Every school day I do the run for my 8-year-old son. It’s an arrangement that suits us well, as we both like our rituals. The order in which things are done is invariable; wake-up, cereal, getting dressed, shoes and coat, collecting bags, out to car, drive to school, he unloads onto me any bags he can as he gets out of the car, I hold out my hand to him…
It’s a ritual that will change soon. In less than 2 weeks he will be 9. In September he’ll make the step up to middle-school. We’re approaching the age where even being seen with your dad is a source of eternal embarrassment, holding his hand in public would be unthinkable.
…so, for the present, I find joy in the mornings where he takes my hand (more often than not, still). It’s symbolic; there are no roads to cross, the one we walk alongside isn’t busy. One of these mornings, one soon, I will hold his small hand in mine for the last time. It’s an insignificant thing, and the tragic Alfie Evans case reminds me how lucky I am, but it’s still going to be an ending.
Another ending is coming sooner. As I type this I have a 17-year-old daughter, but by the time you read it she will no longer be 17. May 1st is her 18th birthday, she (and around 1,800 others) will be joining the adult world.
How I wish that we who’ve been adults for a while had furnished her with a better world to step into. It’s not just the rush, here and in the US, towards political extremes, or her inheriting the consequences of a vote that she couldn’t take part in, it’s also about the terrifying view of the world that social media gives us. Where we can see, daily, that so many men are not just a bit sexist, or disrespectful of women, but actually straight-up hate them.
My daughter is intelligent, diligent, funny and brimming with the common sense that, sadly, skips the male side of my family. I know she will make the best of the new world of adult responsibility she now finds herself in…but…even so, it’s hard not to want those years back where getting her to school, picking her up at the end of the day, patching the occasional grazed knee was all it took to know she was safe. Just a few more years of that, perhaps. Just to see how things turn out.
Time has caught up with me. The clock points to midnight. It’s a new day. My child is no longer a child.
With no little worry and reluctance, I let go of her hand.