Thursday, January 30, 2014

Seven Years a Daughter Makes Seven Years a Mum

Not to expose your true feelings to an adult
seems to be instinctive from the age of seven or eight onwards.

George Orwell

Tomorrow is Fifi's seventh birthday.

Really, how have seven years gone by? I look at my toothy, trendy, talkative teenybopper and wonder where the tripping, tubby toddler went. How could I possibly have a seven year old, and how is it possible I've been seven-years a mummy?

With Fifi at school all day, I feel I don't get to connect with her as well as I used to. I feel her slipping through my motherly grasp, learning things I never taught her and discovering interests I never instilled. She's becoming her own person, with emotions I don't always understand, stories she keeps to herself, and experiences all her own. I miss the oneness we used to share, when we spent all day together with jigsaw puzzles and baby dolls. Now we only see each other on evenings and weekends, and at those times she just wants to watch TV shows and read books by herself.

I didn't expect for my first born to grow so independent so soon. I imagined we'd still be sitting side by side, playing pretend, coloring with crayons.

She still likes playing pretend - though her imagination is much more grown up now - and she still likes to color - drawing made up inventions that do wild and wacky things.

There's also me. I've grown away from her in a sense too. While she goes off to school, adapting her life to suit herself and friends, I'm at home lassoing Lolly and chasing Jaguar. My energy is spent by 3pm, and I don't give her as much attention when she gets home as I'd like to be giving.

I know children grow up fast, but seven years seems an awfully short time to feel you're already losing your babies!

Tomorrow is Fifi's birthday party. She wanted to invite nearly everyone from her class. She wanted to invite the boy who never gets invited to parties and the new girl. She has a heart of gold. She is oscillating between feeling like a child and feeling grown up; she wants to have a fairy-themed party but said making balloon animals was 'babyish'. She wants a fishing rod and a weave-your-own-bracelet set but also asked for a Barbie. My little girl - still so little, yet also so big.

I love who she's turning out to be, but it scares me to think that once the children go to school, I'm setting them loose to develop without me. My influence is still there, at home, and I'm sure it's still strong, but there's no denying the influence of their peers is huge too. I can see why people home school. It seems five, six, seven years old is too young to let them go so freely. When I think that I only have seven more months with Lolly before she too heads off to school and starts breaking our special ties, I'm terrified. After Lolly, there will only be Jaguar; give him another four years, and they will all be off on their own wee paths. Fifi will be almost a teenager.

I feel desperate to grab hold of her and hold on to the years. Keep knowing her, keep sharing with her and talking to her. Keep in touch with her feelings and her experiences as she grows and has her own life apart from the one we share at home. I want to turn off the after-school TV more and read more of her stories, work more jigsaws, play more board games. I want to stay connected with my seven year old so when she's eight, nine, nineteen, we'll still be connected.

I know I can't slow down time, lasso Lolly less or keep Jaguar off the coffee table. Therefore I know I'll often be short of energy and patience. I'll have days where the TV is my savior and the kids in closed rooms will be a sanctuary (even if to them it's a prison cell). I know I can't be as in tune with the needs of my seven year old schoolgirl as I am with my one year old baby, but I plan to make more of an effort. Spend more one-on-one time with her. Make our moments count. With Fifi in school nine hours a day, and sleeping another twelve, the quality of our time together will have to count more than quantity.

In the morning, she'll wake up a seven year old girl and I'll wake up a seven year old mum. It's a birthday for both of us. I hope I'm maturing as beautifully as she is.

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