Article by Juliet Young
I am a real Mother-Clucker. The ultimate Queen of the roost. A busy hen fussing and flapping around my two chicks since the day they were born. And that was now over 21 and 18 years ago. How time flies when your baby birds are growing up.
I loathed leaving them for any reason whatsoever so I categorically refused to work when they were babies, causing more than a little concern in the Home Finance Department. But we finally managed to agree that it would cost almost all of my salary to pay for a nanny so I may as well stay at home to look after them. Phewee! The idea of anyone other than their Queen Mother here, kissing their scraped little knees or ruffling their post-nap, tangled hair, seemed totally out of the question. That was my job. All mine. Poor Hubby hardly even had a look-in, I was so overwhelmingly present. He missed out on a lot I think, poor pet.
Our house was, and still is, a permanent cluck of concern:
‘Put on your slippers!’
‘Where’s your woolly hat?’
‘You can’t ride your bike without a helmet’…
They’ve heard the same refrain hundreds of times, over and over, day after day, year after year.
Leaving home for the first time
So imagine my despair two years ago when Em, Baby Bird Senior, left home for the first time. I felt as if the alien which had erupted from Sigourney Weaver’s chest had come back to rip my heart out of mine. And it arrived months before she left, leaning in, gripping hard with its pointy little claws and slowly dragging my heart to a place it had never been before. Woe was me. But woer was my Em.
She knew from the start that she had made the wrong decision, but once the papers were in, there was nothing left for her to do but accept to go to that elitist, French literary boot camp. She realised immediately that she was going to hate it, but couldn’t have imagined just how much.
The sadder she became, the sadder I became. The more she cried, the more I cried – offscreen, after our daily Skype chat which ripped my already bleeding heart into even tinier pieces.
‘Just come home pet. This is not for you’.
So she did. Eight depressing, tear-filled, no-appetite-for-anything weeks later she came back. And we all started smiling again. She found another course to do and took up occupancy once more in our comfortable coop.
My heart got fixed, it went back to its rightful place, and things were fine and dandy for all the family. Of course I wasn’t daft enough to think it would last forever but while it did, I returned to my role of Chief Clucker. And I loved it!
Leaving home second time around
But time moves on and baby birds must eventually learn to fly, so the second time around reared its ugly head way too soon. But this time is different. Em was ready. She really knew what she wanted to do. She was leaving to go somewhere she wanted to go, not somewhere she thought she ought to go. She was older, more mature, more desperate to get away from her pain-in-the bum Mum.
And weirdly I was ready too. Not in any way glad, just ready. I trusted her decision, her effort to achieve her goals, her determination to be who she wants to be.
And the big difference this time is that she is content. She is on a course she loves, living alone in a cute, little, parquet-floored flat, in one of the most central streets in the city. From her front window she sees the cathedral, from the back, the castle. She has friends, she runs, goes to the gym, visits museums, trails around bookstores and takes wonderful skyscape photos. She shops. She cooks. She does the dishes, sometimes. She has her own life. And from what I see and hear, that life is a happy life.
So if she is happy, I am happy.
And that’s what every child who leaves home should know, way beyond any silly mother-clucking nonsense. If it’s the right time, the right place, the right choice, then no matter how empty the nest may feel, if they are happy then we will support them every flap of the way.
But I’m glad nonetheless that Baby Bird Junior is still in the pen. When she goes too, one day soon, I might have another story to tell…
About the author:
Juliet Young is the author of the blog – omgimfifty which she decided to create on turning fifty last year. She describes it as a self-indulgent observation of moments which make her laugh or moments which make her cry at this new stage of life.
Originally from Glasgow, Scotland she now lives in France with her husband and two daughters. She works in an English language school when she is not writing. Her next plan is to start working on a full-length comical book about being married.