I knew this day would arrive eventually. I knew we would come to it. I just didn’t know it would feel this way.
The day started like any other in terms of the noise level and scenes of chaos. It was the start of half-term and we had decided to take the kids to Tayto Park for the day. Last time we went I was pregnant with our youngest daughter so was much like a spare wheel (metaphorically and literally), being unable to get involved with anything more hair-raising than the hobby horses. “Mum on the side lines” has never suited me; I’m always there, giving it 110%.
Everything was going brilliantly. The kids were nothing short of angels for the duration of the two-hour drive and, once there, were enjoying all the attractions immensely. There had only been one minor meltdown to speak of (our youngest daughter did not take kindly to not being allowed to snack on a map of the grounds) – a personal best for us.
Then, as we were queuing for the Ferris wheel, there came a bolt from the blue from our eldest daughter.
‘Mummy?’ she said, squinting up at me in the bright sun, ‘I want to go on this ride on my own, I don’t need you with me.’
And there they were; “I don’t need you.” The four little words that sent a dagger tearing through my heart.
It meant nothing to her. It was simply an expression of a wish. She thought nothing of it.
I, on the other hand, felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach. The significance of my daughter’s statement swept over me and I felt an intense wave of a rather uncertain emotion; sadness, fear, shock…all three perhaps.
She will be 7 in a couple of months so of course I’ve been expecting glimmers of independence. I just didn’t expect to feel so sad. Because there was a finality about what she’d said. It marked the closing of one of our little chapters. I thought about her as a mischievous, chatty little toddler who was talking in sentences before her 1st birthday. I thought about her learning to walk and outstretching little eager arms to me when she toppled over and wanted to be picked up. I remembered the extraordinary mess she used to make with a pot of paint – we framed a picture of one such incident when, as a toddler, she had painted her entire face and hands. All the moments of her reliance on me. All the times she begged me for my presence, my company. All the times she clung to me, fearful and apprehensive. All the times she had slept in my arms.
That one tiny insignificant decision she made to brave the ride alone marked the beginning of a new era. One I’m not ready for.
But I won’t reign her in.
For you see, regardless of the crushing agony of knowing my baby is slipping through my fingertips, and regardless of knowing that the childish innocence of needing her Mum is slowly leaving her, I will never try to stop it. I will do everything I can to encourage her to be brave, courageous, free from the shackles of worrying what others think, fierce, ambitious and independent. I’ve lived my youth. I’ve lived those wonderful carefree days when your money and time are entirely your own. The time to be selfish, reckless, free. I want her to experience all that in due course. Everyone deserves freedom. So I’ll never ask her to stay. I’ll never ask her to hold part of herself back from anything she wants just to please me. The old saying holds true that when you love something you let it go.
And that tornado of thoughts continued to swirl around in my mind long after I left the queue for the Ferris wheel. Long after I stood outside the barriers, waving, smiling and trying to look happy, even though I knew that that barrier had become a symbol of the great step my little girl had taken away from me and towards the big world waiting at her feet.
My first born, the darling girl who’d made me a mother, on the Ferris wheel without me.
Of course, she bounced off it excited by the fact she’d braved its dizzy heights alone and I celebrated along with her, albeit with a very heavy heart. Minutes later it was back to business as usual, as though nothing had happened; me wiping ice cream from her chin, her little hand in mine. It was the same as always.
Except it would never be the same again.
Dedicated to my darling girl who I love more than there are stars in the sky. If you ever happen to read the ramblings if your over-emotional mother, my only wish is that you know how much you are loved. Everything about you sparkles, from your infectious chattiness to the light-up Sketchers you simply had to have, because ones that didn’t light-up just weren’t the same. Be brave to the world my love. Light it up.
Mummy is always right here…if you should need me.