For those of you that have internet known me for a while, you will have no doubt been a part of the journey of my little family. Since I started over sharing trip reports back in 2003 and then subsequently via social media, you will have seen many of the milestones we’ve been through, the different phases of parenthood, and the stresses, worries, troubles and joy they have brought.
I’m now an old man (well, I feel like one) and the girls are women in their own right. Emily is 19, and Rebecca 17 so as far as it matters both are adults, starting to find their own ways in the world. This new phase in our family, as all the previous ones have, brings its own challenges, positives and upsides. They both now have boyfriends, have left school and are starting to carve out what will be their own lives in years to come.
In this blog I have previously documented their first boyfriends, endless gigs, and various occasions when they demonstrated that they were growing up before my eyes. Much of the “fun” in this current phase of parenting revolves around their relationships, and all the ups and downs that come with it. You won’t need me to tell you that no boy on earth will ever be good enough for either of them. They are the two best things I have ever done, and so pretending that some hairy arsed youngster is worthy of their company is not a leap I can easily make. Letting their partners into our family unit is tricky. We’ve been four for a long time, and as (hopefully) welcoming as we are with the boyfriends, it’s a learning curve for us too in how to manage the expanding family dynamic.
Don’t get me wrong. Their respective partners are great. Rebecca has been with Tom for two years now, and he’s a lovely lad. Polite, well mannered, hard working and depressingly muscular, Rebecca could do a lot worse. Emily’s boyfriend is a much newer acquisition, so we don’t know him that well yet, but again, he seems to be a lovely lad. In the hormone fueled world of these young couples of course, there are ups and downs. They fall out, break up, get back together and have text warfare, and that can be a cycle that happens several times before lunch on some days. That’s life of course. Even those couples that have been together forever fall out. It is usually over different things to these youngsters of course. Louise often hates me for being so adorable all the time. I understand that it can be tiresome.
When these downs happen, sitting and watching your daughter be upset is not an easy thing to do. We know of course that there are always two sides to every story, so we try not to take sides too readily, but all the time reminding anyone who will listen that if any of these boys even think about hurting one of them I’ll be turning them inside out and setting them on fire.
The aforementioned social media makes these relationships even more complicated. A misguided like or friend request can cause Apocalyptic consequences. As bystanders we do what we can, support them, wipe the tears away and give what advice we can. We try to see their “disasters” as that, and not as the minor blips we recognise them as with our considerable life experience (compared to them). It is largely ignored of course, but every now and again a few words of advice stick, and hopefully they help.
The folks I connect with on social media have children of all ages, and when I see their photos, I think back to my two at that age, what we were going through, and how we sometimes thought we were the first to ever do it, and we had it the worst of anyone, ever. The current stage is always the hardest/worst and they naturally only improve with hindsight, as the brain tends to lose the truly bad bits, and allows you the pleasure of remembering the good bits. I’m sure the same will happen to these times too when the girls go on to do whatever they do with whoever they want to do it with, we’ll no doubt look back and smile wryly at these nights stained with tears and excessive eye makeup (and that’s just me), and our fight to resist the urge to knock their heads together, or at times remove the heads of their partners.
As boundaries are tested and naturally expand we find ourselves confronted by new and challenging dilemmas. Do we let them do this? Is it appropriate at their age to do that or go there? Are we being too restrictive, or much too liberal? Who knows. I certainly don’t so we go with our gut feel and cross our fingers we don’t get things too wrong.
There are certainly areas of parenting that get easier as the children get older. No nappies or fighting to get them dressed of a morning is great and those fall outs about the sharing of toys gradually give way to cat fights over liking the same boy, the other one getting preferential treatment and at all times the other one being your favourite. However, whilst they may be less physical work, the actual parenting bit changes little. Look at last week. My Dad is in his seventies, and just because he’s my parent he was obliged to spend a week on my roof working hard when he could have been golfing instead. Similarly, last night I was up until after 1am as I had to pick Rebecca up from a babysitting job. At my age, a bedtime after the witching hour can set me back for months, but you do it, without question whether it be that late night pick up, or the week’s hard labour.
So we’ll continue to wipe the tears away, offer the advice and pick up the pieces when required, and then moments later accept the fact that we’re then told to just leave them to it, once the upset is over. We shall have payback when we’re old(er) and infirm and they are changing our adult nappies and feeding us blended food.
Oh and Rebecca, if you are reading this, you ARE NOT having a sleeve tattoo, and that’s final!
Till the next time….