Posted by: Admin | July 5, 2010


Only lent to us

My empty nest was populated again this weekend as two of my four children – the boys – came home for my birthday. One arrived with wife and little sons in tow, so from a household of two we became seven and chaos reigned like a happy echo from the not so distant past.

Both my boys are so tall they can count the grey hairs on top of my head now – and take great delight in doing so.  I am so proud of the men they have become, men I like and whose company I enjoy. And yet, and yet…

How I miss the sensitive, thoughtful little boy who once told me he’d worked out the meaning of life (for us all to love and help each other, just in case you’re wondering) and the sharp-witted, serious child who questioned everyone and everything around him, trusting nothing until he’d investigated it himself.

I can still feel the imprint of their little hands in mine, still recall the smell of their freshly washed hair and the feel of small arms around my neck as, freshly pyjama-ed, I carried them to bed.  The countless hours I spent answering endless questions, repeatedly reading well-loved stories, ferrying to and from from school, to parties, matches, guitar lessons, play dates, A & E – like every mother, that was my life.

Leaving home, one by one

It was, of course, a life lived in a general fug of exhaustion – the look in my daughter-in-law’s eyes reminded me of that part – but the memory of that fades, leaving only the gold-tinted remembrance of family unity.

So my sons breezed in with their hugs and loud voices and frequent bursts of laughter and I was enveloped once again by their easy, boisterous love. My daughters phoned, wistfully, from London and Cornwall, my grandsons, one almost four, the other nine months old, filled the house with the urgent demands of the young and for two blissful days I found myself busy once more with kindergarten conversation and infant games.

And then a flurry of hugs and hasty last-minute conversation and they were gone, spiralling away like two Catherine wheels to opposite ends of the country, leaving the house devastated, quiet and still.

Husband of my heart has cleared the garden chairs and parasol and has retreated to the hammock. A battered football lies forgotten by the vegetable patch. A familiar, dull ache of loss throbs in the pit of my stomach.

My aim was to nurture happy, confident children, the end result of which are strong, independent adults who are able to leave the nest with barely a backward glance. So I am, I guess, a victim of my own success and, in truth, would not really want them to be living in my pocket.  I am conscious of my good luck at having had my children, and for the fact that they remember my birthday at all.

They love me and their father. They love each other and will return, periodically, to revisit and renew the bonds of childhood. I am so fortunate for that, and for the daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren that are beginning to arrive.

I know I am still part of their lives, and am grateful, even while I know that the days when I was at their centre are gone for good.  I accept it and let them go with my blessing. However, they are at my centre still. Therein lies the source of my grief as I contemplate my empty nest – I miss them.

A life well-loved



  1. I can’t really vote in your poll, as our daughter is still very much in situ (14 going on 15). But it does make me realise how you can be of a similar age and still be at a completely different stage in relation to your children. It’s also got me doing a bit of maths and thinking about how when my mother was my age (49) I would have been 31 and the youngest of my sisters must have left home (if only temporarily) when she (my mother) was 38. I’m not sure that any of this is significant in any way, but it does – as they say – make you think.

    You do sound fortunate (if that’s the right word) to have such a happy family.

    • Welcome, Backwatersman! 50 was so much older in our parents’ day, don’t you think? Or maybe I’m just in denial!

  2. The kids are four of my five very best friends. While I miss their childhood innocence and I enjoy their new found freedoms and adventures as they have grown and are growing into lovely adults (no they haven’t, average mental age of about 6). They were great fun……and they still are.

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