In the same way as I re­jected my own par­ents’ sub­ur­ban life, my chil­dren will re­ject mine as they find their own way

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - THIS LIFE -

LAST YEAR, AS MY DAUGH­TER en­tered tran­si­tion year, she an­nounced that she wanted to be a doc­tor. Great, we thought, imag­in­ing the years we’d en­joy of boast­ing at drinks’ par­ties. How­ever, as the last doc­tor in my fam­ily was my grandad in World War II, and we are a house of nerdy cre­atives, her choice has been a bit of a mys­tery to us.

As she got some work ex­pe­ri­ence at a hospi­tal, re­turn­ing daily with glee­fully gory tales of op­er­a­tions and sundry med­i­cal emer­gen­cies, I found my­self lis­ten­ing to her grow­ing pas­sion for the vo­ca­tion with a touch of anx­i­ety. It all seemed so for­eign, so fac­tual and more to the point, very dif­fi­cult.

I could see the long years of graft ahead of her, her lit­tle head bent un­der a lamp as she swot­ted up on di­a­grams of the heart and chem­i­cal re­ac­tions; not to men­tion the life of a ju­nior doc­tor, which seemed, from my ex­ten­sive view­ing of Grey’s Anatomy, like an elab­o­rate form of tor­ture. I won­dered if she might con­sider some­thing a lit­tle less… de­mand­ing? And what about the dreaded hon­ours maths? We have a maths by­pass in our house and any­thing be­yond long di­vi­sion leaves us slightly scratch­ing our heads, so the idea that my daugh­ter might be able to climb this ed­u­ca­tional Ever­est seemed faintly out­landish.

I was po­litely, but firmly told to butt out. In fact, I was told, my ‘ca­sual’ ques­tion­ing about how chem­istry was go­ing was mak­ing her doubt her­self. Crikey. And then it slowly be­gan to dawn on me that, quite apart from the fact that I was un­wit­tingly knock­ing her con­fi­dence, her choice might be formed pre­cisely be­cause of us. She is go­ing to carve out her own iden­tity, strik­ing out to es­tab­lish her­self in a dif­fer­ent way to her par­ents. All per­fectly nat­u­ral, of course. But in spite of what we might say about want­ing our off­spring to be in­de­pen­dent and to fol­low their own des­tinies, when they ac­tu­ally do some­thing about it, con­ster­na­tion is the re­sult.

My own fa­ther loved sail­ing, but af­ter all the years he spent tak­ing us out on the water, one by one, we all re­jected his pas­sion, leav­ing him mys­ti­fied and yes, a bit dis­ap­pointed. My hus­band’s fam­ily are all golf nuts, but so far, their grand­chil­dren have re­sisted the lure of the four-iron and put­ter.

My hus­band and I love noth­ing bet­ter than a con­ver­sa­tion about books, but our son an­nounced last year that he was go­ing to study com­put­ing be­cause he was ‘sick and tired’ of all the arty stuff.

I think the penny has fi­nally dropped. In the same way as I re­jected my own par­ents’ sub­ur­ban life, cast­ing it off for a new job in in­ner-city Lon­don, my chil­dren will re­ject mine as they find their own way. And sadly, I also have to face the fact that I am no longer Won­der­woman, cen­tral to my chil­dren’s lives, but as they be­come adults, some­one ac­tu­ally not to be. I am a back­ground fig­ure: use­ful in an emer­gency, but oth­er­wise a rather amus­ing sideshow.

Last year, my el­dest took to post­ing ‘hi­lar­i­ous’ quotes from me to his friends on Snapchat, com­plete with many LOLs and an­i­mated devil’s horns stick­ing out of my head. Ouch.

But I’m be­gin­ning to un­der­stand that this is part of a process. My son’s Snapchat­ting isn’t an in­sult to the par­ent he once wor­shipped, but a nat­u­ral part of the cy­cle, even if I find my sud­den com­edy sta­tus be­mus­ing.

I also re­alise, from talk­ing to my friends who are par­ents, that the jour­ney from heroic Meryl Streep to hi­lar­i­ous Joan Rivers is one that we are all tak­ing. They, too, find their val­ues chal­lenged, their as­sump­tions, even iden­ti­ties, ca­su­ally re­jected. We all find our­selves flail­ing a bit at the new sta­tus quo, un­sure of who we now are, but cer­tain that life changes, whether we like it or not.

So, I will em­brace my daugh­ter’s dream and get with the pro­gramme, be­cause, no mat­ter what I think, or in­deed how much I worry about the years ahead, this is her choice. It’s her life, not mine. And, no mat­ter what choice she makes, in a few years’ time, I’ll watch her take her first steps into the adult world and I will be ev­ery bit the proud mother.

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