I’m not given to making dogmatic pronouncements and judgements about parenting, the rights and wrongs, top tips, advice. If pushed I might say only do up every second popper on a babygro, or let sleeping teenagers lie, but usually a vague “just do your best” is my mantra. However, this week, two decades in, I’ve had an epiphany. It’s all about time. It’s the only weapon parents have. Just stick in there, stay sane, and eventually the kids will grow up and start doing what you’ve always wanted them to.
I realise this when Eldest Child badgers me for clean sheets. I know, stunned.
“No, these are no good,” he says, rejecting the white cotton ones I proffer. “I want the set that matches the walls.”
OK, what’s he on? When did he notice? It’s a good few years since I painted one of his bedroom walls teal and bought co-ordinating bedding, but whenever I drop by his room the textiles appear to have been curated by Widow Twankey and a labrador has given birth on the duvet.
“And the matching pillow cases too,” he says. “Thanks. Nice.”
And off he goes to change his sheets. Next there’s clinking and crashing, as beer bottles are rounded up, then the towel mountain can be heard being stuffed into the washing machine.
I’m poised for the usual asinine questions about how it functions, but nothing. It whirrs into action and he goes back upstairs, humming, rustling. Is he actually carrying a bin bag? What is going on? Could it be that he’s finally...
“Grown up?” says Youngest Child, when I consult.
“Yes. Do you think that’s what’s happened?” I say.
“Yes. Definitely. It’s happened. And it’s been a good thing for me and my life because he’s been cooking. Yesterday he made me pasta and it was very nice. He said there might be sauce next time. I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
“Wow. Do you think it was anything I said? Or did? Over the years?”
“You? No.” n