Growing Up: The Art of Role Reversal.

Throughout my childhood, I played with my Lego and Playmobils and sang songs by “The Wombles” with my sisters at the top of my voice. I loved the smell of wet earth after rain fall, jumped in piles of leaves, got tearful at the end of the school term and wondered why I got goose pimples when I heard people singing together. I pushed my finger into the corners of the crisp packet to enjoy the hidden remnants of the stinging salt and vinegar flavour. I wondered if all this would magically stop when I was a grown-up, and waited impatiently for the morning I would awake knowing what I wanted to be and where I wanted to go in life. That day, I would stride out of the door with my briefcase in my hand on my way to my Very Important Job (whatever that would be), pick my kids up from school and expertly manage my life as a super mum and spouse juggling children, work and marriage better than Martha Stewart ever could.

When I was 18, I did not know that at the age of 45 I would still be doing all those things (except becoming wonder woman – but I have a s**t load more fun with all that housework and ironing forgotten). I left home to study French at University, thrilled to be beginning my adult life – even if I only knew that I wanted to get my backside over to France and stay there for ever, it was a good enough start as any. My Dad took me to the railway station to wave me off, and although he did his best to contain his feelings, his emotion seeped into my every pore.

Although I didn’t entirely understand his state of mind at that time, the wheel has turned and today I sure as hell understand. In less time than it takes Flash Gordon to get to planet Mongo, I have grown older and the three kilos of my firstborn baby has morphed into a towering bilingual teen with a Baccalauréat grasped victoriously in his hand. He is ready to fly the coop, raring at the bit to move into his own apartment. He is making plans for the future. I am looking on with a mixture of anxiety, envy and pride. He is now making his own choices, and will maybe remember the looks on our faces as we wish him well in his new abode (at least until he arrives home with his first bag of laundry two weeks later). And one day, his choices may lead him to that very same place we stand as parents today. Wondering where the time has gone. Looking back at his youth, looking forward to his child’s adult life…. and maybe envisaging the moment when he will chase me down the street in my underwear and slippers, clutching an empty packet of crisps in my hand and jumping in leaves as I sing “Remember you’re a Womble” at the top of my voice.

42 thoughts on “Growing Up: The Art of Role Reversal.

  1. I can sympathize with your feelings. There is certainly a strange mix of emotions when the first-born heads out on their own, but fasten your seatbelt and brace yourself …. it will not get easier. In my own experience, when the youngest one leaves, it is cuts even deeper.
    You’re in for a magnificent roller coaster ride ahead. You’re about to discover that your pride knows no limits.

    • Thanks, Jo. I’m trying to tell myself that I’ll finally have a room to work in during the day rather than translate at the kitchen table, but for the moment it’s small comfort. Another six years before Little My flies the nest – oof. 😀

  2. What a beautiful post! And it’s made me hungry for salt and vinegar crisps. Not having any first borns I can’t fully empathise, but there’s a sort of generational shift going on in my family right now as my siblings are reproducing like rabbits, so it’s interesting/funny/scary to suddenly be seeing my parents turn into The Grandparents, and to be the Aunty rather than the Niece… so I sort of know what you’re talking about!

    • No imported salt and vinegar where you are? That sucks 😦 It’s amazing how our roles eve love, isn’t it? My littlest little sister is aunty to five nephews and nieces, and has been elected “the favourite aunty”, with no animosity from the others. Having no children herself makes her the most fun one to be around, apparently!

      • I think there is something a bit extra special about being an aunty when you don’t have kids (yet or otherwise), though I’m mostly the favourite because I teach pre school so am the go-to Wheels on the Bus grown up 😉 There might be some in the English shop now you mention it… off to have a look…

  3. Just ready salted for me, MM, but apart from that I could have written almost every word, even to the leaving home to study languages (in my case French and German). I still remember bursting into tears the day before I left and telling everyone it as because being at home would never be the same again – and I was right. Before I could turn round I was waving my firstborn off to uni and blow me if it will only be a very few more years before Grandson#1 flies the nest.

    Chin up – you’ve done your bit and Bigfoot will still know how to fly back to the nest from time to time.

