I have blogged before about the angst ridden period of growing up, between leaving school and becoming a fully-fledged adult. My teenage son is in the midst of this maelstrom. We, his parents, are becoming experts. Bearing witness at close quarters.
There is a certain freedom to be had for having made it through the trials and tribulations of school life together, of being there for them and with them. Of coming out the other side. However this is juxtaposed with the new worry about their safety out there in the world now that they are untethered, their movements not dictated by the rigours of school life.
I am getting better at going to sleep instead of wondering where he is, how is he going to get home, what state is he in, who is with him, what has he been up to…it helps to have an equally concerned spouse. I now let him do the worrying for both of us, believer as I am in economising our resources.
Last night the adults had the place to ourselves. We played our music with gay abandon, ate what we felt like, watched our favourite channel on TV, waiting for the youngest member of the family to come home reeking of pubs, sweat and aftershave (I ask myself: what’s wrong with this scenario?).
I am often reminded of Alison in Wonderland when she falls down the rabbit hole and everything is not as it should be: he emerges from his darkened den – where I can make out the winking lights of his PlayStation console, his IPad and other detritus of teenager hood – and the room shrinks away from him as he grows in stature before my eyes.
Our 3 washing baskets are overflowing with his clean but not yet folded clothes (he has been washing his own clothes for a few years. There was no way this busy mum was going to be made responsible for a potential crisis in the clean underwear department). He ends up washing everything again before it finally gets put away – just so that he can reacquaint himself with his wardrobe after a lengthy absence.
The other chores remain undone – recycling, dishwasher, rubbish. There is always a reason (‘I was going to do it when I got up’. At 4pm?). We put up with the mounting refuse until one of us loses it. A heated exchange ensues. Then all is rectified and forgotten until the cycle is repeated again.
He tip toes round the house after a late night, bumping into furniture. A gorilla in ballet slippers comes to mind. We lie there in the dark, listening to him foraging in the fridge for leftovers. Knife scraping plate in the early hours.
His day starts (whatever time that may be) something like this: long shower, much preening behind the bathroom door, music blaring. Then he is out of the house, headlong into his future, running late as usual. But not before he has begged his mum to make him some lunch to take (‘because I’ve run out of time/money’), or asked my humble opinion about what to wear – long or short sleeves? – or what to pack – do I need an umbrella?
Funny how parents are looked upon as indispensable when it comes to matters of practicality (‘Mum I can’t untie my knotted shoelaces and I have to leave in 5 minutes!’). Yet if we dare express an unasked-for opinion we are looked down upon as pariahs.
This morning I heard him crashing around the house as usual. He was surprised to see me, forgetting that I had told him about my day off. He apologised for making such a racket (makes a change!). As he stood in the doorway of his room – on his way for some more sleep until a mate picks him up later to play basketball – I saw a calmness in him. I wanted to hug him tight, feel the warmth of his bedclothes on him. He had made it through his first semester at college. Now it is time to let go for a while.
Still some growing up to do yet.