When do you stop your parents from parenting you and when do you stop behaving like a child?
Never, is the right answer, as I’ve found out this holiday. For no matter how old you get, or how old your children become, you will always see them as children.
During our mini-break to Paris my father has insisted that we stop for food every five minutes, because ‘as a growing girl’ he insists I have three square meals a day – the implication being that I will get tearful, irrational or lethargic if I don’t.
It’s amazing how well he still knows me.
Each time we leave the hotel, he checks that I have everything I need to survive on the streets in case I get lost. He appropriated my passport through customs.
He asks me if I’m cold or tired at least ten times a day and cannot conceal his pride when I achieve a new feat by myself and showers me with over-the-top positive reinforcement – which privately I revel in. That pride shone like a beacon when I travelled from one side of the city to the other on the Metro without getting ‘taken’, lost or mugged.
It’s comforting to be cared for after being the carer for such a long time.
I treat my own children in the same way, of course, because you always see your progeny as children, no matter how old they are. But where mine are still at that point of teenage resilience, eager for independence, I’m feeling tired and vulnerable and very receptive to a brief pastoral moment of being welcomed back into the nest.
Dad buys me dessert while they sip coffee and watches proudly as I consume each bowl and grow bigger horizontally.
He asks me if I have enough money when I dare to leave the protective fold for any short period of time.
It would be quite easy to get used to this treatment, although there are some areas of being a kid again that still seem ridiculously unjust. The sacred rule in our family (that the old man has borrowed from my father) of NEVER being allowed to touch the contents of the mini bar in hotels is one. Dad reminded me of this rule when we checked in.
And I found myself staring longingly at the mini bar for three whole days. It was like a final test that taunted me up until the last day when something inside of me snapped and I decided upon one final act of teenage rebellion.
That Diet Coke contained the sweet taste of mutiny as it slid down my throat. Fifty years of denial made it the amber nectar of my trip.
My father has every reason to treat me as a child.