So this week marks a rather monumental event in the ever eventful journey of parenting. My precious first-born, my one and only son has decided to embrace fully fledged adulthood and move out. We knew it was coming, I mean they’ve all got to go sometime haven’t they? (Haven’t they??) and I’d be lying through my teeth if there isn’t a time over the years when you secretly dream of a future with a childfree, show house worthy tidy home with no daily dinner battles (we are a house of FIVE fussy eaters, not me, I’ll eat bloody ANYTHING), no tantrums, teenage strops and battles. No endless parent taxi trips, the list could go on and on.
But you forget all of that when they make that announcement that they are actually going. First of all, those natural instincts kick in. He’ll never do it, he’s not mature enough, how will he cope with the responsibility when he can barely remember to lock a door and switch a light off? He’s never operated the washing machine in his life and he’s been coming and going for so long now between his working hours and a typical whirlwind social life he’s barely done a chore in his life. HOW WILL HE SURVIVE??? Then I stopped and thought about it, I only know my child as my child. I don’t know him really well as a friend or a colleague or an employee. How can I judge him based on purely how I see him as my son? Put simply, I can’t. He may only be 18 but he’s actually an adult. And we all remember being 18 right? Now in hindsight, when you’re 20 years older, 18 feels like a baby and I remember clearly that first single second I held him as newborn. Those intense feelings that are indescribable. And you watch them grow year by year and learn about the world and wonder what the future holds for them. You picture the perfect family life, you have ideas and aspirations on how it all should be.
But the reality is quite often different.
Do we ultimately put way too much pressure on ourselves to have that incredible bond? Do we set the bar too high on how we imagine our children will always continue to be the devoted, hug giving, overly affectionate little people that we see in the joyful toddler years?
Of course we do. Every child is different, every parent is different and there’s no one size fits all family. And although I’m not actually quite there yet, it goes without saying that accepting this is one of life’s biggest parenting hurdles. Stop comparing.
So how do I feel now his room is bare? As the title says, bittersweet. Did we joke about cracking open champagne with one child down and only three to go? Of course. Did I have a tearful hug and quietly sob in the car when I left his new house? Damn right I did. But overall, I’m actually excited for HIM. On what lies ahead for his personal journey onto this rollercoaster of life. We’ll always be here (his room may not be, that’s already been bagged by one of his sisters) and friends who’ve been there and watched their own children grow up and cut the strings assure me not much really changes.*
*FYI – he’s two minutes away by car and will probably be home once a week to sneak some washing in the tumble dryer and raid the fridge/food cupboard. And I’ll still be moaning at him 🙂