Yesterday I got a card from my youngest daughter. She is 16, sometimes a bit bratty and spoiled, but generally an independent thinker and I think she will be “okay.” Last week was a bit of a watershed for both of us. My baby got her Restricted driver’s licence. Independence. The last one I “have to” taxi around. When you live half an hour from town, an hour from the closest city, where they play a lot of sport, where the cinemas are, a licence is freedom – for both child and parent! I felt freed from the chains of super-organisation; who will pick up so-and-so from hockey/music/practice/school/dance/art lessons/swimming/insert activity here? The day after that, her braces were removed. All three drive and all three have finished the main part of their orthodontistry. I am through the major, hands-on parts of twenty-three years of parenthood. My friends are asking me if I feel sad, or if I am starting to worry about empty nest syndrome.
Very prematurely, I might add. She goes to study in France in early September for six months, then back for one more year of school!
Not this Mum.
For while I love my children fiercely, I was never a “natural.” I was never clucky, nor particularly maternally oriented. I put that down to a few things, but clearly, at 24 (when I discovered the first shock pregnancy) I was very, very young to be heading off down that path. I was the only one I knew with a child – then children – for many, many years. Most of my contemporaries are at the pre-teen, or early teen stage with their eldest, many have just preschoolers. Very sensible! The way I would have done it, had I been able to plan it! All that said, I have been a pretty kick-arse mother. I was chair of the kindy committee, chair of the PTA, chair of various sports and activities committees, secretary of others, I did my time! I coached teams, managed teams, drove them to far too many activities, cheered on the sideline, took literacy support classes and then ran the parent arm of the reading recovery group for kids at my kids’ school who were falling behind, both by organising the fundraising, and then the roster of trained parent helpers, encouraged them to say “yes” more than they say no to every new opportunity and option. I always try to make time in my busy schedule to listen. The youngest always gets me to proof-read every assignment she hands in, and make any suggestions for changes – the other two were far more independent and did it themselves.
So, when my baby chick wrote these words yesterday, I realised she knows, she understands how this battle has played out for me, far more than I thought, after all – she was asking when my university graduation ceremony (capping) was going to be, she was worried she would be overseas, as she will be when I complete my undergraduate degree (I didn’t even know she cared!)
“I’m so insanely proud of what you have achieved over the past couple of years. Thank you for your unconditional love and support for me over the years, I do appreciate it, although it may not always show at times. I’m incredibly lucky to have a mother as intelligent and trusting as you.”
I don’t think I write these words to brag about my status as mother of the century. I make mistakes, sometimes big ones. Last week, I was fraught and she wound me up about something (bratty) and I lost it and yelled pretty loudly at her, the red-faced kind of fury-letting that I used to be pretty good at as a child! Later, of course I apologised, it is a rare thing for me to lose it with them these days. She was forgiving, and owned what she did to light my fuse. I write these words here to say, hey, I grew some nice people. Go me. But more than that, go them. They have literally saved my life.