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Was I really like this too?
My eldest daughter turns 16 this week. I find it hard to believe that the baby I proudly pushed around in a pram can now legally leave home, marry and have a child of her own.
It’s scary, because while to me she’s still the little girl I want to protect, she has to be allowed to some extent to go her own way and be her own person. And I have to learn to let go.
It isn’t easy. She’s old enough to work full-time, buy a lottery ticket, even pilot a glider, yet I still want her home by 10.30pm, I still want to meet her from the late bus, and I absolutely insist on knowing where she is going and who with.
I can tell that she doesn’t like me keeping tabs on her, but she knows that if I don’t receive a text when she’s catching her bus home I’m more than likely to invest in an electronic tag.
And I hate it when she does her paper round wearing her iPod. I keep directing her to the notice in our bus stop – a message from the police advising people not to wear them while jogging as it leaves them vulnerable to attack. If it’s dark I usually go with her to lessen the worry.
I don’t recall my own parents being so protective. I was pretty much allowed to do my own thing, although I remember a horrendous row when I wasn’t allowed to extend my Saturday job of selling football programmes at Middlesbrough FC at night matches. My parents thought it was too dangerous. They must have cared – but not in the ball-and-chain sort of way, which I’m probably guilty of.
I try to think back to the person I was at 16. I know I contemplated leaving school, which I didn’t particularly like, but I stayed and am so glad I did, because I loved every moment of sixth form.
I had a job making Sunday lunches – basket meals, served in grubby wicker containers – in a local pub, plus numerous jobs on farms, ranging from potato harvesting to mucking out horses.
At 16, my daughter can legally work full time. I’m pleased to say she already works part-time at a local farm shop. I deliver her at 7.30am, collecting her a few hours later. At 16 she can join a trade union which, being outspoken and forever demanding certain rights (uninterrupted use of the shower, lifts on demand...) I would have thought a bit of banner-waving would be right up her street, although I can’t imagine her boss being too thrilled by demands for women’s right as she sorts out the swedes and turnips.
Was I so obsessed with boys at her age? That seems to be all my daughter and her friends talk about – who’s going out with who, who fancies who. I think the answer is yes, I even used to take my mates and spy through the hedge into the home of a boy I liked.
Sweet sixteen could bring good news – my daughter can now drive a moped which, could we afford one, would reduce the hours I spend as a taxi service. And she can buy her own lottery tickets and bag us a fortune.
But I doubt the crossing of the line between child and young adult will prompt any help with the washing-up, laundry, or other household chores – unless there’s payment involved, that is.