    • Ready salted? Mmm. That’s easy, they’re the ones nobody want in the multi-pack bag 😀 I’m glad that I’m not the only one to experience the strange acceleration of life’s pace after leaving home. Sigh.
      I got home to find PF briefing Bigfoot about how he would spend his weekends – one at his flat, one at his Chosen Counterpart’s flat, and one with his parents and siblings. Poor kid. I think I’m going to have to work on this before PF decides to move in with his son…

  4. That just made me teary. Three children left my home and the emotions never cease. He will do great things I suspect .

    • Sorry, I didn’t want to make you cry. We can play Lego and Playmobils together at the old folks’ home, if you like. then we can chase each other around the park in our wheelchairs and hide in the laundry room to drink white wine together. Big hugs xoxo

      • Ouch! This one hurt … I’m still about 9 years away from ‘that’ move, I am already dreading it. I know, I know, the circle of life … But still. Made me teary-eyed thinking about your dad watching you go… Only as parents do I think we really ‘get’ the depth of that moment. Beautiful post. X

      • YAY! I am in. We should start looking now. Funny mental picture of us racing around terrorizing the other inmates, HEHE !

        I cried as your son flexed his wings. Mine did too

      • Yoh, Gypsy 🙂 Enjoy every minute of kiddo being small and soak up the experience. You’re so right- only when we become parents do we really “get” what our parents experienced. And I only talked about the parenting wheel here – I deleted the part about how roles with our parents change too…

      • Warf 🙂 There I was trying to be discreet…. KATTTHHHRYYYYNNNN! I’ve heard of VD… and the WC… but not the hybrid of the two. Is it a a nymphomaniac toilet, do you think? 😀 Boy, we’re going to have fun at that old folks’ home!

    • Fifteen, huh? Nature does things well – the next few years will be fun and games as independence rears its head. I got to the point where I realized I needed to breathe as much as he did… only to balk at the last minute. Sigh.

  5. Oh I do relate to this and love the way you’ve expressed how it feels when that “wheel” moves faster than you could have anticipated. When my son left home for college I couldn’t go in his room for a few weeks! LOL! I kept laughing at myself for being so emotional and having such a hard time when I was actually so proud of him! Bigfoot will be back and forth, I predict. And probably laundry is a good way to entice him home from time to time. 🙂 ox

    • I’m sure he will be back and forth, at least at the beginning. then it will slow down. I’ll be trying to use his room rather than turn it into a shrine (as my mother in law tended to do with her boys’ bedrooms).

  6. What a great post, I remember the Wombles and I still jump in leaves and scoop out the last bits of the crisps.

    I tried to leave home, several times but my mum dragged me back by my ear. 😦 And you are still a whippersnapper…..

    • You’re still eating crisps? I thought you were on a diet! I hope Mrs Sensible isn’t reading this, or she’s going to hit you with that wooden spoon again…
      I had an Orinoco soft toy – he was my favourite because he loved eating, just like me. I’m now a bit more of a Madame Cholet.

      • Mrs S is in Sicily. I don’t’ think they have the internet that far south, so I am safe for another week. I have been living on cornflakes and milk for the past month plus the occasional glass of wine. I am wasting away.
        However I might hide all the wooden spoons

  7. I loved the Wombles! I had (still have somewhere in the depths of my loft) a puppet of Orinoco, he was my favourite! My eldest is 24 and first flew the nest when she went to Uni in Falmouth (lucky thing) and then last September moved to Madrid! So take heart MM, at least Bigfoot’s still near enough to visit often. I still have two boys of 18 and 16 to keep me on my toes! I think it’s going to be hardest when they’re all gone but I’m hoping by then it will just be nice to concentrate on me for a change! 🙂

  8. Reminds me of the fact that as a schoolboy I used to borrow the Womble paperbacks from the local library… Not quite the same as reading the same thing on a Kindle today…

  9. I still push my fingers into the corners of crisp packets to get at the remnants of flavour… except in my case it’s Monster Munch or Skips, because mentally I am actually still 5 😉

  10. Ooh, I’m dreading the day my eldest leaves home. Has he returned with his laundry yet?? I am proud to say that I actually went to see the Wombles in concert…even as a child, I knew how to live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle 🙂

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