updated 14 Dec 2010, 20:02
user id password
Mon, Dec 13, 2010
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
When a chick leaves the nest...
by Clara Chow

I GOT an early taste of empty nest syndrome last week.

My son Julian packed his pillow, a change of clothes in a white shopping tote, and some library books - and decided he was not coming home.

For days, I would call to diplomatically ask if he was ready to come home.

"Tomorrow," he would promise.

But when tomorrow came, he would stall for time, and say "tomorrow" again.

To my crazy, paranoid-mummy mind, it was as though my four-going-on-five year old had moved out.

In fact, he had just gone to stay at his paternal grandparents' house.

"Goodbye, be good," I said to him when I took him there, with a mix of apprehension and uncontrollable glee bubbling under the surface.

I scrubbed his feather-like hair with my palm. He gave me a cursory nod, while eating his peanut-butter toast on his grandparents' couch, like a little Roman Emperor.

Then, the Supportive Spouse and I left and did a few victory laps in our car, barely believing our newfound freedom from our demanding, chatterbox elder son.

Our younger one, Lucien, looked around a little confused, wondering why his mum and dad were cackling, breaking out the champagne and giving each other high fives.

(Okay, it didn't happen quite like that. The drive back to our own home was a peaceful affair, without Julian constantly badgering us to play his CDs and giving me road directions.)

Then, reality bit.

Back home, watching television happily with our now-only child Lucien, I kept whispering to the SS: "What do you think Julian is doing now?"

That night, I got a little lost in our too-big-now king-sized bed. I kept waking up every few hours, wondering why there was no small boy kicking or squeezing me to the edge.

The SS, in contrast, slept very well. Not having to attend to midnight nosebleeds and bed-wetting can do that for you.

And so it went, for the first couple of surreal days.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy Julian's absence. We managed to get some serious bonding done with Lucien, who amused us to no end with his antics when Big Brother was not around to clamour for our attention.

And I had time to download a gazillion iPad apps, thanks to the sudden surfeit of leisure time, converted from Julian attending mum-hours.

But, by the third night without him, I was getting withdrawal symptoms.

We even resorted to Skypeing Julian, as though he had gone overseas on some business trip, and we were the ones left at home like yearning kids.

He refused to come to the webcam. Instead, we could hear him yelling and flapping around off-camera, obviously having a whale of a time. It was only when we presented Lucien to the screen that Julian deigned to give us an audience.

"I'm coming home tomorrow," he promised his adoring subjects, once again. And like faithful serfs, we believed him.

The next night, the imperial edict came down that His Majesty couldn't come home yet, because it was raining.

So we waited.

I posted how my nest was half empty on Facebook - because I was that free.

"Go watch some B-movies," a friend suggested in a comment.

Been there, done that.

"Just imagine how worried you'd be next time when he's a teenager staying away from home," commented another, not exactly helping.

"Payback time for all the sleepless nights I caused my own mother as a teenager," I dourly posted back.

To cut a long story short, Julian did come home eventually.

The royal subjects rejoiced and declared it a public-holiday weekend.

"What did you do at Mama and Yeh Yeh's house?" I asked him when he was back.

"I played, ate one hundred satays, and I helped to do the housework," came the slick reply.

Ah, the secret lives of children.

Oh well, at least I've got him back at home.

[email protected]



For more my paper stories click here.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2010 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.