Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: Old Before I Die: The Four Phases of Parenting

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Old Before I Die: The Four Phases of Parenting

The past week has been spent "en famille" in the south of France. When I say "en famille" I mean, the extended variety. My husband's father reached a grand 80 years of age in the year 2018 and to commemorate this, his beloved wife of "too many years to mention" decided to treat/subject him to a week of his children, their significant others and mutinous offspring in the delightful surroundings of the sunny Dordogne. As we sat around the dinner table, umbrellas in hand, raising a glass to mark, both, his being another day closer to becoming penpals with the country's monarch and the brief absence of our progeny (although, ever eager to employ their linguistic skills they later decided to translate "en vacance" as "late night party" for the duration of our stay) I realised that we were, as a family, clearly experiencing the four stages of the adult enduring parenthood.


Evolution of the Parent 

Stage One: Unlimited Potential
My husband's twin sister is currently on the brink of adding her first twig to the increasingly thick canopy of our family tree. In fact, so close is she to sending her first child down nature's water slide that the husband has been brushing up on his knowledge of the choreography of birth just in case the subarctic temperatures of the swimming pool induce any untimely activity. In hindsight, both she and her husband have excelled at their pre-procreational state; they have run marathons, learnt languages, travelled to numerous far flung countries and found time to give back to the community. Having achieved all these, rather commendable, feats they have now shifted their attentions to starting a family. With their progeny still safely ensconced in the womb they epitomise the limitless potential of parenthood; where the possibilities and aspirations are endless and when you feel that you merely have to choose the type of parent you want to become.





Stage Two: The Thick of It
We clearly represent this stage. With a four year old who never draws breath and a two year old who can spot danger a mile off and run straight into it, our aspirations have shifted somewhat. Gone are the days when we had the time to consider how best to parent, replaced by a mere need to survive; when the hours between sunrise (0434) and sunset (2147) are spent battling to keep them alive, fed and law abiding. 


Parenting Toddlers: The Thick of It

Stage Three: Learning to Live Again
The husband's brother and his lovely wife demonstrate this plateau in parenthood; also known as the "school years". Their children are now of the age where they can mostly entertain themselves given the right tools, balls, sporting paraphernalia and IT equipment necessary. No longer are the adults being called upon to pretend to be crocodiles and attempt to catch the toes of the passing prey, now they are able to look on and marvel at how their efforts are panning out whilst learning how to best employ their new found spare time (when they are not fetching, carrying and ferrying their brood from one extracurricular activity to another or fretting about the intricacies of their pre-teen social circles).


Mostly down to the fetching and carrying one day...

Stage Four: Liberation
The in-laws now occupy the hallowed ground of reduced responsibility. Sure, they continue to weigh in and rescue their offspring in their hour(s) of need and I am sure they continue to expend far more energy than can possibly be imagined agonising over poor life decisions that their progeny may make from time to time but to all extents and purposes the baton of guardianship has been passed down the chain. With three adult children who are (almost) entirely self sufficient, they have re-entered a period of freedom that we can only dream about and live in that perfect hybrid state of being able to take pride in their grandchildren's adorable natures and daily accomplishments whilst not being responsible for moulding them into upstanding members of society and, best of all, being able to pass them back.




One day, I hope that I too shall be celebrating a landmark age surrounded by my nearest and dearest as they battle to wrangle their spirited offspring while I look on, glass of chilled wine in hand, intermittently engaging them in a brief game or illogical conversation for then I too shall pass them back.





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