This is a funny Christmas for me. Just after it, in January my daughter is taking off traveling for months and months and months before going off to university in September. My son is already at university, and is coming home just a couple of days before Christmas because he's working.
Yep, I'm facing the good old 'empty nest' syndrome. And I'm afraid I'm not taking to it very well.
Of course, I want the kids to go off. It's always been part of the parenting contract for me, and I'm lucky I had them so early. Over the last years it's felt that we've grown up together as we've faced misdiagnosed illnesses, disillusionments, pressure, partying, stress, lack of stress, and all the good things too. You name it, we've had it. I certainly haven't raised paragons as children, they're normal human beings and hurrah for that.
But this time of year has brought it home to me that my life isn't going to be the same any more. I love Christmas more than anything, so when I went for a walk recently and looked through lit windows, it physically hurt to see the crayon drawings up on the walls, the cartoons on the television, the climbing frames in gardens everywhere. When I'm out shopping I find myself looking at the latest must-have toy, the tiny little soft dresses and jumpers, the christmas stockings. I'm even contemplating asking to borrow a friend's kids so I can take them on the Santa express.
Don't worry, I am not completely misty eyed. The photograph below was taken on Christmas Eve years ago, after I had spent hours and hours trying to pretend the kids that they had to go to sleep before Santa arrived. Finally, I gave up and went to pour myself a stiff whisky. When I came back, lo and behold, some Christmas magic had taken place! Yes, it's one of my favourite photographs now, but I can remember what went on around it too!
And of course, I'm one of the lucky ones. In so many ways. And there's masses to look forward to. And I'm hardly going to be moping around the whole of next year. Still it does feel as if I've shifted over to another place. I can no longer put up baby buggies for instance - something I used to be furious with my mother about when she never quite managed the knack I had of unfolding a buggy with one hand in two seconds. Buckling up children in car seats makes me cry. And as for the names of all the cartoon characters ... how did I retain such a lot of useless information! I used to know them all, plus their friends. And their friends too.
Actually come to think of it, there are advantages. I no longer have to partake in random exams on all the Pokemon people. Heck, I don't even have to worry about how I can't spell Pokemon.
One thing I remember myself about coming home for Christmas as an adult was having to walk round the house before I could really settle down. I'd complain if a picture had been moved, if my mum hadn't cooked the rock buns she always cooked every year, if a certain decoration wasn't put up where it was always put up. I'd check what she and dad were reading, I'd look at the Christmas cards to make sure I knew who they were from. It was more than petty childishness (although it was a fair amount of that too), it was needing to know that my parents and the house would always be there if I was going to successfully take off myself. The privilege involved in this was something I wasn't aware of at the time. Sheesh, I can still remember the fuss we all made the year Mum idly wondered whether she would cook something different instead of turkey.
So that's my new role. Going nowhere.
Luckily for me, I have the blank page on which to really explore new territories!