Life operates in phases and cycles, that are not always apparent at the time. It’s only when you look back with hindsight that you can see things have changed and you are into a new phase of your time. But sometimes there are events that knowingly come towards you, like a train. They approach slowly at first, before they hurtle into the station and you have no choice but to watch them smack you in the face. I’m ready.
Nearly twenty years ago I was reading all the books about childbirth and how to be a father. Oh, how I laugh at the naivety now. The real thing was even better than I could have imagined, but also so much more difficult. You just have to ride on the waves that it brings. Now, as I write this, another very real thing is happening.
For those of you that haven’t guessed, Junior Rouleur is off into the big world on Monday, to University no less, to “study”. No matter how much we care for him, he’s leaving us, and rightly so. Being a parent is a complex thing, it never, ever stops. You really do just get to carry them, even when they don’t want you to. Now is one of the moments, he and I may be one, but we are decidedly not the same. It’s time for him to find his own way, his own paths and his own phases.
Of course, it’s not the end of the world, far from it. There will, I hope, be periods when we don’t see him in quite a while, he’ll no longer be just down the hall in his own room. Covid notwithstanding, I hope he’ll be out meeting new friends in low-lit rooms, drinking wine and having a good time. But no matter what happens, he’ll always be my son, and I will always love him.
There are dangers out there of course, not least honesty. None of us really know at that age what we want, hell - I still don’t sometimes. But you can rely on us to tell you, what we think. I hope we will continue to tell each other everything -even those those things we are not supposed to. Because that is the core of our bond.
He will make mistakes I’m sure, cross lines he shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter to me, even if it matters to him. You have to learn these things for yourself, and although I can provide a safety net, I can’t protect him every time he crosses the road anymore. That may seem cruel, but letting your children go is the best thing a parent can do when the time comes.
They have to fly. It’s no secret that our world is in darkness right now. It feels like a difficult time to let go, and I feel I could have, should have done more to prepare him. But my pesty conscience isn’t much help right now. He’s going to have to embrace it all, and know that our love will be there for him if he falls off the wall.
And I’m sure that most of his life will be joyful. The last six months must have felt like he was living underground what with all the restrictions. He’ll get into all those late night conversations talking about things you can’t explain, as well as kissing the sky with lots of new friends. From the child will mysteriously emerge a fully-rounded man.
He will throw his arms around all of it, and even in the times he is still up at six o’clock in the morning, and having to get to a lecture by nine, he’ll see the sunrise of possibilities, and travel a long way from us. And one day find his way back home.
He has had tough times in his life already, and has developed a resilience most of you can’t imagine. He can’t always be strong. But he’s wiped the tears from his eyes, coped in the dark, trashy days, and always finds his own treasure somehow.
In fact he’s a bit of an acrobat, I think all young people have to be these days. He doesn’t always believe things in the naive way I did at his age. He’s more questioning, but he’s also a lot more level headed too, he doesn’t let the bastards grind him down.
Above all else he is my, our, son. I am already deeply proud of him. That may be a common sentiment amongst parents, but just as no one can prepare you for parenthood, no parent can viscerally feel any child is loved more than their own, by them. So there will be a little mourning as I drive away from the University, but at the same time, I want him to embrace this dangerous idea, that he doesn’t need us anymore.