50 is the new 21: why your parents are probably having more fun than you
Remember when you left home for the first time? You were all bright eyed and bushy tailed.You stuffed your Barina with garbage bags full of your shit, gave your parents a long, woeful goodbye hug and then drove off into the sunset, never to return again! Not until you needed someone to help you fill out your tax return that is.
You selected a tune that would perfect the moment, perhaps something by The Killers and then you look into the rear vision mirror, watching as your parents clutch to each other as their final cild flies the coop, tears pouring down their faces.
Don’t be fooled child. You may think that while you’re away doing shots from a stranger’s belly button and climbing onto the roof of your faculty building at 3am, that your parents are at home on the couch, sniffing an old t-shirt that you left behind and cooing over baby pictures, but they’re not. The truth is, they’re pretty fucking glad that you're gone.
I mean, your parents obviously love you and all, but when they decided to have a kid, they only really signed up for an 18 to 25-year contract. It’s a bit like those adorable seeing-eye dogs that people take in as puppies. They’re freakin’ adorable when they’re small, so you want to keep them around. Although most of the time they are a pain in the butt because all they want to do is eat all your food and shit on your carpet. The only thing that really keeps you going is knowing that one day soon you’ll be able to kick them out and they’ll go off into the world and make you proud.
For a lot of parents when their kids leave home their life takes off in a different direction. There are just some things that parents can’t do when they have their kids living with them. They’ve spent the last twenty years telling you that drugs are bad, not to drink to excess and that you should always take a handkerchief with you when you leave the house, but now that you’re gone they’re allowed to break all those rules, because hell, that’s life without a little binge drinking and snotty sleeves?
If you made the crucial mistake of adding your parents on Facebook (you absolute fool), you’ll notice that their newsfeeds are a startling resemblance of your own. Cocktails with the girls, beer bongs with the boys, your parents are doing it all and they’re doing it better than you. They’ll party more than you do, see more interesting plays, eat at more expensive restaurants, buy the purer form of drugs and that’s just the way the hash-cookie crumbles.
We do have one thing over them though, the hangover. After a wine or two, you’ll notice that your parents gingerly emerge from bed the next afternoon with bags under their eyes and ice-packs on their forehead, while we opt for a quick tactical spew, a visit to KFC then we’re good to go. That is unless we’ve licked the insides of a vodka bottle clean the previous night, in which case, see you next Christmas.
As young adults, we think we’ve got the better end of the deal. We’re in the prime of our lives. Fresh, young and dangerous. The world is our oyster. If we wanted to, we could drop everything right now and travel the world. That is, after we’ve spent two years slogging away a Big-W to pay for the flights and after we finish our degree, but after that we will jet off into the sunset. Before that though we'll fall into a career and then maybe get pregnant or buy a labrador and you can't really take either into a backpackers hotel, can you?
Thirty years later, with no university fees, no children suckling from your teat and a steady flow of cash in the bank you’re ready for your trip of a lifetime, the only thing is, suddenly you’re fifty and people are calling you ‘Sir’ instead of ‘Dude’ and you’re just not that young spritely dickhead that you used to be.
Our parents are living the life that we so desperately want and the only way to get there is through years and years of hard work and smart choices.
Another reason why our parents are glad to see the tail end of us is the abundance of space that becomes available. When we finally leave home and take all our damn junk with us all of a sudden there can be a whole room dedicated to housing percussion instruments and Middle Eastern cook books.
Your Dad sits in what used to be your bedroom, strumming away at a ukulele while your Mum mosaics your old desk and uses the glue gun to attach pom-poms to your old lamp shade and really, what else did you expect?
You can’t decide to move away and create your own space and then also return home to your Care bears and Saddle Club paraphernalia. You’ve moved on, your parents have moved on. The only person that hasn’t moved on is the family pet, who will subtly diss you when you make your bi-annual trip home and you both know that all you need to do to fix that is feed them your bacon scraps until the table and all is well and forgiven. If only people were so simple. You’ll probably never forgive your Mother for turning your bedroom into a paper mache mansion, but hey, it’s her bedroom now.
*No apologies for the abundance of Meryl.
Kate Neilson is a list maker and a booty shaker. She is the creator of Twenty Something Humans and she's still figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up.