Leaving home

When a child moves out it can change the family dynamics.


It’s the mid holidays and the laughing at back to school sections in the supermarket – which appeared before they’d even started the holidays – has stopped. People are already thinking about the big return, if they’re not terrified by the GCSE results. All the messages from the school about ‘life chances’ being fatally damaged if they don’t study, study, study have done their damage. Daughter two is now worried her life is over before it has even really begun.

Although parents are told to back up the messages from school, in my experience the opposite is required. People get past the GCSEs, not all of them get 9s or whatever. The world continues to turn. I have even started being optimistic about politics, albeit through taking a very long-term perspective. The short term outlook continues to be very, very bad. Unfortunately, the optimistic long term perspective doesn’t work for climate change…

Meanwhile, daughter one is about to start university. It’s a big step and I’m not sure I’m ready for it. I feel I need more time. In theory, I’ve had 19 years to prepare, but it seems to be all coming too quickly in this final strait. I was talking about it with only son the other day. It will change the family dynamics and daughter one will miss only son desperately. His first comment was ‘will she still have access to Netflix?’. We only have one login and daughter one has spent the summer catching up on every season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Only son followed up with ‘how do we get her off it if she is far away?’

Daughter three, meanwhile, has been eyeing up daughter one’s room. She is in a very tiny room with not much light and very little space after she and only son – who were sharing – came to blows. Only son now has the largest room in the house and he is really enjoying it. He plays skittles with his teddies down the whole length of the room. “If I move back in with him, he will rip up my BTS stuff,” said daughter three mournfully. Her BTS stuff takes up her entire room.

I, for one, will miss daughter one tremendously. I feel we should mark her leaving somehow, but not in a way that makes it seem too final because who knows what will happen in the future. My brother didn’t really leave home till he was in his 30’s. When he did, though, he left the country and is now on the other side of the world.

When daughter one was a baby, she would cry every time I was more than a foot away from her. I ended up carrying her everywhere in a baby carrier. I’m not sure if it was the birth thing – I had a placental abruption and we only got to the hospital in the nick of time – or something else. Who knows? I just remember waking up from the anaesthetic in the night and she was crying a lot. The nurse put her in my bed, propped up, and we just looked at each other. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, part of me and yet completely separate, her own person from day one.

Given all the uncertainty around at the moment, it feels like a time to keep the family close, but they have to grow up and explore and face all that is to come.

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