Sunday, 25 May 2008

When parents have to let go (or ‘Yahoo! They’ve gone!’)

My 18-year-old son has been extremely tardy about getting his driver’s licence, and this isn’t only because he’s disastrously short on memory and astonishingly disorganised (but he’s a very nice chap too). It’s because he’s a genius and for this reason he thought he wouldn’t have to study for the learner’s test – he assumed the answers would be self-explanatory, and was all agog when he failed not once, not twice, but three times! (This, in my experience, is a record.)

The fourth time he sat the learner’s test I threatened him with grievous bodily harm should he fail. He has a black belt in karate so perhaps that was a bit ambitious of me, but as parents we sometimes have to make sacrifices. Anyway, it worked: apparently I scared him into finally passing.

Now we have ahead of us several months of gear-grinding driving lessons, plus a few more of practice, before he sits his actual driver’s test.

I relate this sorry saga for two reasons: one, because I yearn for the day that someone else in this household is legally and physically able to share the driving; and two, because it will be another step on the road to my children’s independence.

Although I know we should never say ‘never’, I doubt I’ll be one of those moms who experience empty-nest syndrome. My own mother had it – I clearly recall my father phoning me, after the fourth and last of us had flown the coop, to tell me, in some despair, that she ‘won’t stop vacuuming’.

My poor mom, having spent about 30 years of her life as a full-time mother – an extremely busy, sometimes very stressful, nonstop-go job, as any parent will tell you – simply didn’t know how to fill all the hours in the day (and night) once her kids had left. (A few months later, once she’d vacuumed every single square millimetre of every single room in the house, she threw herself into charity work, and she contributed cheerfully and energetically in this way practically until the day she died.)

I, on the other hand, was horrified when my son was recently asked by a friend if he was looking forward to leaving home, and he answered, ‘I don’t think I will. I have everything I need here. There’s no reason to move out.’

I bit my tongue, although I dearly wanted to shout, ‘There is! There is!’ My reasons include (this is not a comprehensive list): being able to open a bar of chocolate without my bat-eared offspring hearing the rustling and rushing through to claim some of it for themselves; having a weekend that doesn’t involve six loads of washing (because school clothes have to be laundered by Monday morning); not caring if there’s no bread or milk in the fridge (I eat/drink neither); in fact, having only ‘treats’ in the fridge, and knowing they’ll last there longer than 10 minutes; doing a grocery shop that comes to less than R2 000; not having to drive anywhere that isn’t for my own benefit; knowing at all times where my clothes, makeup and jewellery are (ie, not in my teenage daughter’s room or on her body); not having to stay awake and/or sober on a Saturday night to fetch a child from a party in the wee hours; in fact, being able to arrange my social life as I like, rather than around the social lives of my teenagers; not having to work all the hours god gave me and then some, in order to throw money into the bottomless pit that is school fees and the like; having enough moolah over at the end of the month to buy myself a new pair of shoes; and, of course, being able to have sex anywhere/when other than in the bedroom, under the duvet, after the kids have gone to sleep, very quietly and with the lights off.

And if you’re wondering if, when my kids finally leave home, I will live in slovenliness, be constantly drunk and/or having noisy daylight sex, and eat only chocolate, the answer is yes. I can hardly wait.

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Juno said...

Oh, you write so wonderfully, Mur. And you incorrigible old optimist - I am sure you'll miss them terribly when (if) they leave home. Okay, I'm not saying you're going to start vacuuming or anything, but I am willing to bet you a whole case of gin that your house is going to be so quiet and orderly that it will develop its own powerful magnetic field. You will wake up one morning and have to use a crowbar to prise all injured dogs, abused cats and hungry human strays
off the walls of your house. And then you will invite them in.

tonypark said...

I won't say "this is why we didn't have kids." More like... "this is why I am so very pleased we never had kids".