Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Back to school

Oh weirdness incarnate. Two days into the new term and it feels as if the whole axis of my world has shifted. James has moved up to senior school and has started boarding (he’ll do one or two nights a week). In reality, he’s only moved down the road to the big school and is still surrounded by all his old friends. Yet the shift is seismic. He has been desperate to start school all through the holiday and has slid into his new life like an eel sliding into a pool. Not a pause, not a jitter, not a backward glance.

He loves boarding; wants to be there more; wants to immerse himself in this new, more independent life. And I should be glad, I am glad. It’s what I have always wanted – my boy to be his own person; to be free; to fly. But he is changing, it’s inevitable – and I can feel the ties loosening. He phoned me from his dorm room just before lights out and sounded totally different. I could hear his friends in the background, laughing that he was phoning home, that he was saying goodnight to his mother. Bless his soul – I hadn’t asked him to, he didn’t have to - but he did. I could hear the split in his voice – the pretended nonchalance, the little boy sliding away. I am fading into the background. Still loved, still needed, just not so much, not in such a central way. It's right, it's proper but by heck it's unsettling.

It struck me that this is a new start for me as much as for him. For the last twelve years I have not been my own person in any way. I have been Mother – a role, to be honest, I wasn’t ever sure I would fulfil. I’ve never been natural mother material, never felt particularly maternal – I can appreciate babies in an aesthetic way but keep my arms firmly pinned by my sides when they’re around. While loving James was the easiest thing in the entire world, packing away my own needs and desires was harder. To say my career has slid in the last decade is an understatement. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Time flies so fast and it never occurred to me to go down the nanny route. So I scrabbled and made do and had to turn down work that conflicted with mothering (the kiss of death in journalism). And so, here I am, sitting at my desk thinking "now what?"

I can feel, so strongly, that it’s time for a change, for a shift. I need a new start, a new pencil case, a new pair of shiny Clarks T-bar shoes. There’s that whiff of autumn in the air which, for me, is always a kickstart to the psyche. I need to get back in touch with who I am when I’m not being ‘James’ mum’.  I can feel it, like a song whistled quietly into the wind, but can't hear it clearly yet.

I hope, I really hope, that my teenage fiction works out. I love sinking into that wild, hopelessly romantic, endlessly exciting world. And teens seem to adore the book - their enthusiasm and puzzled fury that it's not published is so dear.  I just hope I can find an editor who feels the same way. If not, then I will need to discover something else. All suggestions very welcome...

17 comments:

Sheena Ignatia said...

It's terrifying sometimes when you have the freedom to do whatever you want- which of course we all have anyway, but sometimes we just sort of notice.

How about you sort the loo of doom out for a start and of course keep writing your teen fiction. I love Samael!Just had a nose at 13 year old nephews vampire/ supernatural books but nothing I really fancy reading as much as Samael!

Exmoorjane said...

Ah bless you Sheena! Trouble is that got a chicken and egg situation. Loo of Doom needs cash to get sorted (needs tanking = v expensive)so need book deal before can sort it out (which is all round the wrong way). *garn*

Will always be grateful for your early review of Samael - you were SO spot-on and the changes made all the difference. If it get out there will be partly due to you. :)

Posie Rosie said...

That actually brought a huge tear to my eye, probably because I am a soppy sentimental mum who is also going through the process of watching my kids gradually slide off into their own independent lives, fantastic, but sometimes I look at them and wonder when did it happen? One minute they were small helpless babies and suddenly they are strong independent happy go lucky giants!!. I could so relate to the changes happening in your life....and a time to totally indulge in that wonderful writing talent you have Jane....

Tattie Weasle said...

Jane you are brill and your book will get there. You are SO talented. But although I am way behind you I do know a bit how it feels. Bog Boy stared in Reception on Monday, the house is suddenly bereft of vim and vigour that usually follows him about. I am still someone's Mum not yet let off the leash with one foot in the door of my chosen career firmly there as long as no one pushes the door too much. I am almost more scared that the door will open than if it should ever shut...

patientgardener said...

