In Childhood on May 19, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Cherry Blossoms

It’s cherry blossom time here in England and we’re now at that point where the new leaves are just coming in and pushing the delicate pink flowers away.

Every tree I see at that fragile stage makes me think of my daughter. At ten and three quarters, going up to big school in September, she’s at exactly that stage. The blossom is about to fall.

It’s almost unbearable.

Of course this is the poignancy at the very heart of parenthood. Every little shedding of another petal of innocence is a tiny heartbreak – but I’ve also discovered that the next stage it leads to is a new joy.

Much as I adored playing funny games with my daughter’s chubby little feet under the table at meal times, I now adore having a laugh with her and talking about all kinds of stuff, from music to school work and what’s in the news.

But I’m not delusional. I do know that the next change is the big one. The eye rolling has already begun. She’s told me ‘you know NOTHING about style’. She hates it when I dance (and I dance all the time…what else are you supposed to do while cooking dinner?). I’m not allowed to sing along to a favourite tune, if she’s singing to it, because – obviously – I’m crap.

And I have to patrol the front door with eye make up remover before she leaves the house.

So far, I find it funny – mostly – but I’m sure I won’t when it kicks up the next few notches. But rather than worrying about that in advance (although I have read How To Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk, in preparation), I’m relishing this last precious time of childhood, while she stills shower me and her dad daily with her unconditional cuddly love.

Just as the Japanese have picnics under the blossoming cherry trees, I’m celebrating my little girl, now still just in glorious childish bloom, made all the more precious by its inevitable departure.



  1. Aw, what a great poignant post. How old is she in the above picture? Eye make up remover is required at age 10? Yikes!

  2. Ah, the embarrassment mothers can cause. “Mum, please don’t come to school in those pink jeans”.
    And they were Gloria Vanderbilt, a quarter of a century ago!

  3. yes i know ..wish Id had more time with mine when he was younger, childhood goes in the blink of an …well..eye

  4. What lovely words – yes, childhood just flies past Maggie, and then teenage years!! what can I say? Just retain that sense of humour and all of you will come out the other end OK ….my girl is now 30, on the brink of motherhood herself and is my very best friend and a wonderful person.

    • I have seen all my nieces and nephews go into the teenage tunnel and emerge lovely human beings – in my experience girls go in at 13 and come out at 17, boys go in later. I’m hoping that will be a comfort when I’m in the storm…. x

  5. You will be surprised, the cuddles will continue, but when SHE wants them not you! Having transited through this departure lounge once, and about to start the journey a second time, all I can say is hold on for the ride, and just keep loving her. And know you’re not alone in your angst and anger, love and confusion. She’s feeling the same.

  6. It is one wild ride. But always there is love. A tween/teen is desperate for love and acceptance from their parents – especially when they are rebelling.

    • I’m tear-ing up reading these beautiful comments. I can still remember the wholesale utter WEIRDNESS of being 15 and I’m hoping I will be able to tap into that when it all kicks off…. x

  7. Oh, the eye makeup. Cam is just 11 and wears more slap- if I let her, which is rarely, and courtsey of a GREAT BIG kit given to her by a friend for her birthday- than I ever did. Or do. Sadly, it really suits her. We have a funeral to go to on Friday and she was asking me quite seriously if it would be OK to wear pink lipstick, or would that be disrespectful? Oh Maggie, the years are upon us. xx

    • Ha ha, it doesn’t help in our case that one of Peggy’s godmothers is a beauty editor with an Aladdin’s cave of goodies which goddaughters can plunder… Do you let her out of the house in it? I don’t. I’m draconian about it. Too many kiddie beauty pageant kids around.

    • Oh and re your DM… same and I couldn’t mention it in piece. Her friends are more advanced and it’s making me ill knowing how close it all is.

  8. What a lovely post, Maggie!
    As a mother of 4….with the youngest at 12 just about to enter the teenage zone, and the eldest at 17, just departing it – I can say that your humour will get you through! I love the words Amanda wrote. So true. It’s such a difficult time for them. And sometimes when they treat you the worst, they need your love the most….
    My favourite quote for raising teenage girls (that captures their fragility and inner soul) comes from the writer and journalist Clarice Lispector “How does it feel to have a daughter? At times it’s like holding a warm egg in my hand.” I think about that often.
    What a dear little poppet your daughter is at 2! Sure she always will be. xx

    • Oh that is so so beautiful. These comments are amazing and I’m getting very teary reading them. It’s like being at the start of a terrifying theme park ride and knowing it’s going to be hideous before you’re out the other end. As I said below, I do very vividly remember what it’s like to be 13, 14 – the very worst age of my life, so far – and 15. The world seemed to have gone completely insane and I felt as though I were afloat on the ocean in a boat with no oars. xxx

