I don’t know why we insist on New Year’s resolutions in January. Midwinter has to be the least inspirational time of year to do anything. We should move our New Year to September, when young people actually move on in one way or another, and the rest of us realise that well over half of the year has gone by and we take stock. It’s inherently a time of change, a time when we are in flux, and especially those of us with adult children find ourselves saying goodbye to some things and hello to lots of others this month.
Say goodbye to summer, and hello to autumn!
Now we in Southeast of England like to talk about an Indian Summer when we have a few days without rain in September, but anyone who has been to Canada at this time of year knows this is a total misnomer. Summer is over. Autumn may be saying hello quietly, but it’s picking the leaves off the trees as you read this.
Say goodbye to your fresher, and hello to the empty nest – for now.
Holidays have come to an end, students have come home, met up with old friends, worked and are ready to go back to university again, the working world which slowed down ever so slightly is back on full speed. Commuter trains are leaving no seat empty. Terms are starting. Student halls of residence are filling up. Goodbye-hello is the new normal for us at this time of year. I’ve had some practice now, so hopefully it will feel that bit easier this time. A quick look at mumsnet these days shows me that there are many many mothers out there who are feeling like I did last year and the year before (Where we stand when they’ve flown the nest: from uni drop off back to the empty nest). It’s tough. Feelings are strong. Phrases like: “I feel redundant” and “I am aching” from women who usually feel in control of things show me that uni-drop off is still a big deal.
It doesn’t mean that you’re not happy and excited for what lies ahead of them which is why some people find this conflict of emotions hard to understand. If the departure of your child to university is really stinging, remember this: as a parent your job is to enable your child to live without you. The hardest part is accepting that you’ve been successful.
Saying good-bye to your fresher is grieving for that part of your parenting, wrestling with the fact that you will be increasingly less important in his or her life, and that’s a good thing. Don’t deny those feelings. Give yourself some time to adjust. As the clever Ann Lamott said: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. And that includes us. “
Say good-bye to mess and noise, say hello to a tidy(er) home and regained power over the remote control:
September means saying goodbye to gangsta rap, wailing indie bands and my offspring’s truly terrible TV programmes like the Karcashians (sic!) or Made in Chelsea – instead in my shiny empty nest I will be saying hello to beauties like Cold Feet (Yes! Cold Feet is coming back!!), Poldark, Strictly Come Dancing and the Great British Bake Off. (Come to think of it, note to student children: don’t call me between 8-10pm in September).
Say goodbye to false starts, and hello to new pathways
For example our Hatchling No 3 rebuilt her crushed confidence after quitting her first university course, worked hard, travelled lightly and will now make a new start at Surrey University. Seeing as Neil Fitzpatrick, aka Supervet, is a Professor there, I may have to visit more frequently than I usually do.
Despite the unfortunate Brexit vote, Hatchling No 2 is off to Heidelberg for an Erasmus year. I won’t fill the pages of agony that I feel about Brexit and how this may be the last year that an Erasmus study exchange is possible for British students and my youngest daughter may not be able to take part. This was obviously another outcome of the whole misguided referendum that had not been thought through by the 52%. Alas, what’s done is done, Brexit means Brexit as we keep being told… and Hatchling No 2 seems to settle in nicely no doubt consulting his older sister’s blog of helpful hints for Erasmus students.
Say good-bye to that summer lethargy and hello to new beginnings
Who says our hatchlings are the only ones to spread their wings at this time of year? It’s taken a while, two years to be exact, to work out my direction but you are reading this from the oldest ever trainee Pilates teacher (looking to specialise in active ageing classes)! It’s as exciting as it is scary. Plus, perfect opportunity to say Hello to a new pair of Ivy Park workout leggings! I may not be Beyonce’s immediate target market, but she shouldn’t have made them so bloody brilliant then. My Pilates routine improved just by wearing them. (Available at any self-respecting Top Shop.)
Say good-bye to casual catch-ups and say hello to finding new ways of connecting with your fresher
I know I keep going on about the slobbering Labrador in this blog, but if you have one, or even one of those fancy new cross-breeds like a Pomsky or a Wheapoo (you work it out), you may find that when you catch the odd phone call with your fresher talking about the dog actually keeps the conversation flowing because it is the only outlet for his or her homesickness which they allow themselves.
My very own Hatchling No 2 hardly ever volunteers communication when he is away at university. And somehow you can’t ask a 19 year old: “Have you made any nice friends? Are you happy?” But any picture of said slobbering Labradors in the Family messenger group gets an immediate comment from him. If Labrador 2, Calamity Doug (not his real name) gets himself in yet another pickle whilst jumping over barbed wire fences, we even have quite long telephone conversations with our son.
Now I haven’t considered a Munchhausen by proxy approach with Calamity to get attention from my son, but it did make me wonder: Why only then? Call me out on gender stereotyping but I think there is a lot of pressure on ‘lads’ at uni to have an amazing time, freshers’ year in particular. And not all of them do, not all of the time, anyway. There is a lot of hanging around feeling a bit spare, not knowing anyone or anything. Even the relentless stream of organised fresher parties can be a bit much for some. But it’s hard to admit that when social media tells them how much fun they should be having.
Where girls have to fight social media pressures of unrealistic lifestyles, bodies and wardrobes, I believe boys face the same amount of pressure to being ‘proper lads, having the time of their lives’. (Comparing this with my generation, I think we probably did have the time of our lives, but it wasn’t organised as such, and we weren’t constantly told that THIS IS THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE. It just happened exactly because there was no pressure.)
Anyway, back to Fido the dog, Mimi the kitty, your home football team or even Game of Thrones- find something that your fresher can show concern over, something that doesn’t spell out ‘homesickness’ but lets them address those feelings in an indirect way.
Say good-bye to looking after them full-time and say hello to looking after yourself for a change!
Back to September. When we’ve helped everyone pack up and go, Hatchling No 3, the fresher, Hatchling No 2, the Erasmus student and Hatchling No 1, off for her Masters course, let’s spend some time and effort looking after ourselves and our partners. I hope this year I can control my inner Miss Havisham hanging about in their empty bedrooms, and focus on my hellos!