Not quite empty nest, empty nest feelings…

When I got pregnant people started telling me horror stories about how hard it would be having a tiny human baby in my life. They talked to me about the nightmare labour and delivery I was about to have, they warned me of the back to back sleepless nights that would last for years, they half joked of the feeding and toilet training difficulties that I would face and forewarned me of the tantrums of the terrible twos that would only be rivalled by the “I can do it myself,” threes that were to come. Well meaning people offered advice on how to survive those early years. That was where their advice ended though. It was as if once I got the kids to school age that was it, the hard stuff was done. Nobody prepared me properly for the truly hard stuff. Yes, having two babies less than 18 months apart meant it felt like I had years of sleepless nights, endless days of of food being spit at me and toilet training woes, and at times it felt like I was in a permanent state of basic survival mode. For me though the truly hard stuff was when I realised my newborn was suddenly 3 months, 3 years or thirteen years old. The last time I was needed to hold their spoon, help them balance while they were trying to stand on their own, checking for those monsters living under their bed or in their closet went by unnoticed in the moment but once I realised it had happened I longed for those precious moments back. For me the last time they let me tuck them in at bedtime or the years where they preferred to be in their bedroom chatting with friends they most likely only just left the company of not too long before were the hard ones. The years spent playing on their games consoles rather than wanting to finger paint with me hit hard. The last Easter or Scarecrow craft session at school came with both relief and sorrow, but the last Mother’s Day assembly brought more tears than before as did the last school concert. The last time I walked them to primary school and the last time they put on a school uniform pulled at my heart. They didn’t prepare me for my teenage son booking tickets on his own to attend a major music festival miles and miles from home. They didn’t prepare me for when my teenage daughter was assaulted and I struggled to find the right words to comfort her. Those truly harder days were when I wished I had that colicky baby back in my arms at 3 am even with them crying the house down because at least then they were with me, I knew they were in my arms safe. Nobody has prepared me for when they will live in my house for the very last night or when they will be adults out on their own coping with all the adult stuff that will come. The visits to universities and first jobs tell me that those days are nearly here and I know I am not ready for them. I guess I will wing it as I have done for all those other years. I hope in the end they seek a life that brings them mostly happiness, they are armed with enough tools to survive the world without me and they know that no matter what, ultimately they were loved and cherished every moment I was privileged enough to be their mother. In the end the biggest thing I was not told about was that the joy they would infuse in my life would over shadow any of those other more difficult moments.

About Billie Jo Schinnerer

Born and raised on the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment in eastern New York. Formerly a teacher. Moved to the North West area of England in 2003. Now a mother of three who doesn’t really know what she wants to be when she grows up.
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