Empty nest syndrome sets in...

Now that our older two have completed the ‘involuntary’ part of their formal education, the hubby and I are facing the reality that sooner rather than later, we will be saying goodbye and best wishes to them as they take one more step towards independence (do children ever gain full independence from their parents? I’m thinking of the many times my mother’s grown children visit her to inform or sometimes even ask about a major decision in their lives).

I say involuntary because from the moment our young ones started going to school until this point, there has been an unspoken expectation of what they should be doing. I can’t remember ever sitting down with them and asking, “Would you like to go to school?” Rather, the discussions have always centred on which schools to attend and which subjects to study.

Now they are entering the ‘real’ world of work and bills and taxes, and they’ll be free to add anything they wish to their education. This time though, the responsibility will be squarely on their shoulders. This is also a time when the hubby and I get to test all the informal education we gave them at home – the spankings, scoldings, advice, adventures… will it hold up? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I can only wonder – where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday when we were taking photos (with real cameras) of them on their very first day of school. When it was time to pick our oldest from kindergarten on day one, he actually ran and hid, believing we had come to spoil his fun. He only came out when the teacher assured him he could return the next day. I don’t think he had ever played so much in his young life.

I remember the hubby and I going for our first parent-teacher meeting to get a progress report on how the boy was doing. As we squeezed into the tiny seats to wait for him, we had a chance to look through his books. It was his ‘art’ that got our attention – it looked like angry scribbling with every colour of the rainbow and we were rather worried about the report we would get. But the teacher had nothing but praise for the pictures! She said that was normal for little children. Thank God for early childhood education teachers.

Then our older girl started going to school and before long, their sister began walking around the house with a bag strapped to her back and insisting she too wanted to go to school. Today she moans about how long the school terms are and how fast the holidays go.

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There was a time when my days revolved around the school run every morning and evening. It seemed endless – the school meetings, sports days, concerts, prize days; buying break-time snacks, uniforms and books; replacing lost items after letting the culprits suffer a little while for their carelessness…

As they grew older, the time came for us to call on relatives and friends who could help with some workplace experience. During one long holiday, our older girl got a job in a bakery that required taking two matatus both ways. So one day we went together so she could learn how to make the connections. On the way I warned her to always look out for landmarks that could help her find her way in the event the unpredictable matatus changed their regular routes in efforts to beat traffic or avoid the police.

Sure enough, a few days later she came home and said the matatu had done just that but she had somehow managed to find her way to the correct stage. Another day she came and shocked us with a story of how she angrily chased after a tout who took off with her change. After those two experiences I was sure she would be fine.

Right now as I contemplate their departure, I realise I’ll have to get used to having fewer hands and feet to run my errands around the house. However, I plan to make the most of our youngest’s presence before she too, leaves us to make her own way in the world.

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