There are a number of Abba songs that make me cry every time I hear them (how did Agnetha sign those lines in The Winner Takes It All?), but if there’s one Abba song that brings on the tears just at the thought of it, it’s this one: Slipping Through My Fingers. Have a listen to the lyrics and I challenge you not to well up. Actually, also check out the scene in Mamma Mia where Donna is getting Sophie ready for her wedding day – that’ll do it too, even though it’s sung by Meryl Streep instead of Agnetha.
Anyways, it’s that song that’s circling my head now as my daughter gets ready to leave home.
This morning at stupid o’clock an image popped into my head of the morning I left her at day care for the first time. It was the week before I was scheduled to go back to work, and she was about 10 months old. I was only leaving her for a couple of hours, to ease her in, but when I left, she was smiling and when I came back, she was doing the same. As for me? Well, I’d spent the time sitting in my car at a local park crying my eyes out and feeling guilty about going back to work even before I’d done so. She, however, loved day care – right from the start.
Then there was her first day at school. Off she went to class full of smiles, and again, I was a mess. The same when she started at a new high school where she knew no one. ‘Don’t worry Mum,’ she’d said. ‘I’ll make new friends.’ And she did.
Then there was the time I waved her and my husband goodbye on that hot Tuesday morning in February 2017 as they moved to the Sunshine Coast six weeks before me. She was starting uni and I was left behind in Sydney to finish selling and packing up our house. She must have had some fears about leaving friends and family and starting over again, but if she did they didn’t show.
Now she’s moving to Hervey Bay for her first real out of uni job. She’s ready to go, after all, she’s nearly 23, but that doesn’t make it easier. (That’s another thing I can say about our daughter, she’s always done everything in her own time, when she’s ready and not a minute sooner.) Nor does it make it easier that she’s only going to be just over 200kms up the road. She’s leaving on her next adventure and there’s going to be just my husband and I again. Even though there was just us for almost 9 years before she came along, the just us now seems different.
‘I’ll be right,’ she’s saying now, and I know logically that she will be, and she knows we’re there to help if she needs us. She’s always been independent and, apart from the fact that she doesn’t cook (not that she can’t, but that she chooses not to), can look after herself perfectly well. She will be fine. That doesn’t stop me worrying though. It makes me wonder what our parents went through when we left home.
She leaves on Saturday and I’m heading up to The Bay too for the first week – just so I can fill her freezer and help her get settled and be there to download on when she comes home from work for those few days. It also puts off the inevitable for an extra week too – and I get a holiday. #winwin I think that first week will be harder on Grant than it will be on me.
I told her upfront when she first got the job: ‘You know I’ll cry, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not completely excited for you and want to hear about everything.’ ‘That’s okay,’ she said smiling. ‘I know what you’re like.’
Even though we’d hoped she’d secure a role closer to home, my husband and I have both been supportive of this right from the start – promising each other that we wouldn’t rain on her parade or dwell on the negatives or challenges, but instead be involved and interested every step of the way – from securing accommodation to making lists of kitchen equipment and linen. I swore to myself that no matter what else was going on I’d stop to listen and be mindful about being present. My husband is doing the same, but while she and he talk about logistics and money, her and I are talking about possibilities and road trips.
One thing that makes it so much easier is knowing how much we’ve done together over the years – both as a family and just the two of us. Sure I’ve always been a working mum, but I think that’s worked in our advantage. While we’ve gone on a girls weekend every year since she was about 5, we’ve also done stuff together. Lots of stuff.
When we lived in Sydney we did staycations where we’d travel by public transport somewhere different in the city every day, taking picnic lunches on our adventures. We’ve been to New Zealand together, done girls only road trips, been up in a helicopter, and a vintage tiger moth with no roof. We’ve snorkelled in the barrier reef, gone whale-watching and dolphin watching, strawberry picking and camel cuddling; and in a couple of weeks she’s coming back to do a pottery class she booked the two of us into as my Christmas present.
That’s the thing – time has slipped away, but not in the regretful sense. Besides, I know she’ll be back here regularly, and I’ll go up there – but the house is going to be so quiet in between. No tuneless whistling, no annoying the dog, no interruptions to watch random TikTok videos of alpacas.
In the meantime, I have a cookbook to finish writing for her and a week off work to look forward to.