We have this myth that our kids are grownups at 18. This is a myth mostly perpetuated by 18-year-old who think they know everything, and possibly by the parents of young children who are desperately clinging to the idea of a little light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Anyone who has ever met an 18-year-old knows that they are fundamentally idiots. I mean they are lovely; passionate, interesting, and full of energy, but that doesn’t mean they’re not idiots. They may be able to drive a car, buy a house (fat chance these days) and do all the things that grownups do but they’re not really grownups. They are ducklings. Learning to be grownups. They should have L plates on the backs and be forced to wear rubber rings- or at least armbands.
The trouble with parenting ducklings is that they don’t want to be parented. They know everything already. They are going to set the world of fire, make up their own rules. Live life and laugh.
That is until they need to borrow £20. Or they want to know how to make roast potatoes but can’t be arsed to Google, so call you at half-one in the morning. Or heaven forbid get poorly.
I’m not talking about proper life-threatening-illness-sick. I’m talking about the tummy aches, the colds, the hangovers. Then they boomerang back, acting age eight again, wanting a poorly bed on the sofa and comics from ‘Smiths, shouting through from the living room, having commandeered the remote,
“Can you make the toast, extra floppy so it doesn’t hurt my throat?”
Parenting poorly 18-year-olds is the worst. For a start, they won’t do anything you say. When your kids are little, you can give them some Calpol, pop on a DVD, and then send them to bed early. But you can’t make 18 years old take paracetamol. Even when that’s what they need.
“I can’t swallow them with a sore throat.”
“I need Lucozade to drink with them, everyone knows that!”
You can’t even make them call the Doctors, even when they are lying surrounded by tissues, crying that they have the plague.
Parenting 18-year-olds is full-on parenting but with none of the power.
No sent to bed early.
No “because I said so!”
You just have to endure. Your child is still there, wanting a cwtch, needing a fuss. And part of that is lovely, them needling you again. But your sudden re-entry back into active duty is a sharp reminder of how you used to dream of the days when you could be free. And once they’ve emptied the bread bin and complained because you’ve only got the brand of jam that you like. Feeling better, they go.
Back to Uni or back to work. Back to being fabulous.
Then it’s back to normal. Still being a mum, stalking them on social media, hoping they got home safe. Leaving you with a pile of laundry and the cold the waddled home with. But at least you know they have clean armbands.
- Cwtch – Welsh word for cuddle