Being fifty-something, I don’t believe everything I read.
I was naturally skeptical when I read something along these lines: “By their early fifties, most women will count within their best friends circle a woman half their age and a man-friend in their own age group.”
Sounded like bollocks to me … until I read the next line: “The young woman will be her daughter (or daughter-in-law) and the man-friend will be her life partner.”
Bang-on. They got me in one. (Well, two actually … but this is about my daughter.)
My daughter has indeed become a best friend. In a couple of months, she’ll turn twenty-six, the same age I was when she was born. Soon I will have been her mum longer than I have not.
I remember the day she was born with absolute clarity. She arrived in a hurry, a month before we expected. She scared the hell out of me. Never have I felt more naïve or inadequate (and less in control).
She didn’t look anything like the other babies I’d cuddled (that is, her cousins). She was tiny, scrawny, blonde and tanned (I didn’t know enough to know that was jaundice). She looked like a “surfie baby.” I secretly suspected the nurses had accidentally swapped her for my real baby.
So smitten was I that I didn’t share my suspicion. This was the girl I was taking home. This was My Girl.
Fast-forward almost twenty-six years and I’ve spent half this Saturday with My Girl as she pampered me in the nail salon where she works. Every three weeks, we share a nail appointment. We chatter and natter non-stop throughout. Today it was fingernails and toenails, so we had longer than ever to catch up.
I’m always astonished that she found her way into the beauty industry … this girl of mine who spent most of her teenage years in grungy trackie dacks and a t-shirt emblazoned with “beauty school drop-out”. She has always been a free-thinking, creative spirit with an alternative view on life. I loved it then and I love it now.
I’m also astonished that I’m here, having fancy, sophisticated nails done … this fifty-something mum who spent forty years chewing her nails down to sad little chubs.
It says a lot about how life changes, how we change.
Today, My Girl had a break scheduled after my appointment. We shared a sushi and green tea lunch in a tiny Japanese sushi bar near the salon. More time to talk and laugh. We made plans to go op-shopping soon and to a book launch together in a couple of weeks.
We usually chat on the phone once or twice a week and have family gatherings, but these times in the salon (and après-salon) are precious. We don’t argue; we’ve both learnt not to judge and to accept each other’s advice with respect. Sure, we have our don’t-go-there topics (don’t mention the back taxes!) and we don’t agree on everything. But, somehow, we’ve worked out how not to argue.
It’s been a subtle transformation over the past few years as we’ve found an easy peace. The teen years took a toll on our mother/daughter relationship (I think that’s normal) but we’ve evolved it into something different and even better.
We took another big hit a few years back when My Girl brought home a new partner, much older than herself and recently separated. I was devastated. My husband was worse.
I wished my mum were alive so I could talk to her about how I felt. In another way, I was grateful she wasn’t … I was certain she would disapprove.
I remember dissolving into tears when I confessed to my mother-in-law that My Girl would be arriving with an “older man” in a few minutes time, ready to make his nervous “family debut” at our Christmas lunch.
I was convinced My Girl was making a big mistake.
I was wrong.
That was at least three Christmases ago and My Girl has made a happy life with her “older man”. They take loving care of one another. Now I can’t imagine her being happy with anyone else and I can’t believe I was so judgmental.
These days, we welcome her and her partner into our home, our lives and our family. I admire how they meet the challenges of a complicated life – it’s a tough gig having a partner who shares custody of a child from a previous relationship. Yet, My Girl does it with more wisdom and understanding than I think I could muster in her place. And I so respect that her partner takes his responsibilities as a father so seriously. That says a lot about him.
I’m having a reflective kind of day and through the high-clarity lens of hindsight I see that you can’t make choices for your adult children. All you can do is try to bestow on them solid ethics and values to help them make good decisions for themselves. And hope like crazy that they lead full lives that are full of choices.
They’ll suffer mistakes and exalt in triumphs … but they’ll make their own choices, whether you like it or not.
My Girl is her own person, her own gorgeous grown-up self with a life of her own that she chooses to share with me. She makes me so proud that she lives in a mindful and loving way and that she embraces her free spirit.
She is herself … yet she will always be My Girl.
Yes, I’m still smitten.