I am so proud at how far my daughter has come. I am also genuinely excited about the opportunities that now lie within her grasp: the literature she will devour, the mysteries she will solve, the drama of finding herself and launching that identity into the world at large. It won't be long before she becomes an independent person with dreams and projects of her own. So why the pain? Why do I look back and mourn the child that she was?
Because back then, when she was soft and squidgy, when she talked with a slight lisp and bumbled about my feet, she was my creature! Nothing was so bad that a cuddle from me couldn't put it right. In her eyes - and her brother's eyes - I was quite simply the bee's knees. My flaws were invisible to them. They belonged heart-and-soul to me and my husband. As both children grow up and forge their own path, however, they will inevitably grow away from us. That is the heroism of being a parent - at some point you have to set your children free!
Of course I am being slightly melodramatic. Both of them will continue to need us for years to come, although it will be a more complicated game of give-and-take, accompanied by a few arguments as they test the boundaries of our relationship. With these complexities ahead, I remain grateful that I can occasionally return to my rose-tinted computer screen and glimpse my babies tumbling about in the garden. No doubt as I spin through those elusive images, I will feel again that peculiar mix of joy and pain, that hankering for youth and that fear of growing old. I think it's called life.
FURTHER READINGPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The classic children's story about the boy who never grew up and spent his days fighting pirates and cavorting with fairies in a never-ending childhood.