So my eldest daughter started University this week, which is surprising really as she is only seven years old. Well in my head she is anyway. I can still see her in her bridesmaid dress when me and the Mrs got married, she really was seven then and in a part of my brain she’s kind of stuck there - forever innocent, immune to the charms of alcohol and late nights. I have a picture of that moment that sits facing me every time I sit at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, which is every day, but in the 10 years odd that it’s been on the wall I don’t think I’ve looked at it until this week. Sure I’ve seen it before, smiled at it, ahh isn’t she cute at it, but I never really looked at it until she left.
I have to be honest, I didn’t really think her starting Uni would impact on me too much. Sure I knew I would worry about her, anyone that can slice through a tendon in their finger getting ice cream out of a tub needs to be worried about (she was using a carving knife…I know), but I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of helplessness that would accompany the worry. She is 280 miles away, I can’t just run upstairs and make things right for her. I can’t make sure she’s getting enough sleep, enough food, enough anything.
She’s her own woman now and I have to let go.
But it’s more than just letting go, it’s about changing my whole mindset. How do you bring up a child who’s an adult? When a toddler is starting to walk you child-proof the house – you make sure all sharp corners are rounded, you make sure there is nothing they can pull down on themselves, you make sure the electrical sockets are covered. But how do you child-proof a University? I can’t make sure she’s doing her course-work, I can’t vet the tattooed half-wit she met in the Student Union, I can’t even make sure that she drinks JD instead of Vodka so people know she’s drunk and not stupid.
I’ve prepared her the best that I can, I’ve taught her to cook (kind of), I’ve taught her to do her washing (but not how to hang it up so you don’t have to iron it) and I’ve taught her how to take verbal abuse (then dish it back in spades). I tried to teach her how to keep a bedroom tidy, but failed. I tried to teach her that all men are bad news, another failure. I tried to teach her to look after her money but who am I kidding, I failed that one myself and still do.
I’m missing her.
I know, it’s crazy. How can you miss someone that gets up at the crack of noon on a regular basis? How can you miss someone who steals all your bandwidth with the constant downloading of Christ knows what? How can you miss constantly answering the door to the postman who has another five packages from eBay, all addressed to her?
But I do.
Every time I drive home from the morning school run I wonder if I’m going to be greeted by the blaring music that indicates she’s up as I open the door – and every time I open the door to silence I’m surprised and then I remember, she’s not here anymore. Every time I go to have a shower and there’s still hot water left, I’m puzzled - and then I remember, she’s not here to use it all anymore.
I miss her rants about something being ‘un-realistic’ in an episode of Futurama and her missing the irony of that statement. I miss watching her and Kaede watching Doctor Who. I just miss.
I am happy for her, I really am. It was us that insisted that she would get a better University experience if she wasn’t living at home and it wasn’t just because a small part of me was looking forward to getting the big bathroom back. I genuinely believe that this will be the making of her, this will shape her future, mould her into the awesome woman that I know she is. I’m just not ready to share her with the world yet. It doesn’t help when I read Facebook entries like ‘Going to Wet & Wild UV Foam Party, 21.00 to 03.00’. Then again it’s my fault for reading it, I may have to un-friend her.
I’m having to learn a new way of communicating with her (mostly by text of course), a non-judgemental, you’re a big girl now type way. I find that if I ignore my first reaction, pause for a 10-count and then reply, it seems to work. As I’m writing this she’s just text me to say that she’s going surfing today in Newquay. Naturally, it being mid-September an’ all, I felt obliged to tell her to not run around with wet hair or she’ll catch her death. I can just imagine the face she pulled when she read that.
I’m slowly getting used it though, my heart seems to be mending though there’s still a hole there that will only be filled when she comes back at Christmas. And I’m sure that when she does, dragging a suitcase of washing to be done, all will be well again and I can go back to moaning about the lack of bandwidth, water and silence.