I am sorry to disappoint anybody coming to this post hoping for a tribute to the rather wonderful Gary Barlow and his backing singers, *hears hisses and ducks missiles from Take That fans everywhere*, but this is actually a post I decided to write rather late in the day for the Sleep is for the Weak writing workshop. The topic this week is ‘change’, and we are encouraged to write to raise awareness of the ‘Press for Change’ campaign, which seeks a commitment from Nick Clegg and the coalition government to work to reduce levels of child mortality in developing countries.
So, I have decided to write on a subject close to my heart and express my feelings on the changes our family is experiencing September 2010. They are all natural, positive developments in the calendar of child-rearing but for me they are highlighting how far one’s own life moves into the slow lane for a time as children rush to adulthood and eventually leave you far behind.
The son I gave birth to 19 years ago has grown into a fine young man, who in two weeks time starts at Keele University. I am busy thinking about all the things he will need to sleep, eat and work comfortably in his new environment – looking in catalogues at £4 kettles and wondering whether I ought to get him new duvet covers. I should know better, he may very well fail to change his bedding all term and a £4 kettle could fuse the halls of residence but this nesting on his behalf is my way of coping with the physical distance his move will put between us and the knowledge I have that if things go wrong it is not me he will turn to for help first.
Another change took place earlier this week when my daughter, just 16, started at 6th Form College, a sort of half way house between school and university that I never experienced, having to stay in the same school for A levels. We had the same teachers and the same sense of conformity to school discipline that young people in Somerset can avoid. Lessons are now ‘optional but recommended’ and there is a Costa Coffee instead of a canteen. For fifteen years the pattern of my day was set by the need to get one or both of my children to and from school; now my daughter has a bus pass and I must find another way to establish routine into my home-working day.
I have always felt sure that as a woman I had moved on from the attitudes of my mother’s generation. The devotion to home and family to the exclusion of all sense of personal identity was not for me. However, it turns out that there is something in me that needs to be needed after all, and this makes the changes I am experiencing this month all the more difficult to deal with. I cannot say that having my children has stopped me achieving all I wanted to achieve: if I have thus far failed it is all my responsibility not theirs. I cannot say that if only things had been different we would have more money and be living in the house of our dreams, taking foreign holidays three times a year: my husband and I know in our hearts that if there is a bad financial decision to be made we will make it.
And I definitely cannot say that changes to the way we live our lives as a family will not affect me as a person: I have to move with the flow of the natural way of things.
But will they change me? I don’t think so. Wherever you go, whoever you are with, you have taken yourself with you. It is for me now to find the place my ‘self’ is most comfortable, and this month marks the start of that challenge.
Press the button – Press for Change.