Sitting here with a roomful of my eldest son’s teenage friends booming away in the background while I try to think, it strikes me forcibly that a mere five years ago, when I first started writing these columns, I had a houseful of little children and a baby on the way.
Those years of the baby and toddler-hood of my youngest have also been the time of my three oldest progressing into adolescence.
We now have a wide range of experiences happening, from first day pre-primary jitters to year 11 exams; both symptoms of the continuous process of slowly letting go that begins with school.
Conversation can range within a couple of minutes from the skewed moral universe of Northern Lights to why we assume that superheroes are male, to why Thomas the Tank Engine is blue.
You smile quietly to yourself as you listen to your 13-year-old trying to explain to your sceptical five-year-old how Jesus can be God and also God’s Son (which has stumped far finer minds than his), with the final recourse to the oft-used statement in our house that we can’t understand everything about everything, and that is why Catholics have a faith and not just a religion – they can be taught.What I loved the most was the acceptance of the questioner of the reasonableness of this answer; his faith in his brother’s wisdom was quite touching.
From worrying about the cost of nappies (yes I have to admit I was environmentally irresponsible enough to often opt for disposables) we have progressed to worrying about the cost of shaving cream, razors and the other assorted personal items suddenly needed by growing children.
From worrying whether they are eating enough we regard the steadily increasing food bill with resignation.
From waiting eagerly for their first words we – well you all know the ending of that sentence I am sure…
From bemoaning the careless drivers on the road as we walked to school with our little ones, teaching them to cross safely, we progress to worrying that those same little hands we held so carefully will soon to be holding the steering wheel of a car.
The blossoming of your adult relationship with your children is a fascinating and stimulating experience, and it is revelatory to watch the relationships between your children take a more mature shape also. The delight in and interest of watching your children become adults, and hopefully helping them somewhat to get over the various obstacles and challenges that await them, is never failing for this parent at least.
What delights my heart the most is that they still turn to you as they did in their infancy, just for different things.
But it also causes me to realise how absolutely blessed and privileged I have been to be able to stay at home and watch this story unfold, especially as the prospect of a return to paid work outside the home becomes ever more likely, directly relative to the increasing price of petrol and food.
This new adventure of having grown children is just beginning for us and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.