HER SAY… HIS SAY…

SOME­WHERE ALONG THE LINE OUR LIT­TLE GIRL GREW UP, AND IT SEEMS TO HAVE CAUGHT US BY SUR­PRISE

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Stellar - - Contents - Frances.whit­ing@news.com.au

with Frances Whit­ing and Rory Gib­son.

It was just a small, rec­tan­gu­lar card, yet when I looked at it, I found my­self catch­ing my breath. So silly, re­ally, that such a thing could cause such a re­ac­tion, but there it is.

Or rather, there I was, stand­ing at the counter of a depart­ment store with a new blue dress for my daugh­ter, and star­ing at its swing tag that said two words: “Older Girls”.

I looked at those words and the years sped by and some­where in them, my daugh­ter be­came an “Older Girl”.

Some­time, in th­ese grow­ing-up years, my lit­tle girl moved qui­etly past the baby sec­tion, then the tod­dler, then the younger girls to ar­rive at this new cat­e­gory and place, where, as I now looked around it, the clothes were cooler, funkier – older – and there was no more pink, no more fairies, and most def­i­nitely no more Elsa from Frozen.

It hap­pens to all par­ents, of course, that mo­ment when you re­alise that their hands are no longer like tiny pats of but­ter curled up in yours, or that their shoes no longer need your fin­gers to tie them, or that their eyes no longer search yours for ev­ery an­swer to ev­ery ques­tion, be­cause they be­lieve deeply and com­pletely that you will know it.

Some­where along the line, all our chil­dren be­come “Older Girls” or “Older Boys”, yet it seems like it catches us by sur­prise ev­ery sin­gle time.

I looked at that tag in the depart­ment store, and then at my daugh­ter, and I saw that she was, in­deed, an “Older Girl” now.

Eight years old, to be pre­cise, and no longer the lit­tle girl who needed me to lift her up gen­tly be­neath her arms from her cot, or say “keep still” while I plaited her hair, or helped her down from tree branches, or lifted her high onto my shoul­ders when her own legs could no longer carry her.

That lit­tle girl was gone, re­placed by this one, ev­ery­thing about her grow­ing – her size, her strength, her knowl­edge, her world and her wish to ex­plore it with­out me be­side her, telling her to look both ways be­fore she took a sin­gle step.

That lit­tle girl was look­ing at me now, her face a ques­tion mark as she asked, “Are you all right, Mummy?” And I looked at her and saw, in that in­stant, all she had been, and all that she was, and all that she was be­com­ing, and I smiled yes, of course.

Be­cause the days and weeks and years can spin by, and the swing tags can change from baby girl to older girl to teenage girl, and none of it will mat­ter, be­cause she will al­ways be my girl.

“THERE’S NO MORE PINK, NO MORE FAIRIES AND DEF­I­NITELY NO MORE ELSA FROM FROZEN”

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