Friday 26 September 2014

How well do you know your adult child?

Prompted by child 4 of 5 returning to the UK as an adult after 3 years as an expat child and a visit from the middle child and his girlfriend for 2 weeks, has made me wonder how well I know my adult children.

Hubby and I have 5 children between us and we’ve been together for 15 years.

Child 1 left home aged 12 she is profoundly disabled and has been in residential care since 2001. She is now 26.

Child 2 left home aged 18 to join the British Army, he is now 25. When we embarked on lives as expats, he’d been away from home for over 3 years and was based in Germany, prior to our move we saw him maybe twice a year when he either visited the UK or we made the trip to Germany.

Child 3 left home aged 18 also, in September 2010, around a week before we were asked to move to South Africa, leaving the UK 4 months later.

Child 4 left home aged 19 in January 2014 to return to the UK, you can read about some of the issues he’s having as an expat child to adulthood here.

Child 5 left home aged 14 in August 2013 to return to the UK to boarding school.

We have had no relationships at all with child 2 & 3 as adult children, they left home having just gone into adulthood and with us living in different countries we have not been able to establish relationships with them as adults.

They visit here, we visit the UK but without a base, somewhere to stay, somewhere just to pop in and out of and say ‘hi mum, hi dad’ it’s been strained, The assumption from them is that we’ll nag, critisie and give instructions, but no matter how hard I try to explain, I just don’t get through. ‘Yes when you lived at home, under our roofs and we paid the bills, we were intitled to make you do chores, keep your rooms tidy, etc’
As adults with their own homes, paying their own bills they can do what they like and if they want guidance and assistance then it is up to them to come to us, I’m not going to nag, I haven’t nagged, I’ve respected their wish to meet in town and not at their flat, despite having travelled 1000’s of miles by plane, then 100’s miles by coach or train. I’ve stayed in hotels near by rather than request the use of their sofa, so they can have their privacy, I’ve been told I can stay on their face book as long as I don’t post stupid comments or tag them in statuses or heaven forbid ask their friends to my friends also.

Child 2 is struggling at the moment, having left the army 2 years ago, he’s flitted in and out of employment and has finally reached the stage where he’s asked for help. We’ve offered in the past and had our heads bitten off, but we knew he’d come to us when he was ready and now is the time.

Child 3 came to visit with his girlfriend for 2 weeks, we were given a huge list of do’s and don’ts, respect their privacy, book separate rooms in hotels and not an apartment etc., etc.

We didn’t tell child 3 that we were doing that anyway, that we wanted our space, privacy, time alone together. We went away for 8 days, hubby was unable to take the time off work, a whole days driving in the car to reach the coast, I left them on the beach for one afternoon while I drank coffee and read a book, we spent 8 hours together on 2 different boats, whale watching and a croc and hippo tour. We then had a 7 hour drive to Kruger on day 4 and spent days 5, 6 & 7 up to 9 hours each day on safari and day 8 a 5 hour drive home. Trust me, it was me that wanted a break, a rest, some time alone and on 2 evenings, I had to insist that they spent some time together on their own and that I would pick them up from the restaurant later. I wasn’t valuing their space, I was securing my own.

They’ve gone now, back to the UK to their lives and it’s been fab, in fact they have been the best visitors we’ve had. No need to ask them to empty the dishwasher, suggest they might like to buy the coffee, they’ve shopped, tidied, cooked, sat with us in the evenings, chatting and watching TV, identified when hubby and I have had a little spat and they’ve disappeared, discretely, as we have done with them.

Child 3 is no longer a child, he’s now 22, with his flat, girlfriend, career, he makes his own choices, earns his own money and apart from one or two occasions where he’s asked for assistance, he’s turned into a dam fine adult and he’s done it all by himself.

Child 4 has had a transition into adulthood, with the school year in SA commencing January till December it meant he was almost 19 when he finished his education, he learnt to drive in South Africa, I taught him, something I wasn’t prepared to do with the older 2 boys, due to clashes and conflicts.
From the age of 15 he had to take responsibility for his youngest brother with international flights, at 18 looking after his brother while both hubby and I were in the UK for 2 weeks, including dealing with a medical emergency and managing to sort out the medical aid by himself. He’s now back in the UK and joining the British Army, he’s wanted to do it by himself, but asked for advice when needed and consulted with us about his decisions. We are financially supporting him until he joins up, not a lot with the exchange rate as it is and he is staying with family for the time being.

Child 5 was in boarding school from the age of 6 until 11 when we moved to South Africa, but after 2 years it was evident this was not the best decision for him and so he returned. He’s just started his final year with his GCSE’s and we are hoping we can move him to Dubai next year for his A levels. 

Who knows how our relationships with our adult children will develop and change. We don't have the luxury of 'just being there' nearby. We can go 6 months without a visit and as young adults, they grow and develop without us.

1 comment:

  1. I can't even imagine living in a different country than my folks.