This month Natalie and her twin Kathryn turn 18, my babies aren’t babies anymore. Although 19 is the coming of age here in BC, turning 18 is the landmark birthday in the UK, which is where we are originally from.
So my girls are adults, and I feel very proud and extremely blessed.
Proud that they are happy, confident, intelligent young women who have just graduated high school and are about to start their chosen courses in order to pursue their intended careers – Kathryn as a police officer and Natalie into medicine with a view to either becoming a Biliary Atresia specialist or an anesthetist.
Blessed….and grateful….and relieved….and so many other words, as well as too few adequate words, to describe what is felt by a parent when it’s child is still alive and relatively healthy; still has her own liver despite what you were given to expect. You know the stats and you know that your good fortune is, sadly, not the case for so many others.
As you can imagine I have had many moments throughout this year where I have had my eyes well up, and many more times when I have shed tears or had to find a quiet place of solitude to sit and cry to release the build up of emotion.
This year especially, I remember for each of them the first tooth, first crawl, first steps, the sound of their voices when they said their first words. I vividly see their births, their Christening, being told Natalie’s Kasai was a success. I recall their first day at school – ‘big girls’ in their uniforms; them being cute little bridesmaids, aged 4, for their adored aunt; proudly becoming Canadian citizens; the joy they had of ‘mothering’ their first pets – rabbits, then kittens, then dog. Memories of their school plays, sports days, learning to swim, ride a bike, play instruments – first the recorder, then ukulele, piano, guitars, clarinet. All of these perfectly normal memories for any parent but all the more emotional for me that they happened at all, knowing that I imagined these…willed these….prayed for these to happen long before they did.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the precious moments of this year. Trying on and buying their Grad dresses; the fun of their first hair up-do; watching with pride them being recognised at the school’s award ceremony and being presented with bursaries; seeing them walk gracefully hand in hand down the red carpet looking beautiful in their gowns; honoured that they asked me to accompany them to Wet Grad; loving every minute of watching them and their peers enjoying Dry Grad. More recently I had the pleasure of witnessing them thrilled at passing their driving tests; relieved at being accepted into their chosen courses; excited to be visiting family in the UK, and pleased with themselves for making the return flight alone.
Lastly, Natalie is transitioning into adult care having graduated with flying colours from paediatric care. As every teen leaves school and the familiarity of the teachers and building, Natalie is also saying goodbye to dear and trusted doctors, and hospitals that have sometimes been a 2nd home with the familiar kitchens, shower-rooms, cafe’s and parent bed by her side. While every teen wonders what college and university will look & feel like, or if the tutors will be kind and approchable, Natalie has similar concerns that she’ll be OK in strange surroundings if she stays overnight without a parent, or if her new specialist will be cuddly and make her laugh.
The transition from student to graduate, from paediatric to adult-care, from child to adult doesn’t happen overnight. The letting go to let them grow has been gradual over the past few years, yet those years do fly by as if happened overnight. I think they are more ready for it than I am.
So here we are. They are 18 and I am the mom to two adults. Feeling very proud…..and extremely blessed.