Saturday 21 April 2018

Bairbre Power on her lack of empty nest syndrome: 'The only person I have to boss now is me'

Health kick: Bairbre Power likes to take her dog Romy for walks around Howth
Health kick: Bairbre Power likes to take her dog Romy for walks around Howth
Enjoying the silence: Bairbre Power has mastered the art of savouring the moment
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Sometimes I lie back in the bath, let the water fill my ears and relish the silence of my new empty nest.

The art of doing nothing is highly underrated, but I've finally perfected emptying the brain and enjoying the moment. It's a skill I've acquired after a few very frazzled years - but now it's my time. And I'm going for it. Big time.

After rearing two children to adulthood, the only person I have to boss around is myself, so I decided to mark my son's announcement that he was leaving home to move in with his girlfriend by taking the two grown-up children away on a holiday together.

"A last hurrah," I dubbed it as we piled into the back of a French taxi. Once seated in the middle of the three seats - old parenting habits die hard - I even suggested a selfie for posterity.

My daughter was not impressed and told me to act my age, not my shoe size.

But it was a vacation with a difference and I savoured every one of the 'they are all grown up' snapshot moments.

Child #2 hired a car and drove us everywhere, while Firstborn, as I like to call him, pulled out the wallet with great aplomb and announced "dinner's on me".

I was liking this more and more. I sat back in a matronly fashion - front seat this time - and took advantage of the chauffeur service to enjoy a glass of rosé with my lunch.

"It will help me sleep in this heat," I announced, but I was fooling no one, especially the pair who were immediately glued to their phones once they realised we had Wi-Fi.

Anyway, dessert that day was served with a lot of home truths as we began reminiscing about childhood holidays along that same stretch of Cote d'Azur coastline.

Skinny-dipping on Eze beach beside Bono's house after jumping off the packed train from Monaco. The kids zip-lining as combative teenagers and coming back the best of amis.

All of the happy memories poured out and then, suddenly, it happened. The tables turned and I was the focus of their attention.

"Remember how you used to always be late for parent-teacher meetings? And whenever the door opened 20 minutes into the school play, it was always your head that poked around the door and announced, 'sorry, the traffic was awful'."

Pulling on my trusty working mum's battle fatigues, I protested my innocence and maintained that it had only happened the once.

But like the French midday heat, the slagging was relentless. I was accused of displaying symptoms of what my pair describe as "only child syndrome" by which they contend I was spoilt as a youngster growing up and that I walk away if I don't get my way.

I batted off the slagging and laughed heartily when they reminded me of my musical tyranny in the car, and how I played Norah Jones' debut album, Come Away With Me three times back to back on the way home from Irish college. In the end, a hand came in from the rear seat with a firm "enough".

But after all the ribbing, I didn't erupt or lose my cool. I contemplated my newly painted tangerine toes and maintained a dignified, wry smile on my face.

Later, when I was thinking about the lunch and looking at all the photos we'd taken, I recognised that funny smile from somewhere.

It was exactly the same smile my Mum wore as I did exactly the same thing to her, slagging her about everything from her supermarket parking exploits - she never got home without a new dent in the bumper - to her penchant for buying a new raincoat every September.

Anne Power selflessly sat through ballet at Miss Birchall's, elocution with Betty Anne Norton, piano classes with Miss Rankin and let's not forget the saga of the Fr Matthew Feiseanna.

Despite all that, I never let her forget the time she didn't make it to the debating finals at Loreto Abbey. Her face popped around the big mahogany door that day just as I sat down after my speech. I came second and poor Mum got it in the neck on the drive home.

Later, myself and Mum kissed and made up and, over the years, I thanked her for a lifetime of dedicated 'Mammy's taxi service'. But the irony of all of this is not lost on me. I am slowly but surely turning into my late Mum. And of course my daughter is now blaming me for her early grey hairs, which I had at 21.

She good humouredly suggested I contribute to the cost of her hair colour because I was the cause of her premature greying, but I'm having none of it. It's just Power DNA.

I've inherited my mum's clicky wrists which arrive with the onset of the cold weather, and I even have her hiatus hernia. I'm happy to report there's no sign yet of her varicose veins. And we were all lucky enough to inherit her sunny disposition.

Irish Independent

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