I’ve had a nostalgic morning browsing through tubs of old photos. I’ve always been known as that one who takes endless photos. Even before digital cameras, I was constantly snapping away, large chunks of my money spent on developing film, only to discover that you had just 3 decent photos out of a roll of 24. I kept everything though, even the crappy photos. Now I have many plastic tubs full of loose photos and old albums. Once or twice a year I go looking for something and end up down the rabbit hole of reminiscence.
Today’s walk down memory lane has extra emotion to it as my first-born child, Sahtrea, is currently at her last day of school – ever! As she drove away this morning she teased me for getting teary and I had to race inside so she wouldn’t see me all out bawling. I cry easily, I’ll admit. Old Nescafe ads used to get me going. But this was more than a little sniffle. This was burying my face in the pillow and howling stuff.
Watching your kids grow up is so layered with emotion, it can be overwhelming at times. I simultaneously want to push them to independence and keep them my little babies all at once. I can be incredibly proud at how they’ve turned out and completely wracked with worry that we haven’t done enough. I can be brimming with joy for them and resent them for moving on at the same time.
I spent an hour on the floor, flicking through old photos of my little girl. From the cute, chubby-cheeked baby to the cheeky, beautiful soul she is today. Like picking at a sore, I knew it was going to get worse the more I did it, but I couldn’t stop myself. I read little cards she wrote, I flicked through artwork she’d created, and I kept on crying. I looked at photos of her smiling during a time that I know was horribly traumatic for her and I marvelled at how strong this young woman has become. Like most Mother / Daughter relationships, we’ve had our struggles. I’ve certainly had moments that I’m not proud of and there have been times when I’ve had good reason to be furious with her. However, sitting here now, a few short months from her becoming a legitimate adult, I feel nothing but admiration, respect and love.
Earlier this week, I found a gold, charm bracelet that I’d given Sahtrea on her first birthday. At that time I was a single Mum, as her Dad was living overseas, and we had not started our relationship (other than being parents of a child together – but that’s another story). I spent more on that bracelet than I could really afford at the time, however, I remember wanting to give her something she could keep forever. It had been long forgotten in the bottom of a jewellery box and I wanted to remind her of how sentimental it was to me. As I waited for her to come home, I rehearsed a little speech in my head. Then for some reason, I just couldn’t express it properly when I gave her back the charm bracelet. I think it came across that I was admonishing her for not looking after it.
What I wanted to say was that the bracelet represented a time when she was the MOST important person in the world to me. Prior to having children, I lived the pretty typical self-absorbed life of a twenty-something person. I partied with friends, I worked long hours, I occasionally visited my family members. But it is safe to say, there was nobody I truly cared about more than myself. Sahtrea came along and completely changed my outlook on everything. For the first eighteen months of her life, it was just the two of us and I loved having her to myself. She was truly my whole world, I was totally obsessed with her. Later when her Dad and I fell in love, I had to make space for him and the adjustment wasn’t easy for any of us. When Sahtrea was almost four, we had our son and again I made space for another and learnt that you can truly love multiple people differently and equally. No Sahtrea, this is not me declaring that you are my favourite child, despite the ongoing debate you and your brother have. However, you do hold the unique place of being the ONLY one who has ever been the single most important person in my world. I love your brother with every bit of obsession I have for you, but he has always shared that space with you and your Dad.
I am so excited for all the possibilities that lie ahead for you, my love. All those things you’ve been wanting to do – go do them Sahtrea. We will always be here, cheering you on.