Having adult children is a bonus no-one tells you about when you are knee-deep in hormones and homework.
When my children were very small I remember standing beside their beds, praying fervently that I would be kept safe and healthy long enough to raise them. They were so defenceless and vulnerable; I could not imagine a time when they would be able to fend for themselves.
But that time came surprisingly quickly. Today I am mildly astonished and delighted to be the mother of two fine, independent adults. We have survived our share of family upheaval, but the bonds that link us are stronger than ever.
With growing pains out of the way and the formative, responsible part of parenting done, there’s space for a relaxed, respectful interchange. Our relationship is close, but not overbearing. We keep in touch by phone, Skype and email, and I see each of them roughly once a week. I have tramped across Spain with my son; I am experiencing the joy of motherhood all over again with my daughter, who has her own baby now. I am extraordinarily lucky to have both my children living here in the city of their birth. I still fret about their safety and wonder whether they are eating properly, and love nothing more than having them under my wing for a while, but I’m always happy to see them go and get on with their full and interesting lives.
Parents are supposed to do everything in their power to protect their children when they are young but that requirement gradually falls away as they grow in confidence and skill. By the time you send them out into the world they have inevitably weathered a few storms, learned a few lessons and developed the emotional muscle to cope with adversity.
None of us wants to see our children in pain; we wish we could keep them in a happy, rosy bubble forever. But that is not the way of the world, and if we did cocoon them they would not grow into multi-faceted, compassionate human beings. I hate to see my children stressed, but it is no longer my place to step in and kiss their troubles better. All I can do for them now is to be an ear if they need it, and remind them that they have all the internal resources to deal with whatever comes their way. I support them and believe in them and marvel at their wisdom and maturity, but my job of babying them is done.
If anything, the tables are beginning to turn: I’m aware that they both keep an eye on their single, somewhat feckless mother, who insists on marching to the beat of her own drum.
They see my life through mature eyes now, and although I will always be the parent and they the children, I recognise that they have capacities way beyond my own. They are the product of a new age, and to see them thriving in it is both mysterious and thrilling to me.
When I’m out of my depth or just in a muddle, I may ask them for advice, which is always measured and sound. When they need a cold G & T and a chat, they know where I am. I have loved my children at every stage of their development, but this stage, when they are flying on their own, is perhaps the most fulfilling of all.Do you have adult children? What is your relationship with them like?
Read more by Cathy Eden