Seeing my son turn 18 really is a bit of a tear-jerker
This week saw the end of an era, in my family at least. The younger of my two sons turned 18 and so both my children are now adults. As part of the celebrations, 50 teenagers descended on the house for a party, followed by the obligatory pub crawl.
After all the partying was over, the mountain of empty beer cans taken to the tip, (and yes, he really did enjoy his “first” taste of beer) all the birthday cards stacked in a long neat row on the mantlepiece and the living room carpets thoroughly cleaned, I finally had a chance to sit back and reflect on what this all meant to me.
I really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, to be honest. The most difficult and important job of my life — my very raison d’etre, in fact, for the past two decades — had finally come to an end. I knew I had plenty to celebrate: I’d successfully guided two children through every difficult rite of passage and they had both emerged as confident, happy, adults. For the most part I’d made the journey as a single mum, no partner, no family nearby and every imaginable obstacle being stacked against us along the way. But we got here. We’d made it. And, what’s more we had never even once fallen out. So there was definitely a lot to be thankful for.
But still a pang of sadness kept tempering my sense of relief. In what seemed like a flash, my two little boys had become men. Where had the time gone? Yes, it’s the most common cliche you hear when you’re a parent but only because it sums up so succinctly the way kids race through childhood. The first rite of passage came when he stopped holding my hand to cross the road. Even when no one was about and we were the only pedestrians in sight he had pulled his hand away and said: “Look mum, I’m not a baby you know!” At the time I consoled myself that it was just a phase that he was going through.
Next, he wanted to update his bedroom. All those pictures he had brought home from primary school and I had lovingly and proudly mounted around his walls came down one by one ... the wax-crayon picture of “my house” with its triangular roof and curly smoke; the spring daffodil collage made from bits of torn tissue paper and an egg carton; the snowman fashioned from cotton wool balls; the green felt frog with frogspawn made out of bubble-wrap. All were pulled down and replaced by posters of Metallica and Iron Maiden, plonked at wonky angles with chunks of Blu-Tack.
Then it was the dreaded 11-Plus exam followed by the giant leap to “Big School”. That in itself was a tear-jerker of a turning point in which I’d mourned the passing of childhood, even though he was only 11-years-old!
Countless, infinite, endless, school runs, rugby kits to wash, packed lunches to make, torn trousers to fix, homeworks to check, shirts to iron, books to back, visits to the doctors, sick notes, parents’ evenings, open days, school fees, choir practice, play rehearsals, drum lessons, sports days, cake sales, birthday parties, half-terms, revision, more exams, more rugby kits to wash, new shoes, new blazer, more school fees ... aaarghhh!
And, somewhere in the very middle of all that, his mum and dad split up. Yes, as I said earlier, it’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey but the most important journey I’ve ever made. And, of course, it’s not over, it’s just a new beginning in a different direction, with all three of us as adults. So I shouldn’t feel sad, should I? It’s just a phase I’m going through...