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Chris van Schaick: Children becoming caregivers

PUBLISHED: 12:32 24 March 2016

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Katarzyna Bialasiewicz photographee.eu

This month, Chris ponders the time when roles will be reversed, and his children will become the caregivers

The scene was the Bishops Waltham Tandoori. The party: me and Mrs v.S. and our two children – then mid to late teens. The moment came, as it usually does at an Indian, when a lot of dishes all arrived at once and there was a mild commotion to get everything on the table. As I went to move my beer glass, I felt a restraining hand on mine. It was that of my then 18 year-old son. “Careful Dad,” he said. “You’ll spill your drink.”

The Rubicon was crossed that night. After nearly two decades of me warning him not to spill his drink, the roles had suddenly been reversed. It won’t be long, I thought, before he’s saying to me: “Dad – is this garden getting a bit big for you? Should you start thinking about a smaller place?”

So it is that our children become our parents. Instead of us knowing what’s best for them, it’s suddenly the offspring who are dispensing the wisdom – even though we were wiping their bottoms until what seems like very recently.

Even after the Tandoori moment, I think I have a grace period. Now that 60 has become the new 40, it seems that 35 is correspondingly the new 25. A 20 something colleague was telling me the other day that she’d been to a party thrown by a friend to mark his passage into adulthood. He was 30. So as my first born is only 25, I may have a few years yet of making my own decisions. But like the Biblical cloud on the horizon no bigger than a man’s hand, there are omens.

Up the Valley, some 50 something friends were recently cross examined by a visiting 20 something offspring about the farm welfare standards of the meat on the dinner table. At our house, we find ourselves subject to the disapproval of our own flesh and blood if there isn’t watercress with lunch. But wait a minute, it only seems like yesterday when we were lecturing them on the importance of eating greens.

In fact we’re already seeking our children’s approval. On a recent trip, Mrs. v.S. and I didn’t want to be accused by our adventurous son of taking mainstream travel choices. So we found ourselves taking selfies in a gritty southern hemisphere bus station – just to prove we’d taken a cheap and less comfortable option of which he’d approve.

Our children also seem to demonstrate the prudish streak I’d previously expected of a parent. Any humour of ours which strays too close to the territory of Benny Hill tends to be met with pursed 20 something lips. So the direction of travel is clear. All we can do is try and stave it off until beyond the year 2038 - the moment when our kids will decide that we should be put in the back of the car on a Sunday afternoon and taken on a nice drive to Wickham – just to get us out of the house. 


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