We often hear talk of ‘rites of passage’ usually referred to when discussing the development of children from birth through to adulthood or progressing through a chosen career.
But what about the ‘rites of passage’ of those eternal amateurs – namely parents.
Just as a background I’m both a parent to two – now adult – children and even a grandparent which started me thinking about how did I even manage to reach this point.
I have to say I’m watching from afar as our grandson is growing up – they live in New Zealand – and have always been fascinated by the number of “experienced parents” who freely offer their advice on what and how to bring a child up.
The only advice I could offer is – “I haven’t a clue because it’s not my child”.
I know that might seem a bit of a cop out but with almost seven billion people on the planet all of who are individuals why would I suddenly be an authority on one of them?
Bugger me I don’t even really know myself that well.
Which brings me back to the ‘parental rites of passage’.
Let’s be honest about this – children no matter what age they are will now squirm – at the very thought that the ‘parental rites of passage’ started with their parents having sex and the discovery that the result of their fun started the procreation process.
OK without going into details some time afterwards the woman involved starts to dramatically change shape which is where it all begins to become reality that parenthood is actually going to happen.
So the first stage of ‘parental rites of passage’ starts with the struggle to find a suitable name for the – this is where the unborn child gets given a pseudonym nickname like frilly or piglet –
Then there are books and books on how to raise a child written by “experts” which all turn out to be ‘bollocks’ for the very simple reason that the child hasn’t read them and has no idea what they have to do to conform to the way they should behave.
So the amateur parents – and even if it is the second, third and even more because all children are different – proceed through pregnancy (with the man blissfully unaware of what the woman is really going through) until the moment of the birth.
Another stage on the ‘parental rites of passage’ arrives – when you are actually handed a very small human being for who you – and you alone – are now responsible.
At this stage I should say without fear of contradiction that if you held the view before the child is handed to you that you were not going to let having a baby change your life then how can I put it delicately –
“YOU ARE AN IDIOT”
Your world has changed – forever and more so for mum – because that’s who to the rest of the world you now are – Piglets Mum – than for dads (OK there are some exceptions to the dad bit but not many in relative terms).
Anyway you take the lovely bundle of – Oh who am I kidding – home which is when you discover that the small person has their own sleep patterns – own eating patterns. – own pooping patterns – and for something so helpless is making your life hell.
Parental maternal and paternal love carries the day and along with the terror comes experience.
The next stage of ‘parental rites of passage’ is when the child after nearly five years of being the centre of your universe is by law to be handed over to the education system where highly skilled professionals not only take them off your hands for 30 hours a week for 35 weeks a year but they also educate them at the same time.
All for the princely sum to the taxpayer of less than 5p/hour/ child and yet we hear complaints from everyone including politicians that teachers are failing and responsible for all of the ills the young bring on society.
Anyway from five to eighteen parents have to go through the trauma of dropping their offspring off on their first day at Infant School and face the void that it leaves at home then the same again at Junior School before worrying whether they are going to be bullied – or be bullies – at ‘big school’ where at 11 they seem so small compared with the 18 year olds.
Of course during this period there is also another ‘parental rite of passage’ as the children move through childhood to their teenage years when for a period they – the children that is – become inhuman and also let’s be honest in the process turn their parents into some kind of mythical uncontrollable monsters.
Parents continually hand out ultimatums about what is and is not acceptable behaviour aligned to unspeakable threats if their ultimatums are not complied with.
It goes on and on incessantly but as most people know apart from on very rare occasions the threats are never applied simply because they are either ignored by the truculent youth or it is too difficult to implement them.
This is the “I’ll always love you but I don’t always like you” stage of your relationship with your children.
Where’s the bloody expert books on how to deal with teenagers?
I won’t go into the turmoil parents go through when their beloved children suddenly discover that they are attracted to someone else – do we have the big talk with them – do we ignore it – what can we say without bringing about a look of absolute horror mixed with bemused disgust that their parents – these old folks – actually know something about it.
Sex that is.
If you’re young and reading this just think how we felt and better still remember it when you have to go through it.
Then it’s off to wherever they decide to go – that is if you can get them to go in the first place – and the ‘parental rites of passage’ of having to face an empty nest.
We were grateful – and had fun – before the kids came along at the start of our partnership so surely logic dictates that we should now be grateful that things are “back to how they were pre-rugrats”
So why aren’t we?
Then there’s the ‘parental rites of passage’ involve in having to accept a new member of the family when your child turns up and says they are going to get married.
I know at this point people will say “you are marrying an individual not a family” – and they as every other delusional person has every right to think that – except you bloody well do marry into a family so shape up and make a good impression.
And that or if they enter a permanent relationship is the “parental rites of passage” completed except of course it isn’t because along come grandchildren who you will no doubt dote upon and shower with more gifts and affection than you ever did on your own children.
Whilst at the same time suddenly having the urge to start the cycle of giving advice as one wise older amateur parent to one just staring out on their amateur parent journey.
Resist it for no other reason than it will only lead to the same resentment you felt all those years ago.
If there is anything life as a parent has taught me it is this:-
I remain a complete amateur as a parent.
I’m now an amateur grandparent.
I am the last person anyone should ask for advice on parenting which is exactly why I’m going to give this advice.
I’m still serving my “parental rites of passage” if you are a parent just get on with serving yours.
and finally –
I am now off to personally surround a nice bottle of wine and bring it rapidly to body temperature.
Good luck everyone.