Why does no-one tell you?. I was totally unprepared.
We've just taken our eldest boy to his very prestigious university. We couldn’t be more proud. For the last 2 years all our energy has gone into supporting his efforts, helping with preparations for exams, interviews, making sure he hit all the deadlines, helping with his personal statements. He worked so hard. No-one deserved success more than him. Then, offer secured and exams passed. So exciting. Champagne and celebrations. A lovely summer holiday. Lots of high jinx with his friends. Lots of smug boasting to colleagues at work. At last time to go. Deciding what to take; laughing, teasing about cooking and laundry, the price of food. Piling it all into the back of the car and off we go. Picked up his room key, marvelled at his beautiful college grounds. Chatted with the other mums and dads. So proud. So pleased. He was in his element. Glowing with excitement. Wanting us to go so he could dive right in, soak it all up.
Back in the car. Then it hit us. Out of the blue, a stomach churning jolt of dread. What was going on? I hadn't felt this bad since my first proper boyfriend dumped me when I was sixteen. That was it. We'd just said goodbye to our baby. We've done our bit, it's all in his hands now. Half of me was saying 'For Gods sake, get a grip. He'll be back for Christmas in a few weeks. He's only 2 hours away, we can pop down and see him any time we like. We've still got the other boy at home.' But it didn't make any difference. What I was experiencing, what we both were feeling was real grief. I was quite literally bereft. Welcome to Empty Nest Syndrome.
Quite frankly and to my shame, I think part of the problem is pure green-eyed envy. My university years were some of the best years of my life. I enjoyed every minute of them and he's got it all ahead of him. I'm so jealous!
But mostly, I'm in mourning because that time, the years watching him grow, being the most important person in his life is over and however our relationship develops in the future, it will never be the same again and I miss it.