It is a strange sensation when you realise that you arent needed as much as you were. My two are 19 and 18 and the 18 year old has really grown up over the summer. The tone of our conversations are changing, I dont get asked my permission so much now as consulted on my opinion. I think I would have found it much harder when mine were younger. But if he is happy that is the most important thing and he will be a strong independent person. Your time together with be more important and hopefully more memorable. You should take this opportunity to do some of those things that were awkward when he was at home more. I found when mine no longer needed babysitters that I started to go to art classes and didnt worry about popping out with a friend so much. I think could be hard to adjust to this new phase of your life but you should embrace it.

patsy said...

Oh I so understand Jane. All the same happening here.. The labels, the piles of sports gear, the photos of the dogs(not me) to accompany him...The being politely, but firmly, pushed out of the dorm by a boy keen to get on with his life and not suffer the embarrassment of a mother with her bottom lip quivering in front of his mates.
Leaving the house eerily quiet and the fridge strangely full.
And now, me? What of my professional life that frittered away into laundry baskets, supermarket shopping and touch-line vigils? Was it worth it? Oh so absolutely, yes, no question.

Sessha Batto said...

I feel for you Jane - all of a sudden Lurch towers over me, has taken to condescendingly patting me on the head, and has moved on to high school. When he was young I was too busy working and I missed so much time with him, now that I have the time it seems he's outgrown hanging out with Mom.

I guess it's time for me to move on to being mother to my stories . . . but I'm not ready (are we ever ready to let our children grow up and move on?)

rachel said...

That certainly brought it all back, Jane, but I should add that some of those feelings remain even when one's boy turns 38...... You've done your job well - sounds as though James can move securely into his new life stage.

I'd say take your time, settle gently into this new phase, and it will all work out beautifully if you don't try to force it. Perhaps something surprising will emerge in time!

GoldenGirl said...

It's certainly hard as your children gradually become more independent. I always know if No1 is alone when he's talking to me on the phone, he will blow me a kiss when he says goodbye if there's no-one else around!
For the first time this year my time off with them in the summer holidays was spent just chauffering them around, rather than actually spending the days with them

Dragonfly Dreams said...

*Sigh* I can remember "the" moment when it all hit me that my eldest was soon to be gone from home. I was sitting in traffic waiting to make a left hand turn. I can't explain the desolation I suddenly felt but do remember crying like a baby while I made that turn. The good news is, dear Jane, is that they will always say, "I love you, Mom" when they leave (each and every time). Hugs from Colorado!

legend in his own lunchtime said...

As a late starter, my son is just beginning first grade (6). The little toad is just starting to exert his independance and didn't even look back at his poor blubbering Daddy as the bus pulled away from the curb. I think it was TS Eliot that said " I kiss you now but I must own, I'll miss you when your grown."
I hope your trip up North was wonderful.

toady said...

Been there but be assured you'll always be Mum even if you're not Mummy any more, if you see what I mean.
Thanks for getting in touch via blog. We never did have that coffee did we?

Cait O'Connor said...

Good luck with the book. I always get this wanting to start something new feeling at this time of year.

Frances said...

Hello to you, Jane, and thanks for visiting over my way.

You know I've not got any children, but as I was reading this beautifully considered and written post, I kept hearing that old Stones tune, "loves love and not fade away, loves love and not fade away." Etc.

You've got a dear boy, and James has got a dear mom.

Bit of a switch, yet maybe not. A rather famous mom and daughter came to the shop last week. (I will send you an e-mail re id.) I was so warmed by how this duo related to each other.

And...I am just over 120 pages into the newest David Mitchell. I would like to stay home from work and read, drink tea, perhaps take a few breaks to draw and crochet, and walk in the park. This alternate universe will not develop.

xo

Erica said...

Great post Jane, you've managed to articulate the way I've been feeling in a way that I never could.

Good luck with the book, and the new you too :)

Chris Stovell said...

Lucky James to have a mum who gives him the right to be his own person. Too many mothers hold on too tight for too long - if you love them, let them go. And you have. Good luck with your young adult novels.

Exmoorjane said...

Aww, thank you all SO much. Feel quite teary reading your responses actually... xxxxx