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Deborah Ross: Nothing hurts quite like empty nest syndrome

If you ask me...

If you ask me, it's a sad day for a mother when her only child finally leaves home, and a sad day even though that mother plans to use his bedroom as her office and started shifting in furniture well before he'd departed, and even though she kept asking him: "You are going, aren't you? This isn't some kind of cruel joke."

It's a sad day when a mother realises she is finished with mothering; finished with standing on the touchline during his football matches and shouting "good try!" at random intervals just to appear interested; finished with all those school plays in which the one child who knows all the lines shouts them into the faces of those who don't (and they call this quality entertainment?); finished with all those family holidays where he would write "Wrexham for the cup!" in the visitors' book in medieval churches and finished with dragging him round art galleries so he can conclude: "Why do people buy art? Why don't they buy something they can enjoy, like a Playstation?"

So the mother will miss him, and will miss all the things she used to do for him. She will miss retrieving all those towels and dirty mugs and bits of pizza crust from his bedroom. She will miss pressing coats and sweaters on him so he can leave them on the bus. She will miss paying his mobile phone bill even though he doesn't answer if he knows it is her. She will miss taxiing him to his various sporting and social engagements for no thanks whatsoever. And she will miss staying up all night to do that project on Nelson Mandela for him and getting a B, even though she had rather hoped for an A, and still maintains she deserves it.

How will she bear it? How will she bear getting the house back to herself? How will she bear the hole where her son used to be, channel-flicking or kicking off his tanker-sized trainers to scratch between his toes or rolling his eyeballs skywards if she asks him a question or drinking all the Tropicana in one go or coming in at 4am from some club, banging the front door, ricocheting off the walls, stumbling up the stairs and then treading on the dog before throwing up?

So it's a sad day for a mother when her only child leaves home, and a sad day for this mother, who is typing away in her new office, which is roomy and gets the sun in the morning, and although this mother is heartbroken and devastated, it's not as if she can exactly help looking around, punching the air and exclaiming: "Result!"