One day over the holidays, after lunch out with the old man at our local pub, NC and and I continued to paint the town red while he disappeared to check the cricket scores. Obviously we didn’t leave the house – because that be supremely awkward for her – and the focus of our “session” together was hardly some tawdry “getting pissed with your parent” event. No, it was more organic than that; a short period of time where we gently morphed into two adults with shared humour and interests, enjoying each other’s company on a lazy summer’s afternoon.
I managed to forget about the state of her bedroom and how she has an aversion to washing frying pans that day, and she chose to forget what an unreasonable bitch I can be in the heat. We kicked off our shoes, filled up our glasses, shared a sun bed on the deck and sang along to George Michael, laughed with Eddie Izzard, ripped apart men and relationships and discussed how together we were going to put the world to rights with our feminist idealism. Then we took loads of selfies as we waded through the Christmas chocolate stash.
Unfortunately, there is also a highly incriminating video that I have since deleted in case Kurt sends it to Child Services to facilitate his move to “proper” parents who understand him. I’m not sure how kindly they would look on my modelling of crunches and drinking wine at the same time.
It was a wonderful couple of hours that encompassed everything I aspired to that day I pushed out my firstborn and presented her to the rest of the ward baboon-style, before falling unconscious on the hospital floor from blood loss.
Not my best work as a responsible parent, perhaps, but when I ask the question of whether we should have a life sentence as role models to our kids, I don’t mean being “responsible” in terms of their safety, obviously, I’m talking about if, as adults, they are old enough to handle the ‘real’ us?
I want to know when I can start to have fun again? When I can go back to being silly, badass, highly immature and not be shot for being irresponsible?
We’re told that it’s a capital crime-to-parenting to be friends with our kids, and after a torturous and failed few years of trying to do just that, I get that. But surely, as they mature, we can loosen up on the whole role modelling perfectionism a little? Isn’t it just as valuable a part of their education to see our true colours as well? To understand that man’s destination is created from our successes as well as those enormous fuck ups?
When I grew up in the UK, young adults left home around eighteen, either to go onto further education, to travel, to work or simply to move out with friends. The culture in Australia is different around tertiary education, with student accommodation at a premium and rent way beyond what most young people could hope to afford. That leaves many of our young adults with no choice but to remain at home.
When I look back at the glory days of my own student years, I’m pretty glad that my father never witnessed the shenanigans I got up to in my twenties. Those years of development were about pushing boundaries, failing badly and learning (usually via mismanagement) how to manage my life. I can’t imagine the added pressure of having him there to witness my failures, judging and nagging me about my choices, or about keeping my bedroom tidy or putting the milk back in the fridge.
And it’s equally challenging for us, the parents, who feel we’ve done our time.
I’ve accepted that our kids may never leave home; what I can’t accept if they continue to co-habit with us into their mid-twenties, is not knowing when the parenting Fatwah will be lifted so we can do what the fuck we want again. I want to know when I can push boundaries and make mistakes again, without being accused of poor role modelling. I want to know when I can have sex on the living room floor again, eat ice cream from the tub, lie in bed all day to nurse a hangover and walk around the house completely starkers.
Even though my son is about to enter his third decade, he is a young adult with certain issues, who needs to be reminded constantly about what is appropriate behavior, so we have to be conscious of how we represent ourselves to him. But there has to come a time, surely, just as when the Berlin wall finally came down, when the gap between the expectations of parent and child can be narrowed?
Fortunately, I know that NC won’t judge me for that minor lapse from perfect role modelling to irresponsible lush, because she knows that I’m only an occasional drinker…but it was worth it.
For relationships to evolve, the walls have to come down.