When I became a parent nearly 14 years ago I don’t think I ever thought beyond the first few years. All the lessons you have to learn as a parent to a new baby are overwhelming and I was totally focussed on this tiny bundle and wondering how on earth I would cope with feeding, nappy changing and sleepless nights. It never really occurred to me that this baby was actually going to grow up and become an actual person with thoughts and opinions of their own.
There definitely isn’t any way to prepare for parenthood and having done it once doesn’t necessarily make it any easier next time around, every child is actually different! Both my children have thrown us challenges in completely different areas and I have been completely unprepared every step of the way. As with most parents, we have done our very best and I know we have made some mistakes, but so far we have two kind, hard working and loving children that know right from wrong and I think we should be pretty happy with that.
However, we are now into the teenage years and my son is no longer a bouncy energetic child that is enthusiastic about everything that comes his way, he is a tired and stroppy teenager that has opinions and ideas and is starting to make his own choices in life. I am not too proud to say I am definitely struggling with this concept and it terrifies me to see my little boy, my red headed first born, rapidly growing up and becoming a man. I know that I have adjustments I need to make in my parenting that allow him to do this but right now I want to keep him a child. I’m not ready for him to be taller than me just yet (he’s not…he’s got a bit of a way to go, but I know it will almost happen overnight while I’m not watching and one day I’ll turn round and he’ll be up there looking down on me!).
A few days ago I was chatting to one of the Dads at Phoebe’s school, talking about how quickly time flies, and I mentioned that Archie would be off to University in 4 years. When I got in the car to drive home I actually had a mini panic attack! 4 YEARS!!! That’s like….tomorrow!! Ok, it’s not tomorrow, but it’s really soon!! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the sort of parent that wants my children to live at home with me forever. As much as I’ll be sad when they go I will also be happy for them to fly the nest and find their own way in the world (as long as they visit lots!). My main reason for the panic is that this boy is NOT prepared in any way to leave home. He can’t iron, clean, tidy, cook, put washing on, pick up after himself, find his way anywhere….we have completely failed when it comes to preparing him for the big wide world!
We have spent so much time and effort concentrating on Archie’s education, whether that be school, music or sport that we completely forgot the things we should be teaching him at home. When your child is so busy during the day at school and after school activities when it comes to meal times it seems mean to make him help cook or clean up afterwards when his down time is so limited. He’s always been allowed to just leave the table after meals. His washing mostly gets dumped on his bedroom floor, occasionally it makes it to the basket, and I pick it up, wash it, iron it and put it away. If I don’t put it away it remains in a pile on his bedroom floor until I add to it the following week! Every three or four months I bravely enter the pit that is his bedroom and clean and tidy it. And generally we run around after him like the dutiful parent, in the same we we have always done.
I’m sure we’re not the only ones that do everything for our children and if I think back to my own childhood it wasn’t much different for me. However, with 4 years until this boy is going to need to be able to look after himself we are now on the preparation mission! It is so tempting to just continue doing the jobs ourselves – it’s quicker, they get done properly and there’s a lot less moaning, but in the long run we are doing Archie a disservice. We’re not making sure he’s ready, giving him those essential life skills that he is going to need to survive. I know he can make a piece of toast so if worst came to worst at least he could live on that, but I should probably try to teach him to cook a few more things. Fortunately for Archie the amount of foods he actually likes is extremely limited so it won’t take too long to show him how to prepare the few things he actually likes to eat!
We are starting this process slowly. Easing him in gradually. So far he has to now get himself up and showered in the morning (instead of the occasional shower when he was nagged!) and make his own lunch. This has not been going too well and I have had to remind him that a bag of crisps and a chocolate cake does not constitute a balanced, healthy meal! Both children are also now having to help clear up after dinner. Unsurprisingly, at 7 years old, Phoebe is taking to this task with a lot more enthusiasm than her brother. Hopefully, by getting her started now we will be better prepared when it comes to her leaving the family home.
I’m sure he’ll be ready in the end. I probably don’t give him enough credit and I’m sure that he’s a lot more capable than I think. You never know, one evening I might come home to a dinner cooked by Archie – it will be chicken goujons with wraps and chips but hey…we all have to start somewhere!