No place like home
Parenting teens is such a dichotomy of pride and pain, and when they do get to moving-out stage,
your heart breaks and bursts simultaneously.
When my kids were young I was guilty of thinking and sometimes saying out loud things that would have the parenting ‘experts’ wanting to put me in the naughty corner. Oh god, if it is quiet and devoid of a million questions and tantrums then send me there! Sleep deprivation and the ‘constant’ of kids under 12 can push a chick to her limits. Most of us would agree that we have all been there. One of the things that would skittle around my head, and on the occasion slip out of my mouth was “I am so going to change the locks as soon as you turn 18!” meaning I could not wait until they move out.
I now have an 18 year old and last week he came home telling me about a share house he is looking into. Hold the phone – what? I can’t feel my heart beating. I think I just died. He has finished high school. He has a job. He has all the rights of an adult to make his own decisions…but never before had I wanted to say “NO!” Of course I can't. As quickly as the four year old him floated in front of me, the 18 year old man spoke “but not sure it is right just yet. I am still thinking about it”. OK, I managed to mumble in what I hoped was a non-emotional, carefree fashion. “So tell me what it is like?” I calmly (as I could) listened to his pros and cons list of moving into this place. He had some pretty good arguments and had considered very logically the impact of the move. I started metaphorically kicking myself on the inside for raising such a damn intelligent independent person. What happened to that cliché of boys not being able to cope without their mum?
The reality is that I am very proud of just how independent (and intelligent) my boys are. As young kids I empowered them to participate in housework and cooking (some would have called it slave labor, I called it empowerment). As teens they all have jobs that they do around the house on top of jobs they get paid for. They are always involved in choosing meals and help with the shopping. Getting them to do that has been a challenge over the years, but well worth persisting with. Making it normal to be involved with these tasks is important. I have never used housework or cooking as punishments. Does that mean their rooms are spotless and I don’t have to bark like a bitch occasionally to get them to tidy the lounge room? Hell no! I do that often, but the reality is that they are well prepped for living away from home.
I remember almost as clear as day, the first house I lived in when I moved out of home. I remember the thrill of making my bed (the first time probably ever). I remember the sense of adultness in doing a shop and I even remember hanging washing out on the crappy old washing line with such pride. The sense of being a real adult, it was like breathing air for the first time. Yes it was before the reality of bills, dirty dishes, and clothes no longer magically appearing in the wardrobe, but it was still a pretty special time. As much as I want to hold onto my ‘babies’ for much longer than I probably will be able to, the thought of denying them that thrill of their first breath of adult air is inconceivable.
Parenting teens is such a dichotomy of pride and pain, and when they do get to moving-out stage, your heart breaks and bursts simultaneously. Parenting sucks really when you think about how much it hurts. But I am assured that the joy of bumping into them at the shops, on the bus or when they come over for dinner very quickly fills the hole that was/is left when they waved good bye. I am not that convinced just yet! I have told them all (even youngest) that it will be COMPULSORY for dinner at our house every Sunday. That way I can feed them up, throw on a load of washing and send them off with a month's worth of pre-made dinners…maybe that will make it all too easy? Maybe I should do the opposite and make it too hard and they have to come home? Maybe I will just have to suck it up and come to terms that my leasehold on my babies will one day run out. But until then I will promote how convenient it is living at home and maybe they will stay longer…