I say goodbye to my husband and boys as I leave the beach an hour earlier to get a head start on the packing.
It’s our final few hours of our summer holiday and as I head off on my bike I watch my two boys playing in the sea their shadows silhouetted against the setting sun.
I am choked by the emotion I feel and my tears start to flow, feelings of love, tenderness, loss, at the same time a vice like pain in my chest and a sense of overwhelming inevitability.
What on earth has made me feel like this?
‘I can’t wait for them to go back to school’, breathed one friend recently and I have to admit there were many times this summer when I uttered the same words.
‘Why is the summer holiday so long?’ another friend remarked, tired with her children always being bored.
I am grateful for the summer holidays, although I still have to work I get time to spend time with the boys without the busy school schedule, school runs and after school activities.
GCSE and A level results are out and many parents including my friends are facing up to the prospect that their 18 year olds will be leaving home.
They are on the precipice of adulthood and it’s the moment every mother dreads, your first born taking the first real adult steps into the world and then they stop needing you.
That long and lingering final hug, the tears and the fears, all the emotions welling up inside.
Last year I wrote about the empty nest syndrome whilst I am three years away from facing that emotional roller coaster ride, I can’t help but feel empathy for parents who are facing up to the reality that their eldest are leaving home.
September sees the start of the GCSE challenge and I am worried that in this important academic year, a year that could change his destiny, it will be my anxiety that will dominate the relationship I have with my son.
All the conversations are likely to focus on what he should be doing, has the homework been done, will the coursework be finished and submitted on time, will the revision and planning be enough, what grades will he eventually get?
I am under no illusion that the year will focus on the end goal, the final results. There will be much to discuss and organise and I fear little time to spend as mother and son.
There are still things left to do that I desperately want my son to see and enjoy; like plan a trip to New York, go to Disneyland in Florida, see a band in concert all before he departs and leaves for good.
All of which cost a small fortune but they are things on my to do list, trips I want to do as a family of four and when I’ve done
it I will feel that I have given my kids a rounded education.
My younger son knows the importance of this year and when I mentioned that his big brother has only three years of school before leaving and then four will become three, I noticed how he bit his lower lip as he fought back tears.
In spite of their arguments I know they do love each other and the dynamic of the whole family will change when the other leaves. It has to and it can’t and won’t feel the same.
This raises a new issue when it comes to holidays. Will my younger son want a friend to come on holiday? How will he feel being on his own when we go away?
There will be an empty chair at the dinner table and an unbearable silence in the house.
This year is important not just because it’s exam year but it is likely to be the last year we spend as a family unit, just the four of us.
When the exams are over he will want to go out with his friends, girlfriends and party and will spend less time with his family. The transition from a teenager to young man will be complete.
I still have things I need to share with him, experiences that might help him later in life like the adult sex talk, the one I remember having countless times with my mum.
And whilst I talk openly about ‘things’ he giggles and says ‘Mum, I’m busy, I know all about it mum’.
I worry that the time will ebb away before we say the things we should have said but didn’t. Will he be ready for his entry into the world as a man to take on life’s challenges?
All of this I see as my job as a parent and mother to impart wisdom and knowledge.
At the same time I’m reassured by friends who tell me ‘they know, you don’t need to worry, they know a lot more than we ever did, and we managed’.
I see our roles changing. I will become less significant in his life, whilst his life and what he does will be even more important to me.
I will still be Mum but, I also want to be his friend, counsellor and confidante. Do I ask him each night how school is and how he feels, does he need help with anything or do I wait for him to come to me?
Should I ask where he is going, what he gets up to, who are his friends and girlfriends and is he really okay? Just so he knows we all care and love him.
As heart breaking as it is, parents raise their children and prepare them to leave the family home. They have to assert their independence and make a life for themselves it is part of growing up.
A baby chick is encouraged to fly by it’s mother and as parents we have to do the same with our children, encourage them to spread their wings and learn to fly and stand on their own two feet.
Although I have three years before my eldest son leaves, I am already experiencing the feelings of the pain and loss associated with empty nest syndrome.
As a mother I never thought it would be so hard and hurt so much as this.