I took my daughter back to Uni today. I’ve never been very good at the separation stuff, even more so after losing Elliot. I find it hard, I worry, I miss her but I am also incredibly proud of her. Emily was the one who went to wake Elliot up from his sleep, she found him, she was 12. I’d asked her to wake him up, something she loved doing and had done so many times before. Emily was like a second mum to Elliot. That’s another one of those things I would change from that day, if it was meant to be that we were going to lose him, that it should have been me who found him, I should never have exposed Emily to that.
She’s strong, she’s independent, she is bloody minded at times, incredibly caring and emotionally intelligent – she is carving out her future which she is excited about and I love that. As her mum I will help all I can, guide if she needs it, stand back when needed and just be there to let her know how proud I am. But none of this stops me worrying. Worrying that if it has happened once, it can happen again. People say lightening doesn’t strike twice, but we know it does. It’s so hard to trust in a world when yours has been turned upside down. I thought I knew how most things would play out. You do don’t you. Just expect your kids to grow up, be there – horrendous things happen to other people, you read about it or see it on TV but you never think that one day you will be the headline in the paper. You read the stories, feel sadness for the family and just realise how lucky you are. Then one day, after Elliot’s inquest, I walked into our local shop and there he was, my little boy, front page.
So although I would never do anything to hold them back, discourage them from taking opportunities or just getting out there in life – whenever they are not where I can see or hear them, I worry. A thousand different ‘what if’s’ go round my head. Especially if they don’t message or call or are late back. They only know a fraction of how I feel though, I would never put that on them. It’s my problem to deal with.
So off we went today, car loaded up, food shopping with a bit of home cooked stuff just to make sure she eats ok, at least for the first few days anyway. We have the music turned up loud, sing along, occasionally turn it down and talk about the lyrics. I love being in the car with her. We are both huge Springsteen fans. She was part excited about heading back to Uni and part stressed about the work she has to hand in. I try and and help but get the ‘you don’t know what it is like’, ‘it was much easier for you at Uni’. Sometimes you just have to be their buffer zone don’t you.
I got back and took the dog out for her walk. That’s when it hit that I’m back to my own company for a while now until she comes back. I have the guys at home but they don’t walk the dog with me, talk about song lyrics, politics or get into the latest crime on TV like Emily does. It’s more about what’s for tea, where’s the washing or latest problem to solve. Don’t get me wrong Emily has so many challenging moments as well. Reminding me what I haven’t done that I said I would, last minute issues and problems she needs help sorting and reminding me how unorganised I am.
But having her home over Christmas has been so good. Especially with the transition of moving on and coping on my own without the help of Bob and Elaine. Today feels a big hurdle to get over. Might seem minor dropping your daughter at Uni, after all I’ve done it many times before. But then the emotional challenges and fears it created in me, I could talk through with someone, they helped to balance the fears and reassure me about the normality of it all. I need to do that for myself now and so far I’m not sure how it is going.
We went for lunch before I headed back. I wasn’t hungry but I decided to do something different – after all my path now is my own and ‘if you do the same – you get the same’. So I was keen not to just have my usual black coffee and mope about how I would feel when I dropped her off. So as she opted to beans on toast – I went for pancakes and ice cream! Tasty combination and over lunch we chatted about our planned trip to New York, what other states we would visit in future years, what other volunteering projects she wanted to go on and what her life in law might look like once she gets her degree.
I just took that step back from my own thoughts to see her in a fresh light. Excited, eager and with a passion for her future opportunities that was so uplifting and made me smile a special ‘mum smile’. Don’t focus on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘sadness’ at her heading back out on her path – focus on her love of life, what she brings to your life and what you can share with her.
Words – easy to write, more of a challenge to put into practice – but writing them down makes them feel more real somehow – well hopefully anyway.