  9. What a beautiful pic Maggie! My little girl is a few years behind yours but I can already see signs of things to come, yes some eye rolling, differences of opinion in what constitutes good style. She knows we’re going to fight when she reaches that age because she sees my sister with her teenage daughter, but I tell her we may not…ha! who am I kidding

    • It’s funny though- we know it in our brains, but the heart does keep saying ‘naaaaaaah, it won’t be like that for us…’ I know it’s coming, but I know it will still be a shock when it happens. But then it will be over. I’ve seen them come out the other side with my siblings’ kids and then a whole new world of wonderful friendship opens up.

  10. Well the eyes are brimming after that post Maggie… how I miss my daughter who promptly finished art school and hightailed it to NYC. Her babyhood, girlhood and teenage years seem to have zoomed by. All the technology in the world doesn’t seem to make up for not having her there to share our cup of afternoon tea and “a little something”… cherish it all Maggie!

    • OK. Now I’m crying. I DREAD Peggy going to live overseas already. I did it to my mum and I know she’ll do it to me… I feel your pain xxxxxxxxx

  11. She will always be by dear niece Peggy Pops. Love the picture x x x.

  12. My English nieces are just coming out of their teens, and the amazing eye makeup stage. As I said to my eldest darling when we were over in April I think it was the first time I’d seen her without makeup since she was 11!! Our daughter is 6, and she already rolls her eyes with the best of them – I know I will be bracing myself when the teen years come. Do you follow “4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle”? Kirsty has a way with words, and an almost teen daughter too.

    • Thanks for the tip, will take a look. Sounds great. Modern Family has proved to be an excellent school of advanced eye rolling. Peggy does it EXACTLY like Hayley…

  13. This is a great post. You are going to look back and laugh with her at some teenage outfits for sure 🙂

  14. Well I am sitting here a bit teary after reading this beautiful post. Speaking as the mum of a champion fifteen year old eye roller, I feel your trepidation. There will still be perfect moments, just less frequently and sometimes unexpectedly. In teenage land there is no scheduling for “quality time”, ha ha.

    My darling girl is going through the angst of “what is the point of it all?/what is the meaning of life?/we’re all going to die anyway”. She is at boarding school and rang in floods of tears the other evening, wanting me. So I drove over and we sat by the lake, just talking and hugging. It gave both of us comfort. Being needed and appreciated as a mum again was great.

    One of my strongest memories is just after she was born,when I was pegging up her dear little onesies on the washing line and it hit me like a ton of bricks: she wouldn’t always be that size. She was going to grow (call me slow; most people have already grasped that concept about having children). So I have tried to imprint as many stages and memories as I can, but as you so eloquently put it, Maggie, like cherry blossom, these are so ephemeral.

    • That’s a beautiful picture, of the two of you sitting together- ah to be wanted. Every mother’s visceral need after the toddler stage departs. I will never forget Pegs at about two, running across the room at a rather stuffy drawing room concert to be on my knee rather than her father’s. It took great courage to do it, but she needed ME. I nearly swooned with love and humility.

      Good to know that she will still need me in that way sometimes xxx

      • God, I still remember the bliss of holding Chloe on my knee in mother’s group, repeatedly kissing the top of her warm and downy little head. I didn’t realise until I had her the fierceness and purity of mother love.

        Peggy will always love you, even when she is shrieking at you about the shoes/dress/boyfriend/destination that you have deemed as unsuitable. I’m a shocker – sometimes I just get the giggles when my daughter is in full flight. I think it is partly because I can recall a similar time, long past … sorry, Mum!

  15. Lovely post Maggie! I just found your blog and it reminds me of your good weekend column. I love hearing about your daughter and everything pink, although not for long by the sounds.. For a while I’ve been needing your opinion. What do I do with my extensive predominately vintage scarf collection now that every time I try to wear one I have to rip it off in disgust. I used to be a scarf and cardigan wearer but clearly that is over. Is there a new way to wear a scarf this Melbourne winter?

    • I wear a scarf every day of my life (except the hottest days, but there aren’t many of those now I live back in the damp UK…), but I find there are one or two I’m obsessed with at any one time. Should you pick a couple and put the rest away, to rediscover them in the future. Or – you could do as I did with my ridiculously huge vintage scarf collect: I made them into a glorious curtain which is the feature of my hallway. I’ll post a pic when I can get round to it.

  16. that picture is just too cute!
    my daughter is only 3 and i already miss the baby stage and we’re barely out of it. what will i be like in 10 years?

