Empty nest vs full nest
Our children have long since left home. That means we welcome them back with immense pleasure at Christmas and at other times when they zoom through; otherwise we use their rooms for visitors and a place to do the ironing (me) or hang out the shirts (him).
But for the next two weeks the nest will be unusually full again.
The daughter is stopping off in Cambridge, for a bit, before going to South Sudan for a year for her PhD research (starting with a crash course in Dinka in Juba....she has been learning as much as she can in the UK with some great teachers in North London, but if you want an organised course, then it's in Juba).
The son is coming back from Cairo tomorrow, where he has been doing Arabic for a year -- hopefully going to the US next year. His course in Egyot ended a few weeks ago and, since then, he has been doing photos for friends and translation for this website (and some great translation from Horace to English if anyone is interested). He is well open to offers, I should say, for any Arabic/English work this summer...
But what about the full nest?
Well -- it's actually wonderful. If you ask me the best bit of parenting is when you have grown up kids who beam down and tell you when you are being stupid/ ridiculously self-effacing/ priggishly martyring... It beats GCSE revision any day, or even those memorable Easter egg hunts (but thank you Sue for those.. I dont think any could have been more memorable).
All the same, there is still a bit of a generational conflict. Mostly about the washing up -- and I should say a long inherited one. When I was in my late teens/ early 20s I often used to fetch up at my mother's place and work there. The day was a succession of books of Virgil and cups of coffee, and the dead cups ended up in various nooks and crannies all over the house ..and all ready to be washed up. She would come home, I vividly recall, and moan very tediously about the mess.
Why, I could never understand. I was seriously intending to wash them up; and did it really matter exactly when...?
Aged 20 I could never quite understand why she got so pissed off.
Aged 50 + I find that I want to berate my own kids for the bloody mess... and for the sheer irritation of it, even if you know that they will clear it up LATER. Somehow when you're 50+ "later" is never quite good enough.. and you scurry around in martyr-mode...
But .. actually I am SO pleased to have them back for a bit, that I will forgive almost anything. ALMOST.
Meanwhile I reflect on all the ways I vowed that I would never be like my Mum, and now (of course) am. Coffee cups apart, the other big one is the capacious handbag in which I, like she, rattle around trying to find the fiver to pay the cab driver...My kids (and indeed husband) shrink with embarrassment at this perfoemance. Like mother, like daughter. Oh dear.