I remember well that moment all parents will dread – your child leaving home! The clock ticks, it soon comes around. However once I faced up to this reality, the more OK I felt about it. Once the subject was out in the open and no longer taboo, we began to discuss it in a relatively civilised manner (although it probably came out into the open during an argument - ‘If you carry on doing …… then why should I put up with you here!’ ‘You think I want to be here!?’ Fair enough.)
My son grew up in the town of Portishead, 10 miles from Bristol. Still called a village by old timers and locals it has recently doubled in size with housing development and a new marina. Wealthy people have moved in. While short term economics and the greed of various people and groups have led to a population explosion, there have been hardly any infrastructure or social facilities added. Kids of all ages get bored out of their minds. There was a march through the town a few years ago that proportionally was bigger than the 2 million on the streets opposed to Blair and his mates as they eyed up Iraq. So what issue almost led to revolution in Portishead? A set of traffic lights!! Other hot issues in the last few years include opposition to an asylum seekers interview centre and resistance to a kid’s home being too close to a tourist spot. It’s like you’re living in a bourgeois prison camp. So compare living as a teenager in this kind of place with the bright lights and buzz of Bristol, a city with everything anyone could want. Thinking this I understood it would be crazy and wrong if my son didn’t move.
First my son went to college in Bristol. A job followed. He formed a band. He stayed over in town more and more. Sometimes I only knew he’d been at home through tell tale signs like lights and electrical appliances left on or the large scale disappearance of plates and cups into his bedroom. There became no greater symbol of ‘apartness’ and the need to move on than this room. It was a no-go area, a war zone. It was no place of liberation like Free Derry or an area of proud resistance like Gaza, more a bombed out building littered with unexploded ordnance. So going in there for any reason was a risky business – whether it was what was under foot or whether it was the smell as you entered. Any sentimental doubts I had about my son moving out….I just had to look in his room.
And then it came to pass. My son moved out. I rolled my sleeves up, bucket of water and black bags at the ready, turned the music up and went forth to reclaim. It was still his room. I wanted him to go into his new old room for the first time and like it. It would symbolise a new relationship between us.
His first visit back was nearly postponed due to lack of cash for bus fare. An hour later than expected came a ring at the door. The first thing was how good it felt to see him, it's him! The next few hours were spent in an easy manner. The visit ended (after plenty of food) with a kickabout in the sunshine outside, just like the old days. I felt moved by the afternoon.
By my son moving away, taking a few steps to some sort of independence, his life, and mine, had undergone real change. All the old routines, territorial and psychological conflicts, assumptions and expectations were basically no more. (What was there to argue over?). What was left was the essence of our relationship, which I realised was pretty good. Also there was a lot of good will, curiosity and positivity about the new situation. And there was the truth that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
So for me I became the king of my castle. There was a sense of greater freedom (or is it control?). Like cooking dinner for ten o'clock at night because I wanted to. I wondered about the opportunities for new experiences, new changes, new relationships. I felt some dislocation. But the future was still to be written.
Fast forward 5 years and my son has returned! I’d done the logical thing myself and followed him to Bristol via a flat exchange. For me it was a new beginning – a central location, a cosy but open maisonette, surrounded by all the wonderful hustle and bustle of the city. Two bedrooms (one big, one small). My son was moving from rented room to rented room, sharing with different people, always struggling to pay the rent. Then his latest house was being sold and the logical thing happened….
With all his musical equipment (he’s a drummer, guitarist and electronic musician) I did the selfless thing and gave up the big bedroom and moved into the small bedroom (complete with fairy wallpaper – maybe some re-decorating is needed). A sofa was sacrificed so his salvaged, broken down piano could fit in. It’s been over a year now despite his stated desire to move out and live with mates. It could have something to do with no rent or bills maybe?!
We do get on really well. He’s based in his room most of the time (usually making music) so some days I literally don’t see him. The kitchen is tiny – literally one person in there at a time – but he’s considerate with washing his dirty plates (though never mine!) and not taking too much of my food etc. There’s never any tension or raised voices. We welcome each other’s girlfriends. For both of us having someone else around to chat to can keep problems or worries at bay. I don’t know how long he’ll be with me. He won’t feel truly independent – I think he’d like to live with his girlfriend. Until then though he knows he’s very welcome to stay however long he wants.
Written by single Dad Seb