THE FACT OF THE MATTER
My daughter has moved back home. At 39. With her husband and 10-month old daughter Faye. And half a lifetime’s wardrobe that would have left Imelda Marcos looking like the poor relation.
The pair recently sold their house in Dublin and have yet to find their ideal ‘family’ home in which to raise my granddaughter in the town where her parents were raised. An idyllic spot, by the sea and the mountains, with good schools and a strong sporting tradition. But, mostly, to raise Faye surrounded by family and friends, far from the madding crowd, was the main magnet attracting them back ‘home’.
So, there I was the last number of years thinking it was safe to enjoy my newly empty nest, when the last of my three adult children flew the coop for the big city and bright lights of New York, to take on such formerly alien concepts as rent, household bills and car payments. But, then, wait… who’s that familiar face coming up the garden path with suitcase in hand? It’s my grown progeny!
According to numerous surveys, many so-called ‘empty nesters’ now find themselves with at least one grown child living at home. They’re returning home in record numbers, not least because of Covid which may have put paid to work and subsequent income for rent or mortgage. Some come back hoping to save for a mortgage deposit, others so they can take time to look for the perfect post-grad job and still others may have personal problems and are in need of a refuge.
The first week my darling daughter was home, she attempted to rule the roost, the child becoming mother to the man. Telling me — ME — what to do, what time to get up and what time to go to bed. All perfectly well-intentioned but I am a bit long in the tooth now to be told what to do, so I put that scenario very quickly in its place. Likewise the establishment of minor house rules like don’t leave the immersion on all night or have the house lit up like Blackpool illuminations. I figured such early intervention was vital to prevent misunderstandings later on.
Everyone needs boundaries, even grown up married daughters. I did, however, draw the line on drafting a brief ‘contract’ naming the conditions that must be met in order for her to live under my roof. I was never the martinet.
My psychologist friend from Magherafelt says I should be happy my grown-up daughter likes me enough to want to come home. That is true. We are more than father and daughter — we are good friends who enjoy each other’s company and not a little intellectual sparring from time to time. Besides, my three grown-up children should know that ‘their home’ is a safe, accepting place to land when they need to regroup. And I am actually enjoying this opportunity to relate to my daughter as a grownup — just like me!
Having my granddaughter Faye around the house is a joy. I spent a half hour last Saturday disco-dancing with her in the conservatory. She loves music and moving to it. So, there she was, from the safe vantage of her high chair, strutting her stuff to the new Abba album while Grandad wooed her with his best moves. She giggled loudly, while I, after the 30 minutes, had to go and lie down. I was exhausted.
“Look what I found,” said my daughter as she joined me at our old Indian oak circular table where I was having my second coffee of the day, Faye looking on from her high chair next to me.
“My old diaries when I was a teenager,” she said and started thumbing through the A5 tomes and reading every other entry or so, laughing occasionally at the innocence — naivety even — of the then young girl in the summer of her life.
Body image, new bra, school pals, rugby club dance, first boyfriend, first kiss all came tumbling back down the years. First can of beer. What?!
Her writing prowess and word skills showed even back then and it was wonderful sitting there watching this beautiful young woman share her teenage thoughts, with all its angst, with her Old Man.
And I was suddenly transported back to that summer of ‘96 with all its attendant joys and those needless concerns for what the future might hold for my first-born darling daughter.