This day had been coming. Marked in Dad’s Diary, with all other painful looming milestones. The ‘Shopping with Friends Alone’ day.
It sounded innocent enough. A request had been made for her to spend a day roaming the city streets. No parents required.
A school buddy wanted help buying shoes to wear at a wedding. They had to be just right. The Teenager’s fashion sense was in demand. She was happy with that.
Smartly, she played it down to us. No big deal. We’ll walk around. Just the two of us. Eat. Shop. Only for a few hours. Like all the other kids do.
Emphasis was placed on that last bit. We hear lots about “all the other kids”. They’re having buckets of fun, you know. At all hours. With an endless flow of cash.
It’s true, we’ve taken a cautious approach to parenting. No apologies there. The girls accept it, through gritted teeth and rolling eyes.
Daughter Two urged us to refuse. Unless she was allowed to go too. Priceless. The way of the younger sister.
The whole thing made me nervous. Yes, she’s responsible. Yes, she’s careful. And yes, the time had come to extend some freedom. Damn it.
We agreed that I’d drop her to the friend’s house in the morning, from where they could make the short bus trip. Without us. The afternoon would be theirs. Sort of.
As luck would have it, Daughter Two and I had things we could do in the city too. That meant we could collect them at the end of the day.
She’s a smart one, The Teenager. I could see she was considering flying the protest flag. Too much parental involvement. But weighing things up, quickly, she realised that this was the best deal going. And we’d actually said yes.
Her friend lives with mum in a city unit. Nice girl. We dropped The Teenager at the front gate, and within a giggling nano-second they disappeared inside.
Daughter Two and I slowly returned to the car. She asked why the girls didn’t come with us instead. Who’d rather catch a stinky bus than drive in the car?
Good point. I tried to stay calm. What if there was a rave party going on in that unit block? With sound proof walls? Was The Teenager’s mobile phone charged, in case she needed me to rescue her?
You know, there was a time when she wouldn’t cross the road without holding my hand. If I forgot, perhaps distracted by an upcoming trifecta, she’d grab mine first. And smile.
Not any more. Sigh.
We drove off. I looked in vain for smoke and flashing lights inside the unit. Is that what they have inside rave parties? Curse my lack of research.
The phone didn’t ring. I gathered myself. TRUST her. Half the time the girl is more mature than me anyway. Don’t tell The Treasurer that.
A few hours passed. Her sister and I were having fun, doing lots of nothing. Over lunch, we told stories. She was chatting away, as she does. And, I suspect, enjoying the rare solo status.
She’s 10, still with a wonderful splash of silliness. I hope she never loses it. Makes me laugh, constantly.
The questions never end. All with a straight face. Do you know when Beauty and the Geek starts again? Can I have a kitten for my birthday? How can you be sure this is fresh apple juice? For the record, I answered no, no and I don’t know.
We walked back out into the mall, and I realised she was holding my hand. Happy to be seen with her dad. For now, at least. Sigh.
The bridal shopping was a success. They arrived at our organised meeting place on time. I scanned the surrounds for smirking boys. Nothing. Ice creams were bought to celebrate.
We survived the day, both of us. Nothing to worry about, after all.
Bigger challenges are ahead, of course. First dates. Mixed parties. Schoolies. One small step at a time.
Deep down, I know she’ll be fine. And I will be too. Really I will. Just as long as there’s some hand holding along the way.