If there’s one thing I’m not looking forward to, it’s knowing that our kids are growing up and will one day drift apart from us.
It’s inevitable, right? Just as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. Growing up means finding and striking out on their own path in life. We can’t stop them, nor should we try. A child who never develops their independence is missing out on a big part of what it means to be an adult. At some point, the training wheels have to come off and our little darlings will ride off into the distance. They may wobble uncertainly at first. But once they’re going they won’t even look back at the parents they have left behind.
We’re getting ever closer to that point now with Isaac.
Growing up, growing apart
This is a big summer for our eldest son. He’s 11 and in three weeks’ time he will be starting secondary school. Once he was a little boy whose hand we held as we walked him to school every day. Then he grew into a big boy who often walks to school unchaperoned. As of September, he will be travelling on his own by train at least a couple of days a week.
Already he’s often off on his own, doing his own thing. He always has his nose in his newly acquired phone, creating Instagram Stories or having WhatsApp chats with his friends. Or he’s in the playroom with his headset on, engrossed in Minecraft or some other online game.
Thankfully, while the hormones have been gradually kicking in over the past couple of years, he hasn’t yet gone full teenager on us. I know what to expect and I’m braced for it. I’ve seen all the old Harry Enfield Kevin and Perry sketches. Maybe the transformation will be a gradual one. Or maybe it will happen literally overnight.
Whatever, the days of going out for a walk and him unselfconsciously slipping his hand into mine are numbered. At some point he will no longer want to snuggle up on the sofa for a family film evening. He won’t want to hang out with his uncool parents any more. Instead he will lock himself away in his bedroom doing whatever it is that teenage boys do. No, I don’t even want to think about that.
(Obviously, I was never a teenage boy myself. One day I was nine, then I just jumped straight to 18. I’m sticking to that story.)
An extreme solution?
We went to see friends last week who have two teenage kids. They’ve spent the past year living in a static caravan in their garden while building their new house. Now when there are four people living in an eight-by-three metre prefab box with bedrooms that make a coffin look spacious, a teenager doesn’t have the luxury of slinking off to their room for hours on end.
It’s a tough gig. There is literally nowhere to hide.
I take my hat off to them. We couldn’t do what they’ve done. Our kids get cabin fever after four or five days in a caravan on our summer holidays. For sure, we’d have a full-on Lord of the Flies scenario within a month, never mind a year.
Our friends were the first to admit that living in such a confined space for so long has had its share of … moments. However, the one big benefit they’ve found is that it has brought them and their kids closer together at an age where they would probably have started to grow apart.
Okay, it’s an extreme solution and not one I’d be in a hurry to copy. But it did make me think about what we could do to stop the inevitable teenage separation turning into a chasm. While Isaac will demand – and need – his own space through his teenage years, I want him to know I’m still there to hold his hand, at least metaphorically, when he needs me. At the same time, I don’t want to impose myself on him so much that he ends up pushing me away.
I don’t have a ready-made answer yet as to how I’ll actually do that. But I’m working on it.
Living in the now
In the meantime, I’m going to try to make the most of this summer with Isaac and his siblings. We will only have so many years of enjoying holidays together. Family film evenings won’t last forever.
These are precious moments that we shouldn’t take for granted. One day we’ll look up and our children will have flown the nest and be living their own lives. Hopefully we’ll still be a big part of those lives, but not in the same way we are now.
Of course, I wouldn’t begrudge Isaac his freedom and independence for one minute. But I’d be lying if I said I’m looking forward to the inevitable day when I will lose my boy to the man he is destined to become. Like it or not, he is growing up. So I guess I’ll have to grow up too.