with more forms; maybe deal with nerves and tears ; took them shopping (again) to stock their fridges and cupboards. If we were lucky we met their new flatmates; checked in on them again the next day; took them for a meal.
Then we came home.
Then we mums (dads/carers/guardians) realised we had been so busy preparing them for their next chapters we hadn’t realised we needed a new chapter of our own. Just in these two days with a quick straw poll of mums I know I have come to the realisation that the empty next moving forward plan has not been on any of our ‘to do’ lists.
I genuinely thought I had it sussed :
“I plan to be the ‘cool mum’ the one who offers ‘just the right amount’ of support/detachment/emotion/comment… I plan to leave with a hug and a smile and let him get on with it….”
…and that is what I did. But now I’m home. I cried quite a lot today.
I’m not sure how much/little to message/interact with him by social media is reasonable but I’m pretty sure that at the moment its ‘too much’ and I’m probably getting on his nerves!.
Some mums talk about feeling ’empty inside’ , ‘at a loss”, ‘bereft’, ‘redundant’. For us all it’s the end of a massively long and all-encompassing chapter and because the chapter didn’t end until we safely delivered our teens to their next starting point, none of us have had any time to prepare for ourselves. I feel sure that our next chapters will be equally as exciting and rewarding as the last. We just need a bit of time to adjust, regroup and rediscover ourselves.
I’d be interested to know how you parents out they felt when you found yourselves with an empty next. Or are feeling, if like me, it’s just happened. Sharing your experiences will act a bit like a support group for us newly bereft parents… please comment here on this blog so we can start-up some social interaction counselling….