Tots to Teens
It only seems like 2 minutes ago that my two daughters were starting primary school. The weeks were full of craft activities, Rainbows, swimming and dance lessons, spellings and times tables.
I had the same battles, concerns and worries as every other parent on the planet: am I getting a good balance of work and parenting? Are my husband and I doing this parenting thing right? Are the girls progressing at school? And will they ever learn to tie their own shoelaces?!
And yet here I am now, on the day that my eldest daughter turns 17, wondering quite how my little girls turned into the independent, confident young adults they are today.
Lots has changed across those years: I’ve stopped worrying about whether I’m doing the parenting thing right (I’m doing the best I can and I’m OK with that), the girls are both doing well at school and yes, they both learnt to tie their own shoelaces! But I still worry about them now, particularly as they’re now starting to make their own decisions and although I can influence their choices, the choices are now becoming theirs.
The road to independence has been a steady one. Small steps to start with – ordering their own food in a restaurant or paying for their sweets in the local shop. Those small steps were good for the girls but also good for me – I was only ever one step behind and still in control of what happened.
But I knew that gradually I was going to have to let go, and I didn’t feel ready for it!
The change from primary to secondary, from little kid to tween, was where my worry really started to kick in. When my eldest started secondary, she needed to walk to and from the bus stop. We lived in rural Warwickshire and our village had no streetlights nor pavement. As the nights drew in, it soon became clear that walking in the road in her navy school uniform, she was practically invisible to drivers. I knew she really wanted to walk on her own, but I was so worried that she would become an accident statistic.
That worry lead to me setting up my own company, Futliit LED backpacks, designing my own light up backpack with integral LED lights to help people who walk or cycle in dark remain visible.
Letting my eldest walk on her own was important. She needed to start doing things independently but it was hard for me to let her do it.
The first time she wanted to go into town with her friends was a big test. I agonised over whether she was old enough, sensible enough, whether there’d be an accident, whether they’d get on the right bus, what she would do if her friends fell out with her and left her on alone, what would happen if they were accused of shop lifting….can you tell that my mind went into worry overdrive?
My husband was much more relaxed than me. He helped me work through what I was worried about and avoid transferring my worry onto my daughters. And although some of these firsts were hard at the time, now I’m glad we started letting go when we did. Both my daughters are very sensible and know what to do in an emergency.
Occasionally I have to remind myself – would you rather they learned independence near home where you can help them if things go wrong, or would you rather wrap them up in cotton wool until they go off to university, when they might be hundreds of miles away without you to come to their rescue?
Having said that, I’m now quietly worrying about the next phase. Driving lessons loom large on the horizon and university options are starting to be discussed. With both of those come proper freedom and independence: freedom to live on your own and go anywhere you want without your parents.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet either.