Coming of Age: being the parent of a child about to turn 18

Mixed emotions as my first born turns 18

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I have found myself becoming distracted by the fact that very soon my daughter, my first born, turns 18. Only 19 days until, in the eyes of the law at least, she is regarded as an adult. I am thinking about plans to celebrate her ‘big day’ – her birthday cake (vegan, red velvet – obvs!), going out for a meal, planning her trip to Rome with her BF (a family gift) those kinds of things. I am also, secretly, utterly overwhelmed with emotion that my little human is all grown up and planning her future. She finishes her College course in Music Production in June and has plans to travel for a year or two before deciding what she really wants to do (do we ever really know!?). I am excited for her – I see her passion for travel and exploration and have done my best to encourage the adventure, but I’m not going to lie, the surge of raw emotion I’m experiencing at the thought of letting my girl go into the big wide world, needs taking in hand.

I have had 18 years to prepare for this and yet prepared I am not.

I was a month shy of 23 when I unexpectedly found out I was expecting my first child. Freyja arrived on a beautiful sunny Sunday in May 2000. I remember the heat of the sun on my face that was streaming through the window of the maternity unit on that day. I looked for a long time at my precious 6lb 9oz bundle, as I held her in my arms and knew that I/we were forever changed. The love that I felt for my girl that morning when we first met continues to burn like a fire in my belly, impervious to anything – absolute perfection. For the first 4 years of her life it was just the three of us (two more little Burke’s came along in 2004 and 2006). Freyja and I were partners in crime and did everything together.

We lived quite a distance from any family and Matt (Freyja’s dad) worked all day, so for the most part, it was just me and her. I can remember the time when I stopped carrying Freyja on my back and I felt a little sad that that would never happen again – it really did feel like a significant moment, like we were somehow being forced to physically disconnect, it was unnerving in a way (probably the first example of ‘seperartion’ that  I am also experiencing now – my child growing up and needing me less!). She continued to come everywhere with us however and just slotted perfectly into our lives. She was always so ‘easy’ to be around –  reasonable, inquisitive, creative and spirited. I hope that my memories of those first 4 years never fade ( I know they will ) as although things were tough (working hard to make ends meet) we were in it together and it felt so right.

– Freyja 5 days old, 18 months and at 4 years old with her new sister –

Freyja was happy from day one – an easy sleeper amongst other things, she seemed to make the whole ‘new parents’ thing seem relatively straight forward. Of course it wasn’t perfect all of the time, but it was pretty darned good and I knew when I heard other parents moaning about being desperate to have time to sleep or have some child-free time, that I just didn’t feel that way. When her siblings arrived , she was proud as punch of her little sisters and would always be on hand to help bath them or change a nappy. She continues to have good relationships with her sisters…they spend less time together these days, but this is natural given their ages and the different things going on in their lives. For me, simply knowing that come what may, I know my girls have got each others backs, is all I need.

When she was 15 Freyja had a party without our consent and did a sterling job of telling a number of porky pies to cover her tracks.

When she was 11, Freyja picked up a guitar and taught herself how to play. Seven years later she is a competent singer/songwriter, who along with her acoustic guitar has played/sang live to varying audiences of various sizes, including a number of festivals – I couldn’t be more proud. Grit and determination don’t come easily at that age. She is now weeks away from completing a level 3 College course in Music Production – which has given her the skills to work in the music industry either as a musician or as a sound technician (her other area of interest), if she chooses to follow that path – but fear not…it’s not all perfect anecdotes, glitter and smiles – when she was 15 Freyja had a party without our consent and did a sterling job of telling a number of porky pies to cover her tracks – we found out eventually and she was mortified and very apologetic.

When she was 10, our dog went missing – it was Freyja who calmed me down and talked me through a series of ideas about how we should deal with the situation.

Needless to say, nothing like that has happened since and as we are pretty liberal about her having friends round and socialising, we have shown her that she doesn’t need to sneak around to impress others or do what she wants. She hates us bringing this incident up as she is embarrassed by her actions and feels like she let us down, so obviously every now and again we do bring it up and watch those cheeks blush crimson – it’s important to keep it real!

