Monday, 2 April 2012
My children used to need me
My two children used to need me. For long periods of their childhoods if it wasn’t for me they would not have eaten, they would have suffered the agony of ulcerated groins and buttocks caused by prolonged contact with soiled nappies/diapers, and they would have had no means of transport to ferry them in “dad’s taxi” to football practice/sleep-overs at mates’ houses/school discos etc. Now aged 18 and 21, they are both young adults and, despite not yet having left the family home, the direction of dependency is beginning to change; I need them to rely on me, at least some of the time, for me to feel useful.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an overprotective dad who strives to control my kids’ lives or to deny they are now grown-ups. On the contrary, I bristle with pride when I bring to mind my accomplishments (OK my wife may have also made a contribution, but allow me to claim the credit in my hour of need) in fathering two children, nurturing them through each and every day of their childhoods, and enabling them to become the two contented and decent human beings they are today (granted, my son can sometimes be an obnoxious bastard with both me and Mrs Jones, but he’s yet to bring the police to our door!).
Anyway, last Sunday evening an image caught my eye that screamed, “Your children don’t need you anymore!” On Sundays I always cook the evening meal for the family (who said I wasn’t a modern man?). Traditional fare, of course, comprising a roast joint, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and veg. As always, I’d prepared enough grub for four and dished up around 6.30 pm. In response to my text prompts that the meal is ready, my 21-year-old son texts back to say he’s still in pub and to put his in the oven so he can eat it upon his return. Simultaneously, 18-year-old daughter phones to inform me that she had recently returned from a spontaneous visit to McDonald’s with her boyfriend and wasn’t hungry, but she may have it later. So just I and Mrs Jones sat to eat at a table set for four, the symbolism of the two vacant seats taunting us that things will never be the same again.
But the image that resonated deep into my psyche confronted me four hours later. At 10.30 pm I entered the kitchen en route to lock the back door as a prelude to retiring for the night. As I glanced to my left the oven light illuminated the picture, framed by the square oven door, of two plated meals (each covered by another plate to prevent drying up) one above the other, like flying-saucers in outer space, each a zillion miles from home with no hope of returning to base. I sighed, turned off the oven and went to bed.