‘I can go to school on my own now, Daddy’

How a moment of reflection on Mother’s Day reminded me to cherish each stage of my daughters’ lives

Here in the UK, it was Mother’s Day recently. We invited my Mum up for the day and had a lovely time together. Strangely though, I felt a tinge of sadness as I found myself reflecting on my relationship with my Mum.

There’s nothing wrong with my relationship with my Mum—far from it—but I’ve realised just how different it is from the one I now have as a father with my two girls.

The difference, of course, is that I’m a grown man in my thirties. I relate to my Mum as an adult who has moved away from home to a different city. I probably see her only once or twice every couple of months. Whenever we meet up, we greet each other with an affectionate hug. And when it’s time to part ways, it’s the same. But that’s the only physical interaction we have. We’re close, but the interaction and intimacy is nothing like it is with my girls.

When I’m with my girls, they relate to me as the young children they are. We’re constantly cuddling, tickling, and playing together. We see lots of each other every single day. There’s no such thing as too much time with their Daddy.

The difference is huge. And thinking about that is what started tugging at my heart strings. It gave me a glimpse into the future when things won’t always be like they are now with my girls.

Just last week, I was walking my five year-old, Eloise, to school. Half-way there, she turned round to me and said, ‘I can go to school on my own now, Daddy—I know the way.’

‘You can not,’ I replied, a little too quickly.

And of course, she can’t. She’s much too young. But she is growing up fast, and it won’t be that many more years before she is making her own way to school. She’s going to keep growing up and become increasingly independent. And as she does, she’ll not want so many cuddles and she will no longer see me as the centre of her world. Eventually—and I fear this will come around all to quickly—she’ll leave home.

Several father’s I know with much older kids have all told me to enjoy these years with young kids. They fly by, they said. Mostly, I’ve shrugged my shoulders at their words. I knew what they were saying was true, but I couldn’t see it yet.

Now I can. Mother’s Day gave me a picture of what lies ahead.

My future relationship with my daughters won’t be worse than what I experience now, but it will be different. My relationship with my girls will—rightly—change and evolve. But this realisation has forged a renewed urgency within me to appreciate this unique time I have with my girls right now. Things won’t ever be quite like they are again. I need to enjoy and embrace each moment as it happens.

First published at The Good Men Project.

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