So, your kids are off to Uni to live an independent life… just as soon as you wash and iron their clothes so they can pack them writes Australian author Kathy Lette. Because it’s so hard to let go, isn’t it? The psychological umbilical cord is still firmly attached. And is it any wonder? For 18 years you’ve rushed trays up to their bedrooms for nothing more serious than a stubbed toe and clapped them at sports days until your hands bled. You’ve fed then when you were hungry and put them to bed when you were tired.
Kathy Lette centre-right with Natalie Massenet, Erin O'Connor and Joanna Lumley
All this explains why the Empty Nest syndrome so terrorises mothers. If only there were Nicorettes for offspring-addiction – a progeny-patch, which releases small doses of son or daughter into a mother’s system; less and less each day until you’re weaned off your off-spring. Having dispatched two children, let me give you my top tips.
Most kids can’t cook. They use the smoke alarm as a timer. Get at least one or two recipes and make them practice so that they don’t start to think that alcohol is a major food group.
Give a child at least two weeks’ notice before visiting. When I popped in to visit my daughter without warning, a cockroach took my coat and hung it up. Or perhaps it was her boyfriend, who also scuttled into the shadows? Which brings me to -
It’s best to just prepare yourself for the worst. There’s little doubt that your child will have hooked up with someone who will have one of the following distinguishing features - hand-cuff tan marks, a ‘lick me’ tattoo or scars from attempting to scrub the Satanic “666” from his or her forehead. (Don’t fret. Unlike the tattoos, this partner will not be permanent.)
4) BE PREPARED FOR YOUR CHILD’S NEW LOOK
Having always preferred the natural look, your daughter will suddenly be guarding her lip-gloss and eyeliner. And your son is more than likely to have bought a motorbike. (Feel free to weld trainer wheels onto his Harley Davidson.)
Never visit student digs in the morning. If a student ever gets up before lunchtime, locals dial emergency services presuming that his or her mattress must be on fire.
6) BE PREPARED FOR MESS
A student’s flat is so unkempt that guests are inclined to wipe their feet before leaving the flat. The mice will be so depressed by the general filth, they’ll be looking for dental floss to hang themselves.
Resist the temptation to bring your child’s apartment up to health standards. You’ll spend hours scrubbing and throwing out anything from the fridge that moves before you prod it…only to return in a few weeks to find everything in an even worse state.
Don’t ever be tempted to eat anything in a student’s house. The chutney in the fridge will have been bottled during the reign of Henry VIII. The mustard will be date-labeled “When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth.”
9) DON’T FRET
There is an upside to your kids finally flying the nest. Imagine this for a moment – you open your cupboard and your clothes are exactly where you left them. Nor are they reeking of smoke and beer. Your expensive conditioner is not tipped over in the shower, dribbling slowly down the drain. Your hair dryer is where you left it. You open your fridge and there is food. Your purse is full. Your car is where you parked it and actually contains petrol.
10) IT’S GOOD FOR THEM
New research reveals that your average student will pick up 50 vital life skills during the university years, including how to do laundry, make spaghetti bolognese and put together flat-pack furniture without accidentally building themselves into it. Two fifths of students were shocked by how little they knew when they left home. Some revealed that they didn’t even know how to switch on the oven. Understanding the disadvantages of eating mold also appeared on this list of newly learned skills. Which can only lead me to one question – why didn’t we kick our spoilt, molly-coddled kids out sooner?
So, I hope those tips have helped. My final word of advice is - don’t get too used to the solitude. Just when you’ve controlled that quiver of sadness and odd tear every time you walk past their empty bedrooms, they’ll be back. For weekends, summer holidays, term breaks, and with all their laundry in tow. Plus some hideous partner - usually an unkempt ingrate who has the ability to strip mine the weekly food shop….This is an indication that it is now time for YOU to start counting alcohol as a major food group, or perhaps become a mature age student and simply move out of home. Good luck!
Kathy Lette’s latest novel, “Courting Trouble”, is published by Black Swan.