As the last of Bekah Legg’s children fly the nest, she reflects on the excitement and heartache involved when our children head off to university
Last weekend, my husband and I took our youngest two daughters to university: one in Bournemouth, the other in Manchester. I had become a planning ninja, spending weeks working out the best way to get all their gear to opposite ends of the country at the same time, sorting doctors’ surgeries, paying deposits and setting up student bank accounts. I was all over it.
I even planned a week of things I’d never have done if they were home to enjoy after they were gone, including overnights in London with work and a weekend visiting my best friend. I was positively excited…
The end of an era
Then the promo clip for Strictly came on towards the end of August and an enormous sob took me by complete surprise. It wasn’t the music, the spangles or even Dan Walker’s attempt at a shimmy. It was the realisation that I’d be watching it alone this year.
I’m not even a super fan, but it’s part of a family ritual. My husband often works away at weekends, so the girls and I get a takeaway and eat it on our laps while watching the show. It’s one of those things that signifies a change of season. The nights are drawing in, dad’s away and we’re snuggled up with the curtains drawn, watching the show. Or at least we were.
For 20 years, my life has revolved around these girls, so the level of emotion probably shouldn’t have caught me by surprise. But it did.
I’ve raised my girls to be strong, independent women. I’ve dreamed of what they will become, what they’ll do and how they’ll change the world. I’ve worked so hard to build resilience in them, help them overcome anxiety and learn how to look after themselves. I’ve been preparing for this moment for their entire lives. But now it’s here, it’s awful. I can almost feel the hole in my heart.
No news is good news
Yet I’m so proud of who they’ve become, what they’ve achieved and how they’re coping. I’m biased, but they’re brilliant. And I’m excited to hear about their adventures. I spend all day wondering what they’re doing and who they’ve met. I’m desperate to hear what they’ve learned and cooked, and how they slept. It’s possibly the most confusing mix of emotions I have felt in my life. Bittersweet suddenly has a whole new meaning for me.
It’s tempting to text them endlessly to hear all their news and check they’re OK, but I’m swiftly learning not only that it would be seriously uncool, but that no news is good news. I hear from them when they’re homesick, sad, hungry or overwhelmed. When they’re happy, excited, busy and thriving they forget to tell me. A wise person once said, “You’re only as OK as your least OK child.” They’re totally right! But once your children leave home, knowing how OK they really are is a challenging. But no news is good news…I’m holding on to that.
I’m trying to focus on the excitement, and the things I can now do that I couldn’t do before – like spending time alone with my husband. We got married 13 years ago and took our combined six children on honeymoon with us! It’s never been just the two of us for more than a couple of nights. It should be fun, but if I’m honest I’m a little apprehensive. I’m slightly concerned we won’t have anything to talk about.
The hole in our hearts needs filling, but we need to watch what we fill it with. It would be incredibly easy to become ships in the night, so we’ve planned one date night a week – one where we actually talk! We’ve agreed to run an Alpha course at church, partly so we have a project together (something to talk about).
We’re celebrating freedom, tidiness and the dramatic drop in utility bills. But we’re always ready for the phone calls and can’t wait for our girls to pop home.