My daughter and her friend needed me. ‘Mum, you have to help us’, they said ‘we want to go on an adventure, you know about adventures, help us plan’ After pointing out that it has been at least 30 years since my last big adventure, hitchhiking around Europe with a tent, a bloke and £50.00 in my pocket, they insisted that qualified me for the job. Inter rail is their thing and going to places not every 18 year old wants to go is the idea. While I am heartily glad my daughter does not want to do the clubbing in Ibiza thing, I sometimes think about how she is who she is.
In trying to work out my daughter, I have found myself reflecting on my own dear Mum, and my relationship with her. Mum was a contradiction, she encouraged the feminist in me, ‘never let anyone tell you, you can’t do something because you are a girl’ a frequent comment from the same Mum who’s main ambition for me was I settle down with a nice man and have babies. Poor Mum waited 7 years for her first baby, and she got me. Never one to like being dressed up, always mucky, falling over, under and off everything and anything, she really must have thought she had brought the wrong child home at times. I was a risk taker couldn’t care less sort of daughter. Teenage years were the worse, I remember asking her how if she had never actually been anywhere, could she possibly know that our home town was the best place to live. The confusion on her face is with me now.
I loved my Mum, but we never really understood each other, which makes me sad now, because she is not here to talk this through and find out just what we did have in common. It wasn’t all bad, our relationship. When she knew she was dying it was me she talked through the practicalities of life without her. She showed me where her stash of jewelry was kept, where her Will was and how she wanted me to look out for my little sister and my Dad. I think in those days, before she died, we were closer than ever. I remember laughing so much together at the absurdity of her illness. From a strong and vibrant woman, her illness made her body weak, so much so that once, when she was unable to walk home from shopping, I offered to carry her on the already overfull shopping trolley, we sat together on a bench and she giggled so much and so did I, then we walked home.
Later when my children were born, I began to understand a little bit more about my Mum. About the love she had for me and my sister which had consumed her. Her need to keep us safe, to make sure we were happy and to be the best we could be. All the time I was mistaking this love for overbearing, as I fought to be free.
Anyway, back to my daughter and her adventure. My girl is my fourth child, and was born 9 years after her twin brothers and 11 years after my first born son. By the time she was growing up I had cut my teeth on the craziness that is raising sons. I had done the trips to A&E with the risk taking twin, every school holiday. I had done getting into trouble at school, not doing homework, and the climbing where they shouldn’t. I had had the brush with the law and the alcohol/late nights stuff with her brothers. I was exhausted with boys turning into men around me, growing bigger, eating more and more and testing my parenting skills to the limits.
My daughter was a calming influence in the male madness that surrounded me. I think she benefited from my own experience of being a daughter, I was quite a laid back Mum. I didn’t worry about her going to watch bands from the age of 12, I spent many an evening waiting in the car outside the University for her and her friends to come running out. I didn’t mind she liked to go to cities, and was proud of her confidence in making new friends and getting herself out and about to visit them. I even managed not to panic when she took herself off to Berlin for a festival. I understood the feeling of wanting to do it all, now. I used to be like that.
So this summer’s adventure is in planning mode. After studying maps and Googling lots of options, they are fairly settled on flights to Zagreb, then rail travel across Europe towards home. I know they will have scrapes, I know it will cost them more than they think, it will be tiring and exhilarating all at once, but they will have memories to last a lifetime. Just like me she will look back and know that for one summer she did it all. The memories and the lessons she will learn will stay with her forever and one day if she is lucky, she will be sitting in a kitchen listening to her daughter asking for her help planning an adventure.