Would it be a sweeping generalisation to say I cannot believe there is one parent on the whole planet who has never experienced profound frustration towards their teenager at some point over the summer holidays and wishes they would just go back to school?!
For me yes, although this year is different! I am not going to deny, there are certainly days I cannot wait for all three of my girls to go back to school. The groundhog day over the summer holidays can wear thin and I have all but given up on what to cook for meals, trying to juggle their diaries and being a daily taxi driver and don't get me started on the mounds of washing, some of which is clean but they just scoop off the floor and dump it in front of the washing machine!
But the reality is, my youngest is leaving the nest. Off to a boarding school, a 3hr drive from home (her choice, certainly not mine!) My oldest is going into her final year and my daily roll of school drop offs and pick ups and going to watch matches, cooking etc etc a thing of the past.
So here I am feeling like a profound part of me is evaporating and I am losing a sense of being that I will never get it back. The sense of loss I have at times, feels acute and how many times have I have woken up in the middle of the night in a panic? I've lost count!
As the start of the school year looms ever closer, I find myself wanting my flock where I can see them, hug them and extract as much time with them as possible. They definitely have different ideas!
I've thought a lot about this new chapter and how I can somehow work it into a positive. One thing I have learn't over the many school years I have been through now, starting a new school year, as a parent, is like introducing a new baby or animal into your home. You have to reestablish your role and your duties within your unit.
No I won't be needed on a daily basis (for those who still have younger children at primary/prep school, to give you some comfort, I can assure you the continued routine lessens the loss and its amazing how quickly it becomes the norm), and actually, I for one, will not miss all the cooking, washing and driving. Maybe, when they do come home, I will appreciate it more......although I doubt it!
But, but, but, what I can look forward to now, when they do come back for weekends, is better, quality time with them. We are at the stage where we can laugh, enjoy friendly competition and banter. Interesting conversations and debates. And I know from experience of my older two, they want to be at home, they want to be with you , the hugs, the comfort of home and its quality time over quantity.
As for the weeks in between seeing them, I will bombard them with messages they don't reply to (except when they want something!!!), just because I want them to know I love them and am here if/whenever they need me. I will send them surprise packages of tuck (bribery of course!) but most of all I will try to enjoy my life. How many times have a whinged about not being able to do something?! Well now I can, so I better put my money where my mouth is!
How, though, you maybe asking, will I fill my days? Everyone is different and has different interests but I for one will do the following, or at least try....I will go on long dog walks. Go and visit friends I never get to see. Make more time with my own mother, now I can. Invite friends over for silliness and laughter. Plant those veggies and flowers I never got around to doing. Spend more time being more organised with work. Go on date nights with my husband, Go to places I've always wanted to visit (if financially possible). Start tennis again... the list goes on and I have no excuses!
The thing is we can't change the march of time. We cannot go back. The fact that I am suddenly at this point cannot be undone. For myself it is important I allow myself to mourn and work through this time. To acknowledge my grief and know it is ok to feel this way, but to also not see it as an end but the beginning of a new chapter, and to eventually move on and work with the positives. Look to the future and start doing the things I've been wanting to do but haven't been able to due to commitments. Before we know it, it will have become the norm.
The last thing I want to touch on is the importance of not transferring your own sadness and devastation onto your child. I am the first to admit, I have spent too much time telling my daughter this summer how sad I am she is going, can't she just stay with me forever. What am I going to do without my baby and so on. And although I say it in jest/fun way to her I can see, at times, from her responses and physical reactions she is feeling a burden and doesn't want to upset me. I'm not being fair.
So I have now changed to saying "yes of course I am sad you are going to be away from me because I love you, BUT I am so excited for you to be moving to a new chapter in your life. You are going to have so many wonderful, new experiences. Meet new people and form life long friendships. Go do your thing and I want you to know, though, I am always here, whenever you need me."
So finally don't forget, you are not alone. Please don't hide away in your own pain.There are many of us all going through the same thing, so reach out to friends/family if you are struggling. Go for a coffee, go for a walk, cry about it, laugh about how shit you feel and then go out there and grab hold of finally having your time!