On of the best phrases I’ve heard in a long time is ” I have never been a parent to a xx-year old before”. Which, of course, sounds almost stupidly simplistic, but these words resonate with almost any parent I happen to be chatting with… they instantly know what you mean when you say it. Not entirely sure why none of us were given parenting lessons at school or college or uni, but in the absence of professional tutoring in this most complex of subjects, we all tend to do the best we can to bring our children up to be kind, generous of spirit, well educated, confident in their specific abilities, empathetic and to have – as they cost absolutely nothing – impeccable manners.
But what parent thinks they have done their job properly? I know I have made some pretty awful blunders in my time. We can only hope that our offspring turn out OK and are happy balanced people.
When a child leaves home and goes off on a gap year, or to university, or perhaps a job in a large city somewhere, it is hard to let go. Have I done enough? Are they fully prepared for life outside our protective arms? Will they keep in contact? What mistakes will they make now that they have found their independence? What if they go completely feral with the excitement of cutting those invisible apron strings? Will they be accepted by their colleagues, new group of peers, flatmates etc etc. So many questions – and, I suspect, questions that only bother us parents. Our children are just carried away with the euphoria of making their own decisions. Of course this will almost inevitably lead to them having to sort out their own mistakes (unless they are so bad that it is unavoidable to tell the parents). Well no-one is perfect and it is unfair to expect that our fledglings will get it 100% right. So it seems only fair to take a back seat and let them enjoy their new found freedom.
However, when my son flew back home to his fluffy nest for a fleeting visit, apart from being desperate for a lovely long hug, I was beside myself to find out if he was truly well and happy. Obviously I tried to disguise my overprotective mother aura with a cool nonchalance. He has been away since April, and although we have seen him a couple of times since and we communicate frequently via What’s App, texting and the odd Skype, this last separation has been nine long weeks. He was one of the first to saunter through Arrivals, wearing a short sleeved t shirt (OMG he will get flu!), with a rucksack slung over his shoulder (containing, as I found out later, his laptop and various other stuff – but notably, no clean underwear or a toothbrush). It was with palpable relief (mine) that he greeted his father and I with a beaming smile, looking tanned, healthy and confident. We have since had a really good catch up and although he has definitely become much more independent, I was delighted to see that he still needed me and asked my advice about various things. Oh yes. And to do his dirty washing of course. Not everything changes!