Back when she was a 'child' of 18, my youngest headed off to university, as somehow we've come to expect that our children will. It wasn't easy to see her go, but we survived.
Then at the end of her first year, despite being in the running for excellent overall results, she decided the course wasn't for her, and she'd get a job while she thought things over.
She came home, found work straight away, and we settled into a rhythm. She'd be here for most of the week but frequently away at weekends, either visiting friends in other parts of the UK or, in this last year particularly, jetting off round Europe. After my first doubts about this - particularly when she went holidaying alone in Italy - I got used to the whole idea, vicariously sharing her experiences, and collecting masses of postcards from everywhere she visited.
All good things come to an end though, so they say, and now we're in for another big change. She's heading away for longer - taking a job at quite a distance - and I'm back to that first empty nest horror. I think her being away for a year, then coming back to stay, just made me appreciate her presence and what she brought to our small family unit more.
This move feels more final than heading off to uni, though that doesn't really make sense. There's no reason to suppose the move is forever - who knows, in a month or a couple of years she could decide this wasn't the right job at all! - and I expect to see her as frequently as we did during her uni year, possibly even more as she has the cash for train fares, and we have the enticement of our older daughter's baby here.
To be suddenly faced with any change comes as a bit of a shock though and I think the uni years work as a sort of half-way house, giving both parents and youngsters time to become accustomed to living apart.
However long you try to delay it, this point is going to come along. No one expects their children to stay in the family home forever, and if she'd finished her course out, now would be the time she'd be thinking of job-hunting, which would probably have taken her away from home anyway.
For now, I'm just trying to feel relieved that she didn't decide to travel the world for a year, and that the wonders of social media will allow us to still feel close.