A funny thing happened on my way to work this morning. I found myself behind the school bus that had picked up my two children about 20 minutes earlier. And I felt a little sad.
Not about the school bus. Seriously, we love our new life in East Cork, and having a lovely man picking up our kids in the morning and bringing them home later is one of our favorite things. But it was just strange that they were there, right in front of me, but evolving in a different world.
A few years ago, a writer friend of mine wrote about the melancholy of watching his children drift away as they went their own way in life. It sounded a bit dreamy and lyrical to me, and I thought he might have written it after a few pints. But now I understand.
The same friend, whose children are about five years older than mine, was the first to tell me that parenthood is all about phases. We all go through more or less the same experiences as our kids grow up – and now it’s my turn to start missing my kids, even though the oldest isn’t even ten and they’re not going anywhere been gone for ages.
There is a touch of karma here. My mother loved all her children and hated it when we left, so much so that her back hurt when I returned to Dublin after a weekend at home. We called it the emigrant’s back. (If you had to choose one word to describe our family, it wouldn’t be friendly.) I I was having the best time of my life in Dublin – I never understood why she wouldn’t be happy for me. But I understand now.
Someone was waving at me and making faces at me in the back of the school bus because that’s what kids are supposed to do in the back of the bus. They obviously love their 20 minutes of time with friends before going to school.
My two always tell funny stories on the bus. I am sincerely happy for them. But it was weird to feel disconnected from them, the way my mom must have felt 30 years ago.
We are led to believe that nature invented teenagers, so we would be relieved when our children finally leave home. But he looks like i’ll take care of the gap while my kids go their own way. I think that pain behind the school bus this morning was my first step to the emigrant’s back. My mother would have laughed it off.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m basing my future sanity on my kids moving out in their 20s, so I can get my life back for a decade before I start to wither away. I want them gone for them too – it’s bullshit that people have to live with their parents until their thirties now. As I said, I lived my best life in Dublin during my 20s.
But I hope they won’t go too far. I wish I named them Traolach and Caoimhe because they would never last long in places like Australia and America where no one can pronounce their names.
Our son will likely stay relatively local – he’s never happier than when he’s home with all his stuff around him. His sister, however, might end up on another planet. She is always looking to try the new thing. If my mum has a bad back because I went to Dublin, can you imagine how I will feel when my little one moves to Mars?
It’s noon as I write this, the bus will take them home in five minutes. My son will come here and relay verbatim the conversation he had with his friend about the latest game on Roblox – which can sometimes last over five minutes. His sister will probably go down to his room and read Harry Potter for half an hour to have some free time. These are the glory days.