Last night my eight year old came out of Brownies clutching a piece of paper. Her eyes shone with excitement and she could barely stand still as all her words tumbled out on top of each other.
"Mummy. We're going on Pack Holiday. Can I go?"
She looked at me with expectant eyes, willing me to answer in the affirmative. I mumbled about it being cold and that we would talk about it when we got home and bundled her into the car. As she chattered away from the back seat, I went through the familiar arguments that always dance around inside my head when one of my children takes a new step towards their eventual total independence from me.
Of course she can go on Pack Holiday. It's what Brownies is all about and she will come back a slightly more confident and accomplished child. But knowing all that doesn't make it any easier for me. She is eight. She has only slept away from us for one night in her whole little life and this is for a complete weekend. Of course, the fact that the site is ten minutes walk from here, that the Brownie leaders are highly experienced and that she will be with her friends should all make it easier to deal with. But somehow it doesn't.
Strides by my children into the big, bad world are coming thick and fast these days. No sooner have I got my head round something new than something else pops up to fill its place. Each child is growing and testing and learning whilst I struggle to take it all on board without capsizing. And it doesn't seem to matter if one follows in the footsteps of another. Both the big two went on pack holidays at a similar age and they survived unscathed. Knowing this should make it easier to handle this time round but somehow it doesn't.
I suppose this is how it will be now. The children will race, pell-mell towards whatever opportunities life throws at them and I will bring up the rear, trembling slightly and ready to pick them up should they stumble. It comes with the parenting territory, as they say. Have child will panic. No doubt my own mother will be harbouring similar thoughts when, in a few weeks time, I hurl myself off the top of the Alps again attached only to a flimsy bit of cloth. I tell her not to worry, that I will be absolutely fine and am more than capable of looking after myself. Perhaps I should listen to myself a bit more carefully?