My girl is fiercely independent – this wasn’t always easy for us to accept when we (Matt and I, both teachers) were desperate to help her study for her GCSE’s and she just wanted to get on with it alone. We left her to it in the end and she did pretty well. I learned a lot from that experience. Freyja has also taught me to listen and to trust and that my way is not always the right way (this was a hard one to stomach!). When she was 10, our dog went missing – it was Freyja who calmed me down and talked me through a series of ideas about how we should deal with the situation. I am in awe of her tenacity – even as a toddler she was able to gracefully master a situation or predicament that she found herself in. She is brave, braver than she thinks and I know that life has some ace things in store for this good soul.

Sisters! L-R, Tilly (14), Freyja (17), Rowan (11).

As I reflect on the last 18 years of having Freyja in my life, in our lives, I feel such a sense of calm and I can’t stop smiling. I can (just about) tolerate the dirty dishes under the bed and the festering pile of damp towels in the corner of the room, not because ‘that’s just what teenagers do’, but because that’s what Freyja does. Soon there will be a day when there are no towels to pick up and no dishes to search for (sob) because she’ll be off, living her best life. Although determined and strong, she still has a little wobble every now and again about not really knowing what her path in life is going to be – as her parent, I know it’s my job to assure her that at 18 years of age it doesn’t matter if her life isn’t mapped out, what really matters is that she is happy, content, adventurous and fulfilled, or at least aiming for those things – it may sound like a cliche or a little cheesy but I do believe this – what else is there!?

For Freyja a life of adventure, travel, new friendships, good times and bad times awaits and although I wish I could be there every step of the way to see how it all pans out, I know it’s time to let go and let her next chapter begin…

Cx

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10 Comments

  • This is such a lovely article Camilla! I’m pregnant with my first baby (a girl) and just had a little cry at all the emotions here and all the happy times ahead of me.
    Thank you for sharing and happy birthday to Freyja!!

    I’m going to go and read it again now! xx

    • Aww, thanks so much Sophie – and best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy. You have so much joy ahead – enjoy every moment! Love Cx

  • Camilla, you’re an excellent role model for your daughter. Everything you’re going through is completely normal and it’s the hardest thing to ‘let go’ but it’s the only way children can truly grow.

    In many ways being a parent of adult children is more difficult than when they are small. You can’t get involved too much when you see them making mistakes and you have to stand back and watch them make them.. which is really difficult. I have learned the hard way only to offer my opinion when it is asked for.. which is not often:-)

    • Thanks Diane – I needed to hear this! No one ever tells you/talks about what happens when they grow up…I feel ill-prepared for when they leave home and I know it is something I need to address. Feeling very grateful today for the lovely feedback/comments and a bit of a realisation that it’ll all be ok. Love Cx

  • Such a lovely article Camilla. Freyja always has been a little star in our lives and I couldn’t love her more xx

    • Thank you mum – your help and guidance has helped us so much as a family over the years! #forevergrateful. Lots of Love xx

  • This is a lovely way to celebrate her 18th, and Freyja sounds like a really creative, grounded young woman!

    • Thanks Nina – I’m still in shock tbh that’s she’s going to be 18!! Love Cx

  • Hi Camilla
    It’s been an age since we spoke but I just had to tell you that you are a hero to all mothers out there and especially I me who is early in the journey of mothehood – full of doubt for myself and yet is in awe of how you have such an amazing perspective and clarity on the role. In reading this I have cried (several times) and smiled a lot. You and Matt must be incredibly proud of the “nature plus nurture” beautiful daughter Freyja is and will undoubtedly continue to be in this crazy world.
    Much love and respect to your whole gorgeous family
    George xx

    • George! Identify yourself – I know a few George’s/Georginas and would love to know who you are so I can say an honest ‘Thank you’ for these lovely words (to which I’m not sure I’m deserving…).

      Such a lovely comment – more tears for me! 🙂

      Hoping that your journey into motherhood is going well – we (us mothers) will always be full of doubt, I think that’s part of the deal, but we can only do our best in the most honest way.

      Sending love

      Cx

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