Mummy on the edge Nov/ Dec 2015 Families North West London Magazine
There comes a day in every child’s life where they have to spread their wings and fly away. University, joining the French Foreign Legion, whatever – all is possible when you reach the right age. This year, Midi-Me did just that. No, this was not some Dougie Howser moment where she was admitted to UCL at thirteen years old to study medicine. I mean she actually flew away from me to another country. On an aeroplane. Alone.
After we got divorced, Midi-Me’s dad moved to Vancouver and didn’t visit for lots of years. When he did start returning a couple of years ago, it was just for one short visit per year of one or two weeks, because he now had a life and wife in Canada. Midi-Me and I actually managed very, extremely well as a two-member family (as regular readers over the past 9 years will know!) and her dad kept in touch regularly via birthday cards, phone, skype and latterly face time. Naturally however, despite all that, the separation has been quite the emotional trial for her (and therefore me).
Last year, having somehow miraculously ended up with my own fiancé, we planned a trip that involved taking Midi-Me to Vancouver to see her extended paternals. We had dinner with her Dad and Stepmum in a lovely Thai restaurant (where we bizarrely met a waiter from Hatch End!) before going off and doing our own thing for two weeks, and then returned to pick her up and bring her back to London.
In the springtime of this year, Midi-Me’s dad came to visit and whisked her off to Centre Parcs and they had a jolly old weekend together, riding on segways and eating steak for breakfast. Of course, no matter how long the visit was, it couldn’t possibly be long enough. By the summer, she wanted and needed more but I wasn’t able to play FEDEX mum, with a thirteen-year old human package. And as much as I wanted to ease her emotional inquietude, there was NO WAY I was going to send her on an aeroplane by herself.
It was my grown-up nephew who explained to me that it was the uncertainty that was the worst thing for a kid. Not just the “will I see my absent parent ever again” but “when?” And that’s when I realized that my being too scared to let her get on a plane alone was really doing her no favours at all. I knew she was perfectly sensible and trustworthy. I knew that BA take very good care of their charges. And I knew at that moment that although my preventing her from flying solo was me being a good, protective mum, actually it was not in her ultimate interest. For thirteen years I had made zillions of split-second single-parent decisions. This constant mental, emotional and physical cost/ benefit analysis had been honed over the years resulting in an automatic cognitive algorithm which I relied upon to help me with daily conundrums. From, at three years old: should I let her partake of fruit shoot (OCCASIONALLY but only in order not to be the odd one out at parties – never of own volition). To: should I watch this 15 Will Ferrel film Stepbrothers with her (ABSOLUTELY NOT …but we did anyway last week). Alighting on: should I let my baby scramble alone onto a large piece of metal thousands of feet in the air, flying over sea and land at great speeds with nothing except incomprehensible science holding it up?
The automatic cognitive algorithm was right about the Will Ferrel film but wrong about the aeroplane. So I explained to her that this was not a holiday but that she was going to stay at her other home for around three weeks. This pre-empted the boredom I knew she would feel from sitting in her dad’s furniture shop with him for days on end. But hey, she’s been bored with me, it was important to experience boredom with her dad too. She always wanted to know what my childhood was like and now she would gain insight, because I spent much of it being bored to death in my dad’s shop too.
I haven’t completely lost faith in my automatic cognitive algorithm. I will need it when Midi-Me decides wants to join the Foreign Legion.
More on flying solo at mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com and facebook.com/angelinamelwani and twitter @appleina.