When your teen leaves home he might come back, warns Tracey’s dad.
My 18-year-old son didn’t so much fly the coop as ricochet out of it, trailing clothes, books and bedding – I have seldom seen someone so excited to begin a new life.
And once I’d got over my worries about whether he’d remember to change his underwear more often than weekly, include at least a sampling of the 5 food groups in his daily diet, and actually attend lectures once in a while, I too felt pretty elated. (One down, one to go!)
One of the first things I did was turn my son’s bedroom into a guest room. I took down his posters (Slipknot, National Geographic’s ‘universe’ and smooth-chested young men – my son is nothing if not eclectic in his décor tastes), chucked out 5 years’ worth of old school stuff and packed his books and other bits and pieces into boxes. A lick of paint, some framed prints, fresh bedding, and you couldn’t tell that the room had been the lair of a teenager for 6 years.
Now, you may think this was all a bit precipitate – my son had been gone from the house for no longer than a day and I was already eradicating all trace of him. But something my father once told me kept resounding in my head: ‘As soon as your children leave, they start coming back.’ He wasn’t smiling when he said it.
I am one of 4 siblings, and my mother and father not only wasted no time removing evidence of their children the minute we left, they took the extraordinary step of, as soon as humanly possible, selling our huge, rambling family home and moving into a nifty little 2-bedroomed townhouse. And the second bedroom became my mother’s sewing room.
The message was clear: you’re NOT coming back!
Not that we got it, immediately. All my siblings and myself, at some stage, camped out in that spare bedroom, squashed into a single bed between piles of fabric and with our heads against the overlocking machine. It was profoundly uncomfortable, and intended to be so: we were not encouraged to stay for any longer than it took us to find new accommodation of our own.
At the time I found this verging on cruelty: we were their CHILDREN, for goodness’ sake! How could they snub us like that?
Now, having finally seen one child take his first step into independent adulthood, I have at least one of the answers: because, after 18 years of being at the beck-and-call of another person’s physical needs – food, laundry, transport, cleaning, etc – being without them is heady freedom indeed. It feels so good, in fact, that you never want it any other way.
I adore my son with all my heart and soul, but from this point on, when he ‘comes home’, it will be as a guest.Have you got a boomerang kid? Or ARE you one?
Read more by Tracey Hawthorne