Preparing the emptying nest.

I thought, in light of how unsettled the future is right now and how ‘out of control’ it feels, I’d share with you some of the things I’m packing for two of mine for their third and first years at university and drama school. It’s a way of me being able to take back some control for them and put them in control of their own health a bit this year.

My eldest is asthmatic, so the winters are always harder for him if he gets a cold and I just want to add that I am NOT a doctor, none of what I am putting in their kits is instead of visiting a doctor if they get sick, this is hopefully a preventative type of kit. The younger is a fussy eater (more of that later) and I am a strong believer of a good diet helping good health, right down to the fact that as a vegetarian I will make and eat bone broths in the winter months myself just for some added immunity:

This year I’m making them both a ‘Covid-19’ pack, in case their flats have to go back into lock down or they get poorly and confined to their rooms AND I’m making their first aid kits a little more inventive.

Both boys have oil diffusers which will be in their boxes to take with them. I’m NOT affiliated with any oil company, I use what I like and organic where I can. We don’t ingest the oils either so these are not food grade, they are merely for diffusing OR putting in a carrier oil for topical application, but as my eldest is hypermobile, topical applications of creams etc, do not work particularly well.

The ‘Covid-19’ box consists of emergency things that they might need for a week of being isolated: There is dried fruit, some energy sachets (vit C), tea (a cold and flu mix that I’ll share below), some dehydrated noodles. Each boy has a kettle and an ensuite bathroom so they can boil and get hold of potable water.

The first aid kit has the usual stuff: plasters, a bandage, alcohol spray, scissors, tweezers, paracetamol x 2 and alka seltzer, but I’ve also put in an alcohol hand sanitiser, lip balm, antibac soap, peppermint, lavender and thieves oil, elderberry elixir, vitamins with zinc and a couple of reusable face masks. Obviously the elder has his prescribed medications too.

It is going to be a strange time for them, particularly my younger son as it is his first year. There’s likely to be no fresher’s week, they will probably be taught in bubbles and he’ll be introduced to most of the city he has chosen to live in through a face mask. My elder son may not be quite so perturbed as he’s returning to year 3 in a small house with just his three housemates. He knows the city and can (for the most part) look after himself quite well, not that I doubt the capabilities of the younger, it’s just he’s chosen a bigger city, his course is incredibly full on and intense and his diet is pretty rubbish. He’s quite an inventive cook as long as it involves noodles or pasta or rice, but his vegetable intake is fairly poor and before anyone comments or passes judgement, this is something that I’ve struggled with for years – all my children fed exactly the same as babies, all given the same on their plates through life (we have NEVER cooked separate meals for the fussy one!), he’s not choked on anything or had any bad experience of a particular food and the eldest is vegetarian, eats anything, the youngest eats most veg and loads of fruit and yet the one in the middle can probably manage a few carrots, peas and sweetcorn at best. We have bought him a type of nutribullet thing, however, as he will happily put banana and frozen mango into one to make smoothies, so I will be adding some camu camu powder to his box so he can put a teaspoon of that into each smoothie and hopefully get a respectable dose of vitamin C. The best way, I’ve found, is to kind of ignore it, provide what I can in supplements, cakes (courgettes and beetroot) or smoothies and hope that once he’s in university he’ll be less fussy as he won’t be able to afford meat quite so much!

It’s harder when they’re older. The networks that you maybe have/had when they were toddlers, the forums where you’d get ideas, help, the NCT groups etc aren’t there. You’re expected to ‘know’ what to do by now. I have friends I chat with, of course, some of whom ARE my antenatal group, but it does become a lot more secretive out there for ‘raising teens’ and blog posts about teen issues are not as endearing!! Weirdly it feels that parents become MORE judgemental rather than less as kids grow up, rather than being assessed on how quickly they walk or talk (why the hell anyone ever worried about that as they all do it eventually), you’re now assessed on how well they perform at school, how many glowing reports/exams/qualifications etc they get, whether they drink alcohol, have sex, go to parties, don’t go to parties, drive, don’t drive, argues with you, won’t say boo to anyone, spends loads of time in their room/on the internet/gaming/reading books/in the park/out with their mates etc. What you might experience in an antenatal group as a bit of a sympathetic head bobbing if your child doesn’t do something as fast as the rest of the group or does something a bit differently, becomes something that you don’t even talk about later on for fear of being judged by someone who clearly has this parenting shit perfect!! Insert an enormous sigh and roll of my eyes!!

So as a parent, you hope that you’ve prepared them for life away from home done what you can: set them up with values, morals, manners, some decent life skills and a good work ethic (oh and tried to teach them to cook!) but then you get thrown a global pandemic to send them off into by themselves as well…no one saw THAT coming in any antenatal group eh??

I suppose the word I used at the start is running throughout this post; “Control”. It’s funny how the government uses that term at the moment in their slogans. Are we truly ‘in control’ of life, or the virus?? We make choices, true enough and we may ‘think’ we are making informed choices, but the question is actually whether this really is ‘our choice’ or ‘our pre-determined destiny’? I’m not sure and it is far too early in the morning to get philosophical or spiritual! So, into the unknown they will go, as prepared as they can possibly be to take on life and do the best they can. I remember when my first son was due and we were asked if we could wish for one thing for our new babies, what would it be and many of us said things like ‘to do well in life’, ‘ to have lots of friends’, ‘to not have my ears’ (cue the nervous giggles). One couple said ‘to be happy’ and really, that’s all anyone wants.

Here’s the tea recipe that’s taken from ‘The Handmade Apothecary’ by Kim Walker and Vicky Chown

1tsp – dried elderflower

1 tsp – dried peppermint

1 tsp – dried yarrow

500ml boiling water.

I’ll just make a large bag up for each boy and then they’ll use 2 – 3 tsps of the mix if they need to, steeped in boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes. Oh, I best pack them a tea strainer each!

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