Aideen Glynn’s weekly column as published in the Waterford News & Star Well! magazine
AND so it begins. The bus pulls out of the station, quietly leaving the city behind. I watch it long after it has disappeared from view, my eyes focused on the empty space, my mind full of all the little things I forgot to say. For it’s hard to pack a whole week into a single weekend. It’s hard to remember the little things as you try to live in the moment, the precious and short-lived moment that is the weekend with a college student.
Weekends used to be time to relax, a time to catch up with shopping, laundry or housework. Also a time to meet up with friends and family, enjoy a trip to the cinema or theatre or maybe venture out to a restaurant. For the teenagers it was always a time to do homework, catch up on schoolwork, play matches and also meet up with friends.
Now all the mundane tasks are being squeezed into midweek chores in order to free up precious time to spend with the student who is travelling home on a Friday and disappearing again on a Sunday. For many of us who have a Monday to Friday working week, the Sunday night blues have regularly been a real thing. But now I understand what that really means. The house can be full with people, the noise levels can be raised and the other children demanding, but there is always an empty place where the missing one should be. There’s an extra chair at the dinner table. There’s food in the fridge like never before and there’s only one pile of muddy rugby gear to keep up with.
‘He has the confidence and the self-assurance to cope away from the comfort of his home and that means we have done a good job… it also just means that time together at Christmas will be all the more precious and dear’
The house seems quieter, the rooms seem bigger and the week feels twice as long. For now five have become four and, although we encouraged him to go, we supported his efforts and highlighted all the opportunities, it is still hard to be the ones left behind.
For we are no longer part of his day to day world. He has a life outside of us now with people we haven’t met, and places we haven’t seen. He is spreading his wings as we always wanted him to do. He is dipping his toes into independent adulthood and finding out that he quite likes it and can cope just fine. Which is fantastic. Which is wonderful to hear. But which is also a little poignant.
I was recently using a retractable measuring tape. It has a little mechanism that allows the tape to be pulled out a certain length and returns at the touch of a button. When you first use it, the tape is wound in tightly and returns easily. The longer you have it, the longer and slacker the tape becomes. It pulls out more easily and returns looser and looser each time. Until one day, it comes out all the way and doesn’t return at all. Parenting is a little like that. As the kids get older and more independent of you, the tape measure gets longer and more difficult to retract tightly. Then one day, it comes all the way out and doesn’t return. It remains attached, but is now self-regulating and free. This phase went by so slowly yet seemed to finish in an instant.
He has the confidence and the self-assurance to cope away from the comfort of his home and that means we have done a good job. We are proud and excited for the many things his future holds. Sometimes when things are good they are hard to let go of and sometimes change is hard to accept. But it’s a good thing, it is and it just means that time together at Christmas will be all the more precious and dear. So if I start singing Jingle Bells a little earlier and with a little more enthusiasm this year, you’ll understand… shh Mum’s the Word.