Well, bloggers, it’s not quite six in the morning here, far too early to be posting, far too early for me usually to be thinking, but we had what you might call a rude awakening at four. You may recall my son was going away with his school to Spain? Alas, we thought he was leaving at four in the morning tomorrow, but it turned out to be today. Funnily enough I was already awake when the phone rang downstairs. I’d been dreaming that I was trying to date three men across the space of the same evening and they were all getting fed up with me as I ran backwards and forwards between them, scattering excuses. The relief of waking up was short-lived, however, when I heard the phone and wondered who on earth it could be. I didn’t get downstairs in time to answer it, but no message was left, and so I stood there, dawdling in the half-light, wondering what to do when my husband appeared and started cursing. He’d figured it out. Anyway, half an hour later my son was up and packed and the two of them set off to catch the school coach at the airport.
It’s funny what goes through your mind. I kept thinking, this is a whole day too early, I was going to have another whole day with him before he left. It wasn’t the fact of being materially unprepared that bothered me (in fact I had started to get his things ready the previous evening, by chance); it was the lack of emotional preparation, although of course I wonder whether I would ever have reached a state I could have called readiness. I’ve always been fond of Joanna Trollope’s line: Men love women, women love children, children love hamsters. I thought I was a good, restrained mother, giving my son a cheery wave goodbye as he left the house, ignoring me but taking special care to greet both the cats who had assembled with some surprise in the garden, clueless as to what was going on, but obviously feeling pretty optimistic about the prospect of an early breakfast. Once the boys had gone I wondered whether it was possible for a middle-aged Englishwoman to keen at her kitchen cupboards as if they were a wailing wall. I tried to make a few deals with any freelance deities up and about at that hour to bring my son home safely, regardless of any personal cost to me. And then I came and turned the computer on and wandered around the blogworld, which is of course what Demeter would sensibly have done, had the internet existed in Ancient Greece, seeing whether any of my blogging friends were having conversations with me. A special thank you to all of you who (by chance) were; I appreciated the comfort of your voices while you were sleeping.
Oh, separation. It has to be done. But it seems so strange that one gives birth to a baby who, for the next seven years is so deeply entangled with you, so meshed into your being, so needy, so demanding, that many a day you long for just ten minutes of complete peace, only for the tide to turn at some imperceptible point. Gradually the realisation dawns that you are the needy one, the one hanging around for a few crumbs of attention, for the pleasure of being able to serve or provide. It’s like that horrible moment in an adult relationship when it comes to your attention that the person who used to love you is now still fond, but distant, engaged elsewhere, busy with other things. And as far as children are concerned, it is both natural and essential; oddly enough it’s not personal in that way. He can’t grow up to be himself if I’m still hanging around keeping him tied to me, importuning his freedom to want other things. And yes, it’s only a week, so I’m making a lot of fuss about nothing, right? it’s not like he’s moved out all of a sudden. So I’ll practice letting go, but I’ll miss him terribly, and it will be our secret.