The other day, The Teenager was fiddling around with his phone, sighing loudly.
Nothing new there, but this went on and on and I was trying to rewire a plug. With MS hands.
Eventually I chucked the screwdriver down and said, ‘What? What?’
He looked up. ‘Oh, I’m just writing a packing list for Uni. How many pairs of jeans do you think I’ll need? Should I sell my X-Box or keep it?’
Right. Of course.
Through gritted teeth I said, ‘You won’t be starting Uni until 2017. The end of 2017.’
‘Yeah, I know, like, durr.’
‘Sooooo? It’s like, almost two years away?’
‘Mum, would you stop saying ‘like‘, it’s like, sad, y’know?’
I sulked for a couple of minutes as I’m so grown-up, then asked him what the urgency was.
He laid his phone down gently, gave it a little stroke and turned towards me before saying, ‘Mum. I’ve read about this EmptyNesty Syndrome. Do you think perhaps you might have this? Would you like to talk about it?’
I knew it was a mistake for him to study psychology at A level.
Later on that evening, I had a think. I’ve always prided myself on encouraging The Teenager to get out into the world, explore, make mistakes, learn from them. When I was 17, I backpacked round Norway and Scotland for six weeks by myself and I wanted to pass this sense of adventure on to him.
Even though MS has been a feature of his life from the age of 11, I’ve tried my utmost to ensure it hasn’t impinged on it to any lasting degree. I hope he’s gained an appreciation of what it’s like to live with a life-changing event but also to turn it around and make the best of it.
So do I have ‘EmptyNesty Syndrome’? Two years early? I doubt it. Of course, it will be weird living on my own, in any capacity, but I’ll adjust. Life will re-shape itself to accommodate a new way of living and I will be bursting with pride as The Teenager takes his first tentative steps into adulthood.
Now that he can be left on his own for a few hours without setting fire to the house or advertising a party on Facebook, I’ve enjoyed going out with friends, expanding my horizons once more. Last week I went to an open-mic poetry session, next week I’m going to an ‘experimental evening of visual and performance art’ and am in the throes of deciding which scarf and jewellery to wear.
For both of us, life will open up in new ways; I will buy more scarves and he will finally understand that clean clothes don’t magically appear in his bedroom. Result.