My daughter’s sense of relief was enormous. The exhibition was over and she was ready to celebrate. So I’ve come home again to leave her to it.
One of the few perks of them being away from home is that you don’t get to witness the parties. Or clear up the consequences!
I think that’s the only time I felt really mean; when I made one of them clean up their own vomit! I’d had to fight to resist the urge to make it all mummy-nice, but that wasn’t part of the bargain.
The bargain had been that I’d pick up my eldest from the party because then she could drink and I also didn’t have to worry about her driving home. As long as she didn’t throw up and leave me to clean it up, we joked!
I waited in the dark and she tottered out on her high heels with a happy smile and a kind of vacancy about her in allowing a friend to hold her arm. Or was that hold her up? I thought that was a bit funny. Plus the fact she’d rung me much earlier than expected.
‘You okay?’ I asked. She looked a bit strange.
‘Yea. Drank too much too soon….and work the next day,’ she said, smiling sickly sweetly.
I drove home and as I did so her head lolled a bit and I had that sudden painful wave of motherlyness I’d had when she was first born and equally helpless. My maternal violin strings thrummed round my heart and I wanted to stop the car, sweep her in my arms and cradle her head upon my shoulder and let her sleep there, face in mum’s neck, like she used to. Protect her from the pull of the world and reattach the cord that strips her of her independence.
But of course I couldn’t. She was eighteen. And I was driving. And she wasn’t my baby any more.
She staggered up to bed and the bathroom door went regularly in the night. I knew…I was alert and listening.
The bedroom was full of vomit by morning, although she’d had the presence of mind to get some of it out the window!
She reckoned someone spiked her drink. She had indulged sensibly, as ever, but the impact of it was devastating. And it took a lot of cleaning up, not that I did it because that was the bargain after all.
But I felt very mean.
It’s hard to allow your children – who are not children really and not yours – to learn these tough lessons and be wise for the future. But she knew this was not something she was going to go back on her word and ask of me, I saw it in her face, and she bravely stuck it out.
But I don’t know who it was harder for. For her to have to do it? Or for me to stand back while she did? Both are hardships of growing, her and me, of mother-and-daughter-hood, of being a parent.
And I know the symphonies of heartstrings plays itself a lot longer than it takes to do the clearing up. The memories of childhood and the tugs and pulls of growing independence are troublesome for both of us. Whether that’s when they’re toddlers or twenty, home or away, then or now.
But we have to have respect; the respect that keeps a bargain. The respect to let them learn and let them go.
And the beauty is that the ultimate consequence of respect is the deepest imaginable love which I have now.