Moving our family from London to Devon came with a mixed bag of emotions and those of mine that surrounded our daughter were predominated by guilt. Guilt that I was taking our wonderful girl away from the happy, nourishing life that she thrived in. She has a dear friend, whose friendship left myself and the child’s mother, in wonder and amazement every day. They’d known each other from birth and over the years gravitated towards other in magnificent ways. The love and maturity, for young folk, they demonstrated towards each other was incredible to witness. Rarely did her mother and I need to intervene if disagreements arose for the grace and respect that my daughter and her friend had for each other came with great ease. As well as the love, fondness and deep care.
They went to the same playgroup each day. We walked there every morning, her mother and I with the girls, after dropping their elder siblings at school. Play dates were many. As were the friendships beyond their union. The playgroup, to which my daughter had been to every day since birth whilst her brother attended there also, had a small circle of girls that absolutely adored each other. The staff were full of warmth and affection towards each one of them. And, on Tuesday afternoons, most of the girls went to ballet together where their hearts danced and twirled, smiles beaming like Cheshire Cats with each class. Effortless in formation, it was as if an advertisement for the idyllic life of a three-year old.
These days were rich and abundant and full of joy, even on the tricky ones, and my guilt lay with all that I was taking her away from.
Herself and her beautiful friend would have gone to the same school together, had we stayed. I saw ahead of them a friendship that would have grown in depth and holding and I felt terrible pulling them apart. I saw too the friendship that I had cherished at primary school, that stopped when I went to secondary and the one I came to realise, in all of this, I still had to grieve.
In ways, it would have been easier to stay.
In ways, I would have preferred not to disrupt this magical connection. I would have preferred to see it flower into the future knowing what it gave and stood to proffer years to come.
But I chose us as a family over our daughter’s immediate and potential needs. I chose us as a unit and I knew staying wouldn’t have enabled me to grow in the ways in which I have needed to deeply within. For years, I have wanted to find and create a playground in which we can all blossom and have known, in my heart, London isn’t that place.
I sensed, of all of us, the wrench for her would possibly be the most difficult. Resilience she has yes, but too a tender heart that I knew would mourn her loss. I was prepared for this before we left. Yet I wasn’t prepared for how painful saying goodbye to my own circle of friends, her friend’s mother included, would be for me. So as she began to meltdown and wail and refuse to get dressed in the morning, get out of the front door, get out of the car, scream she wanted to GO BACK to London, my own fragility was triggered. I had wanted to hold the ground for her as her known world collapsed, but I hadn’t anticipated that my own ground would prove so unstable in the first few weeks. Her and I were a clash waiting to happen as we landed here in Devon on bumpy, turbulent ground.
With time, I am slowly starting to find my feet. As is she. And the arms I wanted to allow for her, in times of overwhelmed confusion, are growing stronger and firmer whilst she melts. And in this week, in those moments when life feels just too much for her, I’ve been able to sink to my knees and open my wings and heart to her vulnerability. I have enclosed her towards my chest and held the space for her to weep all the tears she’s been asking to.
And, in watching her this week, both in her buoyancy and in her disquiet, I have seen her striking, boundless growth. I have seen our darling girl, away from everything she held close, discovering new loves in her life. She connects to our son with new form, with a new freshness and warmth that is wonderful to see. She talks of new folk at pre-school whom she is finding her way with. And she talks of all the things that she is learning with such a gleeful passion in her tone. And. She talks and talks and, in these days, rarely stops. She has SO much to tell.
In this week, I have remembered to re-frame. I have remembered to set aside my thoughts and expectations for this incredible metre high stealthy soul and see life through her glorious eyes. And I have remembered how much growth comes from our ability to fall apart. When known and unknown interior worlds collide. When tantrums are re-considered and understood with the wisdom from our hearts. And loving ears and eyes.
Spectacular change can occur within our beloved metre-rules over the landscape of a day when embraced in this way. Mountains will be effortlessly conquered and galaxies splendidly climbed every time we surrender to their inner-turbulence. Our job is to remember to meet them on the ground as they crumble. Holding this space, in the seeming disorganisation, re-assemblence comes with our patience, enabling them to emerge new. Growing a little taller, wiser and gobsmackingly more bolder each time.
Illustration: Charlotte Gastaut