Home ContentThere’s a Knot in my Apron Strings

There’s a Knot in my Apron Strings

Published : June 07, 2015

You know how there’s no user guide that comes with having children? Well just when you think you are almost becoming an expert in parenting you find there is no user guide for cutting the apron strings as they become young independent adults either.

As it became obvious that this stage had snuck up on me, I elected for some slow apron string untying, one at a time.

By Pamela Weatherill

Well like every other stage of parenting I got that one wrong. 

There’s a sense of security that comes with surviving both the terrible twos and the terrifying teens.  I soon realised that it was a false sense of security, because somewhere between tantrums induced by final exam stress and watching them spend their first full-time pay cheque, the apron strings begin to unravel on their own.  Any control I thought I’d had for the previous twenty odd years slipped right through my fingers.

You get your first glimpse of young adulthood when they turn 18 and legally don’t need to divorce you when they don’t want to take your advice anymore. 

And quite bluntly it’s a very quick journey from there. 

It feels like one minute you are making decisions about how much pocket money to give your six year old and the next you are having a discussion about whether to charge board.

While many of the practical tasks of parenting disappear, the emotional work of parenting doesn’t seem to stop.  I even rang my mother for advice: “When do you stop worrying?” I asked her.  “Well how old are you now?” was her not-so-useful-but true reply. 

Instead of worrying about whether they are eating everything in their lunchbox or throwing it away in the playground – you wonder if you prepared them adequately enough to be able to eat properly in their new share house. 

Concerns about primary school kids finding their way home from school the first time they journey alone, are replaced with fevered goodbyes at the International terminal while you hold copies of passports and insurance documents ‘in case something happens’ as they take off for around the world adventures to countries with travel warnings.

Some parenting experiences just seem to be recycled with a new twist.  Like when I drove around the school block at least eight times to make sure it didn’t burn down the first day of kindy for number one – and then (in what seemed like only a year or two) I found myself sitting on the floor of his room with the same teary feeling when he moved out. 

Or exchanging gentle fashion guidance for number two’s first big birthday party at kindy, for trawling every store in town for the right first-day-of-my-new-career clothes. 

Same skills, same parental emotions, they just grew older and taller than me when I wasn’t looking.

The questions and stresses do slow down, but somehow they still hold the same importance. 

Like instead of having to answer the hard questions like “Why is the sky blue?”, they have questions for you like “Well why do you still call me your ‘kid’ when I’m in my 20s?”  (Unfortunately unlike why the sky is blue, this question is not covered in any encyclopaedia I could find). 

Instead of stressing about why they have missed curfew, you find yourself relaxing a little as there is no way you will ever know where they are all the time – but somehow just one news report of a fatal crash anywhere within a thousand kilometre radius still induces that same low level panic until you hear from them again.

Then while your friends and partner are watching you for signs of empty nest syndrome, and you throw yourself into work and new hobbies and friendships, you begin to ponder at the mysteries of all this growing up. 

Like why is it that your adult kids have left home and you still buy food for the fridge to be emptied when they pop by? 

Or how is it that you love their visits to your new adult retreat styled home, but feel like a cyclone has passed you by in just a thirty minute visit? 

Or how did you go from explaining about the birds and the bees to telling your adult brood to ring before popping over in case you are enjoying such an activity on a Sunday afternoon! 

It seems every time you carefully untie an apron string, a little knot appears that needs your attention – no handbook and no warranty.

Now please don’t get me wrong and think that loosening the apron strings is a bad thing.  No way.  There are all kinds of benefits like having a responsible adult to call to drive you home when you forgot to work out who was going to be the designated driver – and hey they owe you a ride or two don’t they?  Or having a great house sitter that you don’t need to instruct on how everything works or what the dogs are fed.  They are also a useful resource on buying and using the latest technologies.

So, do you really want to know if there is life after untying the apron strings? 

Well once you get over missing seeing them everyday and get used to developing your messaging and social networking skills to keep up with them, you find yourself getting back to all kinds of activities you used to enjoy BC (before children).  To borrow my mother’s phraseology you become a recycled teenager yourself.  Best of all, you have time to reflect and enjoy with pride, without quite the same pressure of responsibilities.

From watching the joys and heartbreaks of first true loves to career and skill growth that you never imagined possible when they were struggling to tie their laces or learning their timetables, the enjoyment continues. 

And like every other phase of parenting, those who travelled this road before me tell me to enjoy this phase for as long as I can. 

Apparently when the grandchildren start to appear you have to put all your good china away again – and I have only just got used to having it out! 

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