Like thousands of others (I know this because I stood in the accommodation queue with many of them) my son went off to university this weekend. He was the last of the three. I say three, although in truth I borrow two of them; stepsons from my long term relationship with their mum. Kristian was the first to leave – he’s studying in Birmingham; Cavan went to Eastbourne last year and Noah has begun in Nottingham. Anyone who has small children will imagine what it’s like when they leave. Anyone who’s children have gone will know the feeling I’m having now which is that I am finding my way as a Dad where the children aren’t always around. For a mum where the children have been at home it must be a bigger shift. The fact is life has now changed.
When the children are small we do our best to be good parents. Teach them manners, take them to the park with the swings, feed them properly, all that sort of stuff. If, like me, you parted company with the child’s mum early on (Noah was 18 months old) you then do your part on the parenting side as a Dad and she does her side as Mum. Kate and I have stayed on good terms throughout which helps no end. The next change is when you find a new partner. My girlfriend was a major influence on me as a parent and again you hope you’ve done your best. The children go through traumas and triumph’s as do you and then one day you realise they aren’t little anymore, they are young adults and you, by pure chronology, are no longer the person you once were. It’s a slightly painful truth, but I am middle-aged. Of course in my head I’m not, and physically I’ve looked after myself, but the clock still posts 48 years.
As each child has left to go away I have mourned a little – usually a day of feeling sorry for who or what I’m not sure really. Not seeing that person every day, or the passing of childhood or the passing of my life. That feeling goes quite quickly though. The truth of the matter is I haven’t seen Kristian and Cavan every day for 6 years now, since I left the family home. Noah I have seen two to four times a week at the most, so the adjustment is not so hard, but adjustment it is. I have had a number of conversations with other parents over the past few years and all of us say the same. We seek new identity. Whether the children lived with you or you saw them throughout the week the fact is that now they have flown. They seek the same freedom and dreams that we had at 20; they are the future.
So what of us? The middle-aged generation. Once the adjustment is made it’s like being that young man again, but with wisdom and grey hair. You know that heartbreak won’t kill you, you know that life is full of cycles of famine and feast, you know nothing lasts forever – whether pain or pleasure. What you also know is that life is there to be grabbed. The opportunities are there to be taken, whether recession or economic growth. We can’t control the global markets, we can’t control the media and we can’t control the weather. What we can control is how we react to them. We react to everything and every now and then we have the foresight to get our lives right.
Not long ago I talked about my relationship, or lack of, with my father. I know that mine has been different with my children. They have formed my life and in some ways I have formed theirs. As they now conquer the world so I must strive to put down deeper footprints in mine. I look forward to seeing them every holiday and whenever I can, now is my time and I will take it. Thanks kids for everything you have given me and all I have learned. I hope we all make each other proud over the coming years.