Saturday, 1 November 2014

The loneliness of long distance parenting

It's taken me a good few weeks to ready myself to write this blog post, but after three cups of coffee this morning, and with a belly aching from last night's ill advised Balti, I feel I am ready. So, where to start...? Let's begin mid-September, a sunny day, birds that Whore Kitty had not yet murdered chirping outside, and a whiff of desperation in the air. Why? Because this was the morning when Money Sponge left home.

Left. Home. 

Yes, eldest child, financial vampire, princess pie, and half of my heart, finally flew the nest. I should point out that it was not out of the blue. I was expecting this, had actually had months to prepare for it. Because after a year of hard work, (mostly) last minute revision, and pale-faced muttering, Money Sponge achieved her place at university, and was moving out to begin life as a fresher. She had her room ready in a shared house, we'd purchased sufficient fripperies to furnish it, along with a hybrid bike so that she could cycle the mile each day to campus, and several boxes of food. Because, and I digress here, but Money Sponge for some reason feels ever so slightly panicky when she does not have sufficient food to hand. I've never understood it, because unlike me, she never grew up in a household where food was scarce and you practically sobbed at the sight of a cupcake. Perhaps it is because Money Sponge eats SO MUCH FOOD. For someone who barely weighs in at a hundred pounds when wet, she does not stop eating. In fact, and further digression, our family grocery shopping bill has practically halved since she moved out. I should be saving loads of money, right? Well no, read on...

So, along with the help of some friends of mine and their van, Bee Bee and I dropped Vix off at her shared house, helped sort her new room out, made sure the food was easily to hand, and left her to it. We all cried, well, I say all, Bee Bee was very meh about the whole thing. She did shed a tear on the way home when Hey There, Delilah came on the car stereo, but before and during, her main concern was whether she could smuggle Money Sponge's Xbox into her room, or whether she should simply move into it as she did when Money Sponge was travelling. In fact, the night before when Money Sponge was packing *insert I was doing all the packing* I heard her telling her little sister that under no circumstances was she allowed to move into her room, and Bee Bee responding with:

And...I guess she doesn't anymore, because Money Sponge has moved out, she is a fresher now, and as far as I can tell that consists of drinking copious amounts of vodka, living in a house that is disgustingly filthy (last time I visited the bathroom was bare of toilet roll, soap and a towel, leaving me no choice but to shake and shake again), and walking around, in her words, hanging. She has returned to the family home four times since leaving, once for an entire weekend, usually just for a few hours, and every time she has looked increasingly peakier...and dirtier. Yesterday there were actually stains on her joggers, and when quizzed she admitted she'd been wearing them for two days, had two massive bags of washing, and was probably going to do it, at some point.

It seems that it really is true. Life as a fresher these days is party after party. She made the cheerleading squad, and they had 'inititaion' the other night, and it seemed to consist of going out dressed as racy leopard and drinking so much that she could barely squint her way through the next day. The Greek pointed out his disappointment that she hadn't joined a club a 'proper' club such as the philosophy society, or the physics institute, but in actual fact she did join the history society, and their first outing was...a pub crawl.

Life as a fresher, party, party, party...and money sponging. Because, Vix it seems, is no better able to budget now than she was when she lived at home. Here's the thing, Money Sponge is provided with an allowance every month to cover her rent, bills, food and any other incidentals that she requires. We're two months in and so far, she has NEVER stuck to budget. I said when she moved out that extra funds would only be forthcoming if she provided a business case (via email) explaining why she needed them, and I have yet to see one of those, and so there have been no extra funds provided, and that might explain why she has been coming home for very short visits. Somehow, these visits coincide with a visit to the grocery store, and me paying for her haul. I know, I know, I need to put my foot down...

...but, I miss her, and here we are, at the title of this blog post, the loneliness of long distance parenting...and it is a lonely business. Since Vix moved out I have swung between being so proud that she is at uni, living her life, getting an education, learning new things, to having an aching belly because I miss her so very much. We've spent the last twenty years together, day in, day out, and now there is a Vix sized hole in the house, and it hurts in a way that I both expected and worried about. It's weird, because you know your children are going to leave home one day, but when they're small, and even when they're teenagers, you don't really think about it too much. You work hard to prepare them for the person they need to be when they will eventually leave, and you have a rosy vision in your mind of what it would be like. You'd be besties and meet up for lunch, and share long phone calls and stuff, but in reality that is not what happens. Money Sponge has a full schedule. She has classes every day, all her cheerleading practises, the games where she has to actually wave her pom poms, nights spent with Hank the Hipster, time spent with all the new friends she has made, and the old ones who went with her. There is very little time left over for momsie.

And that is okay!

That is the way it is supposed to be.

Despite wanting to hear her voice, and see her pretty face every day, I make a concerted effort not to call her too often, or tag her in too many Facebook posts, or ask when she is next coming home. Because she has a new home now, and I totally have no intention of working the desperate mom vibe.

Money Sponge has flown the nest, and in all likelihood she is never going to come back. University will be followed by travelling, and then maybe by more study, and work abroad, and a family of her own. The days of dragging her out of bed for school by her ankle, of baking her rainbow cakes that she ate in one sitting, of picking up all the bits she liked during the grocery shop, of braiding her hair, collecting up her dirty pants for laundry, hoovering around her as she watched her shows for hours after hours, of simply holding her as we watched trashy TV together, they are long gone. They are never coming back. So, and the reason I wrote this? To say one thing to you all out there, appreciate your little ones while you have them, because it's an overused phrase, but blink and you'll miss it, and I wouldn't have missed rearing my Money Sponge for anything in the entire world.

Emma x