Nothing ever really prepares you for when the children leave home. You bring them up as best you can and prepare them for the world as best you can. But you can never really prepare for that 'goodbye' when they head off into the world by themselves. And none more so than the baby of the house.
As mother to three boys, it was the baby of the house who would tag along with Mum on day's out as he got older. The day's out turned into weekend's away - Dublin being the favourite. It was the baby who grew an avid love affair, like Mum, of coffee shops - hot chocolate being his drink (still is). His favourite spot for drinking hot chocolate was Trinity College square in summer. We would buy our drinks and wander around the college grounds. Then the boy would find a step and watch the world go by as he sipped his hot chocolate.
It was also this boy who accompanied Mum to the theatre. As Dad was never a theatre lover, and his big brothers were more at home on the golf course or football pitch, the baby of the house tagged along to such shows as Making History, A Streetcar Named Desire, Abigail's Party, to name but a few.
This all clearly stood by him as just a couple of years ago when he turned 18, he requested a few days in London (with Mum) and a West End Show. That was an absolute delight to follow through and a very special few days were spent in London with the baby of the house.
During all this time I was aware that these memories were so important to make. One day that baby would no longer be at home tagging along with Mum. And that day arrived just a few weeks ago. I'd known for a number of months that he would be moving out, and thought I was prepared. Alas, nothing prepares you for it.
The said boy had just finished his second year in college. As he's attending a college near home, he lived at home during his time of study. But his third year on his course, is one of placement. Now 20 years of age, he decided it was time to move out and work away from home. As Dublin was a very special place for us as he grew up, I was rather delighted to hear that Dublin would be his first destination for life 'away from home'. Dublin is a city very close to my heart; one which holds very special memories with not only this son, but all three sons, and for us as a family.
I was excited for the child to be preparing for his move. Excited and apprehensive. Apprehensive as I didn't quite know how I'd feel on his departure. But alas I prepared as best I could. I decided I would take a few days also to the 'Fair City' and travelled with the boy to Dublin. Leaving the family home on that Sunday morning, I cried buckets. As I watched the boy hug his Dad goodbye, I burst. He was only going to Dublin, but this was a very emotional morning. I was glad I was driving that day. It meant I had to stay strong and composed. He and his Dad laughed together but I could tell they were both emotional. Mum just carried on crying!
Alas it was one last road-trip for mother and son. We had a lovely day of travelling, chatting and eating. It was nice to see the boy settle in Dublin and start on his new journey. After three days there I said 'Goodbye'. It wasn't as hard as I thought, but it was emotional. As I drove home that Thursday morning it was with teary eyes. But it was also with huge pride in my heart. Proud of the man my little boy has become. Proud that on that morning I took time alone (at the Patrick Kavanagh centre in Inishkeen) to look back over the past 27 years and realise that yes, I've done a good job. I have never been the perfect mother. My boys have never been the perfect boys. But somehow along the way, their dad and I succeeded in raising three independent young men who are now out in the world, fending for themselves. And that I realised is a very big thing to be proud of. There were many challenges along the way, but each one was faced together as a family.
And now it's just me and him. It's time for us to have 'our time'. And that we plan to do. There's a two week holiday coming up. There's nice 'meals out' in the diary. And there's just whatever comes along in that diary too. Being a mum has been one of the hardest roles I've ever carried out. But it's also been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding. And I'm very aware that it's a role one is never done in. But I do think it's important to recognise that the primary job of preparing those kids for the world is complete. Giving those kids their wings is now complete. How they fiy is up to them. But I don't doubt each of them will soar.
And I plan to 'fly' a bit now too with himself. Here's to a whole new chapter. May it be every bit as rewarding as the previous one.