Friday, November 5, 2010

my girl

Yesterday was my girl's 8th birthday.

How did that happen?

I remember when she arrived, long limbed and peaceful, resting on my chest. She was so peaceful in fact, that I kept asking, "Is she all right? Is she alive?"

Of course, said the midwives. Just hold her umbilical cord, here. You will feel her heart beating.

Which is the moment my heart joined hers. Even as she became her own person, separate from me. She became mine always, her heart and my heart intertwined.

Which makes it just so extraordinary, that she is eight, that she is growing before my very eyes into her own, unique and independant person. Someone who, these days, simply does not need her mother by her side at all times.

Almost two years ago, just before we pulled my girl out of school, she was a wreck. As close to having a nervous breakdown as I've ever seen anyone. She barely ate; she couldn't sleep unless I lay with her the whole night. She cried at the drop of a hat and she would not, could not, leave my side.

Her fear was like a mountain lion, prowling through our house, claiming all our territory. School had become a terror for her; she curled up on the kitchen floor in the mornings, literally begging not to go.

I had to rescue her.

People supposedly 'in the know' said, "She will never learn resilience if you take her out of school now. It is just separation anxiety. Leave her to us. Leave her at the gate. Leave her and walk away."

I couldn't do it. On the second day of the second term of the most miserable year of her school life, we simply turned away from the classroom door and went back to the car. A friend stopped us on the way to the parking lot—I told her we were done, finished, leaving, and she said, "Please let me take her. She'll be all right once you're gone."


She will be all right, I thought, once she knows I will not leave her to this. She will be all right once she knows I have her back, always. She will be all right when she knows she is safe.

Within two weeks of leaving school, my girl was eating, sleeping in her own bed, and smiling.

Within a month, she was becoming friends with other homeschoolers, tentatively (and with me close by).

Within the year, she was a completely different person to the terrified little girl I took out of school.

People who knew her then and see her now say, It's incredible.

I know. She is incredible. She knows we are there for her and that gives her wings. She tests those wings more and more, stretching further and further, every single day.

It is beautiful to watch. Actually, it is stunning.

So yesterday, my girl spent her special day with friends she's made on her homeschooling journey.

We had planned to go cuddle kittens at the RSPCA, but her friends rang and said "Please, please come over now! We just can't wait 'til later."

We ended up spending the day with them, because my girl loves them to pieces—they make her shine from the inside.

She is her true self when she is with them, and barely notices whether I come or go.

She is alight, alive, independent, entirely sure of who she is. She is the person she has become, after finding safety and finding wings.

She is also a girl separate from me.

Yesterday, I wasn't the centre of my girl's universe. Which was a bit hard to see at first, the space between me and her, when it feels like just a second ago that she came out, long-limbed and peaceful, connected to me by a cord and a heart beat.

Part of me wanted her to myself. Wanted the girl who stuck close, the girl who needed me to function. Because then I was needed, and vital, and because then I could keep the identity I've grown used to. That of rescuer, prince on horseback, knight in shining armour, superhero.

But yesterday she didn't need that kind of mum. In fact, I'd say she's pretty much done with that kind of mum, for the most part.

On the occasion of my girl's 8th birthday, I faced the fact that, every day, with steps going forward and some back, my daughter will grow and become her own person—more and more herself, more and more apart from me.

And that the wings she has grown are everything I dreamed of.

But today,

I will get my morning cuddles, and for that moment I will be her bright star.

(Even if she then dashes off to play with her new remote controlled car, building a crash outfit for it so she can battle her brother's car).

And I will always love her. And she will love me.

(Even if sometimes I annoy her by being too clingy, and have some separation anxiety)

And I will always be her mum.

(Even if sometimes I gallop up to rescue her, only to find she did it for herself)

Happy Birthday, beautiful girl. I do love you so.

(And ha.

I just had to remove a teeny tiny black spider from the carpet so my girl could play there.

So I have a purpose still!

Where's my cape?)


  1. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I think if we lived in the same area of this planet our 8 year old daughters could be best of friends. They have had the exact same experience. I too marvel at my daughter, the way she is now, a year after being removed from school. She always had it inside her, she just never let it shine until now. Sometimes I wonder about the other children who like our daughters curled up inside themselves but who were told over and over again Mommy will come back or have been pulled off their mothers by another adult to join their class. I am so glad our girls did not have to suffer through that and have been given the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive in the place they feel most loved, and confident.....their own home.

  2. Such a beautiful reflection.
    I'm very glad to hear that you have both found some peace and harmony through your homeschooling journey. What a wonderful reward!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your daughters experience, and yours as well, it's interesting to see the bravery of a parent who knows when enough is enough.
    Happy 8th Birthday to your girl!
    Mine turned 8 not long ago and I too realized I'm not so needed anymore, but it's okay!

  4. Helena how I loved this post. I felt your beautiful girl's pain and also felt her blossoming and growing. How wonderful for her that you rescued her, that you saw her needs and did something about it.
    I am constantly blown away by homeschool Moms dedication to their children. It takes my breath away at times. I remember when I was Home Room mom when Kei was in PS thinking, "Well I guess most moms just don't love their kids like I love Kei". Then I found a whole group that does...they Homeschool.
    Disclaimer: Of course there are Moms who adore their children in PS and want the best for them. I just meant in 'my' experience. ;)


  6. Oh, Helena, this brought such a tear to my eye.

    I, too, rescued my daughter from a similar place and time, though we found a school where she was able to restore her sense of herself, before we decided to homeschool. Now she doesn't remember the nail-biting, the nightmares, the teacher that yelled every day. I wonder if your daughter remembers how bad things were for her?

    Thanks for telling your story. Happy Birthday to your beautiful girl!

  7. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the top, for your comments. It feels amazing to hear, from all around, your stories and your thoughts. Like I'm whispering secrets and stories inside your ears and you are turning to me, and smiling, and saying, "Oh, me too! Me too!" I feel so, so lucky for that. Thank you.

  8. Helena - once again a tear in my eye. I remember when my son was a tiny baby and reached some milestone or other. It suddenly struck me that every step he took would be a step away from me. And I stood in my kitchen and cried and cried. All these moments are tinged with that bittersweetness, aren't they?


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.