London - My palms are sweaty and there’s a rushing in my ears. “Look at the floor and think of nothing,” I tell myself. The seconds tick by painfully slowly as I wrestle my mind off the ledge of insanity. I have everything crossed.
After what seems like a millennium, my little girl is back. Safe. If I smother her in kisses, scream “thank God you’re alive” and demand she sits on my knee, she will pretend she has no idea who I am, she says. So I just let her and her friend sit down beside me. Not a word is said.
I have taken my ten-year-old and her classmate to a Little Mix concert. Hundreds of pre-teens run around screeching and giggling in tiny skirts and denim shorts.
They are giddy with the excitement of being out late on a school night - metaphorically drunk on their first taste of independence, even though a troop of weary moms is following at a safe distance, checking their watches and sighing as they reluctantly hand over stupid amounts of cash for girl-band posters.
After we’d taken our seats in the auditorium, my daughter had asked if she and her friend could go to buy some water. Alone.
She shot me a look that said: “Mom, if you offer to come with me it’ll be as humiliating as you putting your pants on your head and breaking into I Will Survive.”
So I said “sure”, desperate not to embarrass her in front of her friend, and handed her £5, as I am pretty certain that’s what a bottle of water will cost at an event like this.
Then I sat down, covered with sweaty fear for her safety, while she “went to the bar”, as she put it. TO THE BAR. Didn’t I just transfer her out of her Moses basket into the cot? Isn’t she wearing Dora The Explorer pull-ups? Since when did she get big enough to go anywhere on her own and buy stuff?
This is when I figure that the best course of action is to look at the floor and pretend everything is fine. Which is what I guess I will now do until she leaves home at 29.
She is very proud when she gets back to me, having fought her way through the throng. And she has no idea of the ten minutes of agony I have been through, imagining all sorts of possible outcomes to her water jaunt.
Ironically, she is a very sensible ten-year-old (the day before, she had gone through the fridge checking sell-by dates to make sure I wasn’t poisoning the family with my relaxed attitude to food hygiene).
If I’d allowed her nine-year-old sister Gracie, an entirely different personality, to get water at a concert, she’d have come back on the arm of a bearded roadie, sporting pink hair and drinking Special Brew, I suspect.
When we get home, the Little Mix poster goes up on my eldest’s bedroom wall immediately. The old poster of a pink unicorn is torn down and the multi-coloured fairy lights pushed to one side. I watch this with sadness from the door as the ghost of her childhood leaves the room and the spirit of a pre-teen takes up residence.
If she gets rid of Bruce, her toy dog, I’ll have to have grief counselling.
I should have known this would happen when she started locking the bathroom door and getting cross every time I mentioned how handsome Harry Styles is.
It is a poignant journey to witness, fading into my own memories of the teenage years and bumping up against life with a nearly two-year-old in the house at the other end of the developmental spectrum.
It makes me melancholy seeing her grow up so quickly, so I go downstairs to cuddle baby Mabel. But she’s having none of my maternal neediness either.
“Stop it now,” she says, as I try to bundle her into my arms. It’s her new phrase, the one she has just learnt from her three siblings.
Where’s the dog? I wonder to myself. He never turns down no-strings-attached attention. - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine