I’ve read somewhere that swans are partners for life. I toss a few more pieces of buttered toast into the water. They calmly accept my gift, causing very few ripples. A few weeks ago, I was bringing food for five signets, gliding around with their dedicated parents. I guess they have flown off to look for permanent partners. The deserted adults don’t appear too distressed about their offspring’s departure. In fact, they seem very much at peace.
All I can say is, ‘that’s definitely not how I feel’.
When Mandy announced that she was getting married and going to live ‘down south’, I was genuinely happy for her. Her husband to be was, I have to admit, ‘alright’. For such a young girl, she had made a wise choice. Hopefully, they would manage to stay together forever. I believed I had protected her from the major disturbances we had experienced in our own family life. I trusted that the love I had smothered her with, was deep and dense enough to form a protective layer that would last a lifetime.
For several weeks we planned and prepared everything for her move. We loved working together on this project. Shopping and packing kept our minds occupied. The ultimate distraction.
When the moving day came, she departed as a confident, happy teenager.
My focus, on ensuring that Mandy could step into a new future, had been fruitful. As I waved at the retreating car, I felt reassured that I’d been the perfect mother and had done all I could.
But, it turned out there was one area in which I’d completely failed. An aspect I had totally overlooked. It didn’t hit me until later that evening, when I closed the front-room curtains and made my way upstairs. There was nobody to say ‘goodnight’ to. I was alone and had no idea how I would cope with that realisation. Blame rested solely on my shoulders; I had forgotten to consider my own mental health, while so busy preparing my daughter.
It has been months now, yet I still struggle being by myself. Every time I push open her bedroom door, I notice that nothing has changed. There’s a disappointment, a sadness. I carry the weight of emptiness.
The house is so quiet. The silence is at its loudest when I am sitting at the kitchen table, set for one. Occasionally I speak out, but never hear a warm, comforting response.
Now, I only feel at ease when I am perched on this old park bench, next to the community pond, feeding the swans. Mothering them with far too much food and attention.
Next year they will have a new brood, floating around them.
Another chance to perfect their parenting skills.
Another chance to be a family.
Another chance to prepare for that moment, when their signets leave them behind.
Another chance; something I won’t ever get.
Winner, Mums’ Stories