For the first 21 years of a well-heeled spawn's life there's a roadmap. It's pretty clear; the ideal dropped pins are more or less universal- Primary School, a few summer camps, Secondary School, Irish College, College. The aim is for Junior to do well at every stage so as to advance to the next, but these days the whole thing looks more like a Snakes & Ladders board than an Ordnance Survey and the atlas of the known world runs out of pages astonishingly quick. The result? Grown children remaining at home ad infinitum.
So many friends are finding their large (and often hairy) offspring coming back home to roost for extended periods of unemployment-cum-reflection that it constitutes much more than a microtrend. And the physical stamina required to mind a grousing infant pales in comparison to the emotional demands of dealing with someone you love who hasn't a clue about what to do next. And never, ever turns out the lights. Or (un)loads the dishwasher.
More than one friend says she finds it all more head-wrecking than any other parenting stage. Maybe that's because over the years, you've worked hard to make your house a civilised place - you haven't impaled your foot on Lego or Bratz stilettos in years - so the impromptu 3am fries for 15 in your kitchen wear especially thin. Trite as it sounds, that is part of it, but the real reason you want them out is that they're not really sorted til they're gone. And while you surf recruitment websites on their behalf, the newly-minted graduates are no doubt kicked back with a beer, seemingly unaffected by any external forces. They may have once occupied digs or rooms or gone on Erasmus or worked in an Australian cocktail bar, but there the yearning for independent existence seems to have ended. Daily laundry service and five-star catering apparently trump jingling your own set of keys and finding a way to afford them.
As a veteran with a good two decades of service, it can't have escaped your notice by now that you have limited mental resources. Sure, you can stay up late every night worrying about the not-so-little-mite's CV template choice. Or you can get on with your life around him/her (swearing under your breath every time you come back to a house whose lights are visible from space) and trust they will have some sort of epiphany that acts as a catapult out of the TV area before their 30th birthdays. If only there weren't quite so many episodes of Breaking Bad?and you hadn't bought that lovely three-seater with the extra deep seat. If only you weren't always to blame.
Back in the 90s and noughties, Laura George wrote a column for IMAGE all about kids and family called Home Truths. Now the little darlings are all grown up, but they still ask what's for dinner every day at 5pm. Even if it's by text or twitter @lgeorge353.