What’s it like?” says the now grown up pal of one of the kidults as he towers over me, his shoulders blocking out the light from the pub window where Eldest Child and his band have been playing a set. As I vape and he chats, I can see the man in front of me, but always simultaneously in my head he’s the curly-headed toddler who speed waddled over to Eldest in the park and introduced himself with a smile since it was way before they talk.
“What’s it like when your children have grown up and you see them out in the world doing all these things?” He gestures, an arm movement that covers the music, the jobs, the relationships, the talents, the skills and professions, then swings his arm once more to cover their squad who we can through the window spread across several tables, kids I’ve known for ever and their spider web of friends and partners, a multi-talented and skilled bunch of young adults who are fighting back and giving it to the pandemic, useful members of society contributing and helping others in so many ways, getting on with their lives.
“It’s magic. Now you’ve grown up we can stop holding our breath all the time, terrified we’re going to drop the ball and someone’s going to swallow a battery or fall off a roof, or go for a wander round the docks in the dark in their pyjamas. And all that other stuff you got up to (this nicely covers the teenage/early twenties, much of which it’s too soon to laugh or even talk about). I love it, and we’re really proud of you all.”
I know, I’m speaking too soon, calamity is always just around the corner, no matter how old your kids, but here’s a man with two rampaging toddlers to wrangle. He doesn’t need to hear, “Aw they’re so lovely at that age, wee cuties, but just wait till the authorities start knocking on your door.” Not helpful.
“Yeah. Good,” he says, fast forwarding to a time when he can stop sleeping with one eye open. “It’s amazing, parenting, but wild. I think each child should have three adults to look after them at all times. That’s what it takes. Three adults per child, all the time.”
And then some. He’s right. Parenting isn’t something you can do alone. It takes ‘a village’ and we’re looking at ours.