My Daughter is 18

Our youngest daughter is about to turn eighteen and I am feeling decidedly old. The problem is not directly related to her age as much as to how I will now have to answer the question ‘Do you have any children?’

It forms one of the many introductory questions that we Brits ask when meeting new people. Others include ‘Do you live locally?’, ‘Where do you work?’, and ‘Are you married?’ What an interesting bunch we are.

They are only beaten by the age old favourite for this island race of ‘What do you think of this weather we are having?’

There was a time when I used to simply answer the ‘Do you have any children?’ question with ‘Yes I have four daughters’ and then continue into details of the fact that there is two years apart between each of them as if this showed some sense of planning on the part of myself and my wife.

Now, however, I have to face up to answering it by replying with ‘I have four grown up daughters’. Grown up daughters! It makes such a statement about ones age.

It is interesting to me how we allow such things to define us.

When we announced to the world about the birth of our first daughter we were both only twenty-four and it marked an important moment in our journey into adulthood. Looking back I know that we were not prepared for all that parenthood was to bring.

All that I can say is that each new stage hopefully brings the necessary skills required to deal with the responsibility of bringing up a whole other person.

There seems to be four distinct phases in the process that should be considered by any prospective, or current, parent.

Firstly, you are faced with the ‘Bundle of Joy’, a misnomer if ever I had heard one. Of course they represent joy for the wider family and, in the initial stages, for the new parents too. They also signal nights of nappies, vomit, sleep deprivation, and marital arguments; Joy is not the word most new parents would ascribe to this experience.

Added to this is the fact that it is pretty much all one way traffic in the relationship stakes with very young babies; you might convince yourself that they have just smiled at you but everyone else knows it was just the result of wind.

The next stage is slightly more interesting when they reach ‘Little Person’ status. Here they engage with the world in an energetic, if not sometimes, slightly annoying way. It is the days of the ‘Why?’ question being asked at the end of every conversation and where parents break there own commitment not to follow the own mum and dad in saying ‘Because I said so’.

Still it remains fun because you get to see the child develop a personality and see the real them.

A short time later they hit the ‘Teen Terror’ stage and your child disappears from view to be replaced by a lodger dropping into the family communal areas to eat, complain, ask for money, arrange lifts, argue loudly, and then disappear to the underworld of their bedroom; it is like a youth version of ‘Eats, Shouts, and Leaves’.

Fortunately for all concerned there comes another stage that draws all the others together, the ‘just about an adult stage’. This is where it starts to dawn on them that, despite all of their previous objections, parents do actually know something.

It is as if your kids have been away on a journey of self discovery and have now returned to listen and share.

So when your kids are ‘Bundles of Joy’ don’t expect much conversation (from children or your partner. When they are ‘Little Persons’ try to keep smiling whilst they ask ‘Why?’, this too will pass. When they become ‘Teen Terrors’ hope and, if it is your way, pray that all the good stuff that you taught them will hold fast.

And when they finally get to be ‘just about adults’ enjoy it because more than likely you will be just about to hit the ‘I am a grandparent’ stage.