Today I got my house back. It’s a mess. There are plates and cups all over the place, generally next to a bed or a couch. Shoes are littering the floor and like on those ‘most wanted’ programmes, there are in many cases, only one of a pair to be found, making me wonder, where is the other one, and how did only one land there? Bedrooms look pretty shocking, as if burglars have been and gone.
Yes you guessed it the Easter holidays are over and school is back.
Yesterday my eldest left to return to college and today my other two set off for school, reluctantly I may add. I waved them off and even if I say so myself, I acted the part of a grieving mother quite brilliantly. Once they were a safe distance away I wiped away those imaginary tears with a huge grin.
Yahoo, only the dog and I left.
For a moment I almost cleaned the kitchen before getting my priorities right and settling down to a cup of tea. Alone, in the quiet, uninterrupted. Then I made a fatal error.
I glanced at a collage of photos hanging in my kitchen. It is actually two large collages of over twenty years of parenting. So many memories. I looked at those smiling faces and could hear the shouts, the laughter and the noise. Glancing from one to the other the years slipped away. My first born held in her dad’s arms, he looking so young and so exhausted. My son, days old, lying fast asleep in an incubator under lights, his eyes protected. There was a small photo, well hidden in the mix, of my next daughter fast asleep outside on a baby swing. I could well remember the commotion as the older children ran in to tell me to come quickly to see her asleep ; such was the rarity of her ever sleeping. Then there was my fourth child, so many photos of her being held in her siblings and others arms. Some of those arms mere babies themselves. A fourth child is so less precious than a first!
It was hard not to contrast the remembered noise, the arguing, shouting and demands on my time, with my quiet kitchen. I looked at the empty chairs around the table and could see as clear as day, the gang gathered for homework. As I minded my friends children there was a large squad. The older three aged 10, from two different schools doing various subjects, the next three aged seven also busy with homework, some reading aloud, some learning spellings while others were doing maths or Irish. Two small girls didn’t quite make it to the table, as it was full. They were three and liked to pretend they were also busy with schoolwork, so often did colouring stretched out on the floor. Finally I saw my youngest, sitting in her highchair shouting and gurgling, doing all she could to be noticed.
I sighed finishing my cup of tea. Happy days, now gone.
It’s strange to be a mother to a family after they have moved on. To those children you continue to be their mum. You are there for them when they need you, for advice, love, hugs and encouragement, but they are no longer young children. They are changing and now you must step back, become less hands on. It is time to give them space to live their own lives.
It was then it struck me. While they make their own lives I must make mine. Just as I need to give my children space, I must also grab with both hands the space they are giving me. Putting away my cleaned cup I looked about, rethinking the moment. What had come over me? My quiet kitchen was peaceful, not lonely. I had at least six hours of freedom ahead of me. This was what I had dreamed of for years, exactly what I’d wished for a thousand times when the children were small.
So step away from me with your photos of new born babies, do not tempt me with your charming toddler. I’m free. It’s not been an easy twenty years and I’d not change it, but I’m not crazy and I certainly don’t wish to ever go back.
Phew, now that moment of nostalgia is over it’s decision time, will I golf, read a book, do some writing or actually do some work?