I Won’t Be A Parent Of Children Much Longer
Don’t worry. I’ve not decided to murder them all, tempting though it occasionally can be. No, it’s just that I’ve realised that I am now in the autumn years of my life as a parent of children, rather than as a parent of teenagers or young adults. Hence the picture of some yellowing leaves to underline my weak metaphor.
The Small Boy Wonder is growing up fast. Our youngest child has turned fifteen. The freshwater streams of his childhood are dissolving into the salty waters of adult life.
He’s already loved and lost (although, to be fair, I think he loved and lost interest). Encounters with the dreaded alcohol are becoming more frequent. Drugs are freely available, but thankfully he has a strong antipathy towards them. He’s nearly as tall as me, and certainly fitter and stronger.
And of course, because he’s a teenager, he bubbles away in a toxic soup of hormones and emotions. Persuading him to do something completely unreasonable, like take to his bed before eleven o’ clock on a school night or apply himself to his Maths GCSE even if the teacher is indeed “a knob”, can be very much like trying to handle a wounded wasp – it doesn’t matter how careful you are you know you’re going to get stung.
But it’s by no means all bad news. We went to watch rugby together recently – a pulsating Heineken Cup match – and it was wonderful. It really struck me that for the first time it was much more like doing something with a friend than doing something with a child. The Small Boy Wonder has articulate views on adult subjects, and an increasingly grown-up sense of humour. I think that being a teenager today is generally rubbish, but there will still always be that great excitement that derives from there being so much more to come than has gone.
And yet we’ve not completely lost the innocent of the pre-teen years. Recently there have been two reminders of this:
- Excitement at the park: our local park is where it all happens for teenagers. Where they learn about drinking and smoking and sex. From what I’ve heard, Friday night on a summer evening is very far from pretty down there. The SBW has made a few forays into this world, and although it’s a rite of passage, I’m not sure he really enjoys it. But there is something about the park that has really made him happy. Not the availability of vodka or cannabis or young girls eager to shed the skin of sexual inexperience. No, none of these. What has really pushed his buttons has been the new play equipment that’s been installed. And above all else, the new zipwire, a trip down which is now apparently an integral part of his journey home each day!
- Legitimate cock jokes: he’s been doing badminton in PE. They shorten “shuttlecock” to “cock” and this creates almost limitless possibilities. “Can we get our cocks out, sir?” “Look at my cock, Emma.” “I think my cock’s broken, sir.” Etc, etc, etc, etc.
Now, I know he’s male, and therefore that any female readers will be putting on their weary, knowing heads, rolling their pretty eyes, and saying that he’ll never grow out of this sort of thing actually. But it’s not quite that. There is something in the breadth of his grin when he recounts these stories that tells me that the child is not yet fully grown.
And that is something worth clinging on to. The Beautiful Armenian and I will accept the passing of this phase of our lives – there’s lots of good stuff that comes with it. But for me there will still be a measure of regret. There are lots of things that I’ll probably never do again. Build a lego castle. Be better at a video game. Go running and be able to keep up.
Time for some more leaf-based melancholy.