Empty-nester? The answer is simple – buy underwear

Thank goodness the A level results are out. It’s been hell.

So many hopes and dreams are invested in that one moment when you find out if the grades will take you to university or whether, instead, a whole new raft of opportunities is opening up.

As the nation awaited last Thursday’s results you could feel the tension in the air.

For those who were not on tenterhooks it was almost as bad. You talk to them and they say “yes” but they’re not listening because they are imagining a variety of futures.

Will it be three years of university and all the drinking, socialising… oh, sorry, I meant, of course, hard work and dedication that this entails? Will it be a gap year travelling abroad and all the drinking, socialising (plus a better grasp of geography) that this entails? Or will it be a job and the shock of suddenly having money that allows you to pay for all the drinking and socialising instead of running up massive debts?


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No amount of Doris Day and Qu’ai sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, will stop you endlessly turning over the the scenarios in your brain.

Consequently, last Wednesday, faces were ashen, there was much anxious pacing. Would those three weeks of frantic hard work in a 13-year school career pay off?

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I am speaking, of course, not of the kids but of their parents.

The sons and daughters were relatively unperturbed but their mums and dads became nervous wrecks. They couldn’t sleep, they couldn’t concentrate.

Now the waiting is over and kitchenware shops all over Britain are experiencing a summer boom in corkscrews, pizza cutters, pasta servers and non-stick saucepans as undergraduates are packed off to uni.

Boys will suddenly find they have more black underpants than they ever thought it possible for one man to own because their mums worry they won’t wash their clothes during term time.

“I’ve bought you black towels, darling.”

“Thanks mum,” says Treasure, gloomily, wondering why his mum doesn’t trust him with light colours. “I can wash stuff, you know, mum.”

“Of course you can, Treasure, actually there’s a load of stuff in your laundry basket, you could put that on to wash now.”

“Yeah, sure… remind me where the washing machine is again.”

Meanwhile the shelves where the Lynx deodorant used to be lie empty. Wild-eyed store managers try to order in emergency stocks. The distinctively fragranced antiperspirants have bought in bulk for the freshers whose mothers cannot bear the thought that, once they get away from home and have no mum to sniff their arm-pits, their sons might seize the chance to become really smelly.

“Mum, I have been successfully using deodorant for years.”

“I know but I don’t want you to run out…”

This is not a likely prospect as Wyards Removals have been hired to carry a payload of Lynx up to the alma mater.

While parents collect a similar raft of delights for their daughters, the daughters are contemplating the arrival of the first loan cheque which will probably be the most money they have ever had to spend.

“You’ll need to budget carefully, Treasurette. Don’t spend it all at once.”

“Of course, not mum. I’ll be really frugal,” she says, thinking Primark.

After the first flush of enormous pride in their child’s success and of course their own (that frantic three week’s help with the course work last summer probably made all the difference) it suddenly dawns on the devoted parents that their prodigy is about to move out (sort of).

This will be the first time Treasure and Treasurette have been away from home. There will be an empty bed where once a teenager slept the two or three hours a night and eight or nine hours a day that teenagers seem to need.

The strange aroma of an abandoned tuna sandwich left under the bed for a fortnight will no longer summon you and the environmental health inspector to the bedroom.

There will be no more access to the secret diary you have secretly been reading.

Mum jokes that she will be able to take in a lodger before rushing off to have a quiet sob.

I remember it well. My husband comforted me.

“It’s not as if he’s not coming back,”

“I know.”

“It will only be a few weeks and he’ll be back for Christmas.”

“I know.”

“You’ll always be his mum.”

“I know.”

“He was always going to leave home sooner or later.”

“I know.”

“You’ll still have me.”

“I know.”

Ninety nine point nine nine per cent of a mum wants her Treasures to have the most wonderful time at uni; to make friends for life; to experience the joy of intellectual freedom; to seek out knowledge; to make this time the best time of their lives.

But there is 0.01 per cent of her that wants them to miss you really badly.

After all, you make the best (insert name of favourite supper) and there’s that japery the whole family enjoys together – they won’t get that from strangers… or will they?

You know what to do if that tiny nagging voice inside get too persistent. Go out buy some more underwear, Lynx, pasta, baked beans, cookware, bedlinen, towels, anything…

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