My daughter turned eighteen not so long ago.
It was a seminal moment. I did mean to celebrate the event in my blog, but to be honest I was too busy worrying about the more serious implications; the bigger picture of how old her birthday made me.
I may as well have just stuck a sign on my forehead saying ‘old bird.’
But it did make me stop and think about the evolution of our mother/daughter relationship over that eighteen years.
You see there were many times during that eighteen years when I didn’t think we’d ever reach this point in our relationship; alive and still liking each other.
I mean, she wasn’t to know when she arrived into our world, that we were complete newbies at parenting, and that she was a sort of experiment; our ’guinea pig’, for want of a better word.
I learned my parenting ropes on my daughter; then I completely screwed them up with my son. But that’s another story.
We are polar opposites, Nerd Child and I. She is the old man in a female shell. While she is super-intelligent, analytical, doesn’t suffer fools, frustratingly untidy and has a horror of crowds, I, on the other hand, pretend to know what I’m talking about all the time, am energized in the company of people, love fools and am made anxious by mess. Yet somehow we have found a common ground.
What I have discovered through this rearing experience is that parenting is not something you inherit a talent for; it’s a role that you adapt to over time. And Nerd Child and I have adapted to each other, in spite of our differences, although I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t made any mistakes in the process.
‘Regrets….I’ve had a few’.
Here are some of the more memorable ones:
1. The old man and I both regret that we do not have the perfect birth story to recount to our first born. I so wish I could reminisce about a more organic, sugar and spice and all things nice event with pink balloons, a birthing pool and no need for any pain relief other than a water spray; but it wasn’t quite like that.
If there is one thing we have successfully passed on to our daughter, it is that hindsight is a wonderful thing. I freely admit now that it was a poor judgment call to go to that nightclub and for the old man to drink that irresponsible quantity of alcohol so close to my due date. I regret that I had to drive myself to the hospital twice (the second time to pick up the baby bag which I forgot the first time) because the old man was so shitfaced tired. I also know that he regrets not being able to give her a blow by blow account of what actually happened during my labour, any video footage or even a photo of her until she was three days old.
I also regret exposing her innocent little body to every form of pain relief known to man (even when it was at the expense of her own health) and to a dictionary of the most obscene swear words that even the most experienced midwives had heard screamed at them.
2. I regret that she began life as ‘Florence’ and was the laughing stock of my entire antenatal group. Thankfully, we noticed.
3. When she landed badly on that trampoline when she was three and did in fact break her leg in two places, I regret now not consulting a doctor for the first twenty-four hours, and believing that frozen peas would dull the pain.
4. I regret that her pinkie is permanently crooked because I naively believed that there was nothing you could do about broken fingers.
5. When she had pneumonia, I regret sending her to school on a sports day.
6. When she put all that weight on when she was fourteen (and she really was quite porky), I still deny that I used the ‘f’ word, but I do admit to introducing her to the idea of exercise quite forcibly.
7. When her boob tube fell down during that dance performance, I admit that it was in fact me cackling like a hyena at the back if the audience.
8. I know that when my eyes glaze over when she tries to discuss geophysics and quantum physics with me, she is really disappointed in me. I am interested in what she is learning; it’s just that sometimes older people need to rest their eyes to think, like I have to often in Q and A.
9. I admit that it was me who borrowed her black suede platform shoes and scuffed the toes really badly when I face-planted in the driveway as I was leaving the party.
10. I regret hoarding that bag of ‘herbs’ in the cake section of my kitchen cupboards and getting angry when she showed it to her grandparents on Australia Day; because it wasn’t in fact a bag of ‘herbs’.
11. I regret that I have ridiculed all the boys that she has dared bring home to introduce to the family, (especially the red-haired boy). But none of them have been good enough for her and I am merely trying to save her the pain of finding that out.
12. I love the fact that our relationship is strong enough now for her to want to share my passion for clothes shopping but I’m not sure how much longer my self-esteem can handle sharing a changing room with her.
13. I am sorry for mocking her singing since her solo as the angel Gabriel at the kindy Christmas play, and how we have continued to ridicule her every time she sings. Luckily she has a lot of other talents to rely on and a very thick skin.
14. I regret not being able to sit through, rather than sleep through, her choices of ‘fantasy’ films at the movies.
15. I realize that it is selfish of me to resent her drinking my rations of ‘good’ wine, but I couldn’t afford to drink $20 plus bottles until I was over forty.
16. I admit that it was was me who replied to that letter she wrote to the fairies, and ate the biscuit she left out for them. There was no advice on handling ‘fairy situations’ in my parenting manuals and I panicked, but I truly didn’t expect a child of her maturity and intelligence to continue the communication, and so I continued to feed the lie. Eventually, that fairy had to stop replying to her (incredibly gullible) daughter because there’s only so much neediness she can cope with and the biscuits were converting to kilos.
17. I so regret embarrassing her recently at her university open day when I responded to the Sydney University media question of, ‘what do you hope your daughter will gain from her time at university?’ with the off-the-cuff comment ‘a tolerance to alcohol.’ (Got My Degree In Alcoholic Tolerance) She was right – it just wasn’t funny or clever.