Column: When your returning offspring are the same but different

One minute you're wiping their skint knees, the next they're ignoring your calls.
One minute you're wiping their skint knees, the next they're ignoring your calls.

It’s funny how you always notice changes in other people’s children rather than your own.

I’m sure it’s down to seeing your offspring every day for years on end and the changes being so gradual.

It’s not until you hear a rarely-seen friend or relative saying to them “my, my, how grown up you are” that you stop for a minute and realise that yes, that former boy who needed rolled out of bed for school in the morning is now a taller-than-you man capable of driving, organising flights and holding down a job, even if the washing up of dirty dishes is still a life lesson to be learned.

Ask any parent of growing and grown children and they’ll say that it passes in the blink of an eye.

One minute you’re wiping runny noses and skint knees and helping them with homework and the next you’re waiting, sleeplessly, for the reassuring sound of their car arriving home in the early hours or scouring crowd scenes in TV coverage of T in the Park in the hope of spotting them alive when they haven’t sent a text or answered a call for four days and nights.

We want them to grow up confident and outgoing, with a desire to spread their wings and see the world.

And when they do, you’re left behind...to worry.

That doesn’t last forever, thankfully. It’s just another stage in their lives and in order to get on with your life, you have to develop a force field of positivity that all will be fine. Not so much an out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude, more a they’ll-call-if-they-need-me approach.

However, that’s all still to come with the youngest.

In her last teenage year, she’s just returned from nine weeks working in the USA.

She looks pretty much the same. Maybe she has a bit more of a glow and is stronger-in-limb from working outdoors from early morning until last light but still the same befreckled redhead.

She’s always been a homebird so there were no surprises that she’d had a bit of homesickness and was glad to be home when she was met at the airport.

But then after a few days, she was restless. Where was the noise, the hustle and bustle of the last couple of months?

After the jetlag had come and gone, so too had the long lies. The girl who could sleep for Scotland, was up and about wanting to DO something.

For months, nay years, she’d been nagged to clear out her room and get rid of old clothes, all to no avail. Within days of being home, Ikea blue bags filled with stuff for the charity shop were lined up at the door – turns out nine weeks of only a suitcase-worth of clothes and living in a shared space had given her an aversion to clutter.

And it appears also gone is the girl who could happily live with an laundry basket overflowing with dirty clothes to be replaced with someone who can not only work the washing machine but can do her own laundry – and put it away.

It’s all part of growing up and while I may be wistful for my children as smiling happy toddlers who could be protected 24 hours a day, I’m happy to have them return home the same but ever so slightly different.