Responding to research from Heidelberg University that stated that parents are happier when their children have left home, I wrote:
The happiest times in this father’s life were when his children were little. Yes, it was murderously busy sometimes, but the memories of the day-to-day joy they brought never leave.
I managed to keep ours at home until they were all in their mid to late twenties. Before they did go, I pleaded with each to reconsider. They had become, and still are, my best friends.
Years after our third child, Kieron, had left home, he went to Israel for a couple of weeks on holiday, and was, I knew, due back late one evening on a certain flight.
In idle, or in pensive mood, I happened to check on the internet on the anticipated arrival time of the flight, and found to my dismay that it had been delayed and would not arrive at Luton Airport until about one thirty in the morning.
How would Kieron get from Luton to where he lived in North London at that time of night, I began to worry. He’d probably have to wait hours for a bus or a train.
There was nothing for it but to go and meet him off the plane.
‘You’ve gone mad,’ Plum, my wife said, when I told her where I was going. ‘It’s nearly fifty miles to Luton.’
‘I don’t mind the drive. He’ll be pleased to see me.’
‘He might not be.’
‘Ray, he’s nearly forty.’
‘What if he’s met someone in Israel or on the plane? Think about it. The last person he’ll want to see as he comes through Arrivals with a new girl friend is his dad waiting to take him home?’
I had to admit there was some truth in that. I didn’t go.
But the truth is, children are always children to a parent – no matter how old they are.