Growth factor

The other day, my daughter rings me. “Oh mum, I’ve had a really big day, can we meet up for a drink tonight?”

Not at McDonald’s for a primary school post-mix Fanta. Not even at Starbucks for a teenage-favourite fat-free frappuccino. Venue of choice was Groove Train, drink of choice was Sauvignon Blanc. Made by Australia’s extended family across the way in New Zealand.

That’s because she’s 19. She’s not a child anymore.

It seemed that one day I’m heating her bottle of milk in the microwave, and the next I’m chilling her bottle of wine in the fridge.

One day she’s asking me questions that the Einstein would struggle to answer. The next she’s telling me “I just don’t understand anything”.

As a teenger plotting my life, becoming a mother wasn’t high on my list of things to do. I mean it wasn’t so low that it ranked alongside becoming a nun or working for Kevin Rudd. But it wasn’t so high as it ranked alongside writing a best-seller and becoming Princess Diana’s confidante.

It was something I just never gave much thought to. And you would have thought I would, considering I was a bride at the age of 20.

Yet somehow, from somewhere, this gorgeous little girl appeared in my life. I didn’t know I had it in me. Pardon the pun.

Babies are such a nice way to start people. “Is it a boy or a girl?” people would ask. “Of course it’s a boy or a girl,” I’d reply. “What else would it be?”

Over the years, she and I became very au fait; comfortable, supportive, companionable. I rarely had to chuck a hissy fit at her; rarely had to lecture, reprimand, punish or God forbid, ground.

It is interesting that I never went back for round two. Perhaps I’d heard too many stories of how you sterilise the dummy for the first child, try to include it in the washing up with the second, and ask the dog to fetch it for the third. Not sure. Although a mother of four once said to me “never have more children than you have car windows”.

Maybe because I was a single mother for most of her childhood, the result of a hideous little thing called divorce.

What I do know, however, is that I literally blinked, and 19 years had skidded by and suddenly my little girl was wearing heels, registering to vote, going to university, driving a car and booking her own dental appointments. And moving out of home.

Where did it go? When you’re up to your Brow Bar eyebrows in making lunches, driving to school, folding uniforms and installing Net Nanny, you forget to live in the minute. Then suddenly it’s the next minute, time’s up, and it is all over.

As we were enjoying our drink, I was attacked by a wave of melancholy. I looked at my daughter and said, “did we do all right darling?”

“Mum,” she says, with that look of wisdom that only 19 year olds have when they are looking upon their worn out mothers like she’s got one foot in the dementia ward. “Yes we did ok, you were a great mum.”

Then she said this:

“Do you remember in winter, you had to drag me out of bed to go to school, and while I was in the shower, you’d put my uniform over the heater so it was warm for me to put on? I will always remember that.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” And my daughter is doing her own growing, charting her own course, setting her own targets.

And I’ve just bought her a heater so her clothes can still be warm when winter comes.

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