    • Oh I still sigh over babies- I love them, just love them. All I can tell you is you have so many brilliant stages to go. I’d be mourning the one that was departing and then realising I was loving the new one even more… I am aware, though, that this won’t be the case for the next one!

  17. People do seem to dread having teenagers but I think it’s just another stage, just as sweet, and, like most things in life, you largely get what you expect.

    The trick I think is modify your parenting style as children get older. Teenagers need parents to be good listeners (not judgmental and not too willing to jump in with advice). They already know they ‘right’ thing to do. It’s also helpful to behave calmly, rather than in a reactionary manner. I once read that children need you the most when they least seem to deserve it. This made some sense to me and has helped me at times respond in a different way than I might have been tempted to. A little humour goes a long way.

    My daughter is almost 17, not a child anymore, but a really gorgeous young woman. Just blossoming now, I think

    • OH THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is brilliant to hear. I do try and take a breath and deliberately lower the tone of my voice not to reply in a shouty way – whenever I remember to do it. This is fantastic advice. Thank you so much xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  18. This is lovely. I am 25, I’m not a mother but a daughter and am closer to my mother than I think I have ever been. Teenage years are bumpy (particularly when your parents are going through a divorce) but it’s worth it for the friendship you have in the end.

    • That was exactly my experience too, Lorna… My mum was my best mate for years. It’s a whole new thing now she’s 91 and I increasingly feel like her parent, but we won’t go there!

  19. Beautiful post. Made me cry too. My 11 year old’s body is changing and I can see her leaving the innocent years behind. I’m an embarrassing mum because I’m a clown so I’m preparing myself for fashion humiliation and being told what to wear. Thank you for reminding me to squish her and hug her and be grateful. I work with very sick children and a lot of their mothers will never get to send their kids off into the world. We’re so lucky us mums of kids who will grow up and have life adventures, and hopefully, eventually, our gorgeous grand children.

    • Oh Lou, I salute you for the work you do… Had to take Miss Pegs to A&E last night after she had a very stupid accident trying to make herself a hot water bottle all on her own and there was a tiny baby in great distress. Even the nurses were getting upset about her increasingly desperate cries. You are amazing to be there for those kids and their parents. xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  20. Oh Maggie, you have made me cry! I have been helping a friend with her twin baby boys this year. They are now 7 and a half months old and already taking swipes at each other over toys, etc (a few months ago they couldn’t hold their own heads up!) … so much happens in that first year of life, doesn’t it? And now YOUR little baby off to big school! (Sounds like HT (previous contributor) has an excellent handle on things; some wonderful advice. Best you can aim for is to ENJOY every day and all the changes that you and Peggy will inevitably have to go through in the years to come … sounds like you and your girl have a great bond already; I’m sure it will just get better. Knowing you can (and will always be able to) have a laugh together is a truly wonderful thing, isn’t it? Congratulations Maggie, I am sure you are and will continue to be a GREAT mum. BX

  21. I am bawling Maggie!! Looking at my 6 year old who still thinks I know everything about everything…it makes me cry to watch her grow so quick , but it’s also very exciting.

  22. when my son was born I told my Mum how terrifying it was to have to look after a baby and she said well I still look after you – and then it dawned on me being a Mum never stops. My children are now 18 and 21 and a new pride takes over as you watch them make their own decisions – and pick up from their mistakes.But be prepared for the cutting of the apron strings it is brutal (especially with boys) – it comes upon you so quick without warning. Learning how to be there without ‘mothering’ is the hardest act of all. I miss my little kids soooo much but admire them today for the fine grown-ups they have become.

    alsos maggie I found an article you wrote in 2002 SMH ‘take my advice’ to peggy from mummy. I clipped it out as I wanted one day to share that with my daughter – thankfully tatts, smoking, black nail polish never became an issue . We will read it together tonight.

    • Oh that’s so lovely Leanne! I had completely forgotten about that piece – I hope I still have it somewhere. The apron strings thing is hard to face up to – what age does it happen with girls??? x

      • well – I havent experienced it at all with my 18 year old daughter – in fact we are travelling together in europe for a month soon – and I am so delighted to have her willing company. and entirely grateful we can find these moments to share because soon she will have her own very hectic life.

        and your message to Peggy was prefaced with a footnote ‘to be read to Peggy sometime in 2014’ so you need to find it quick !!

      • ha ha, better find it right now!

  23. I have a 14 year old boy. In him, the physical change from 12 to 13 was astonishing. I would look back at pictures from just a year earlier and he looked like a child compared to a young man. I do miss that child. It’s a shock when they walk 10 feet in front of you or sit on a different seat in the bus! And get secretive. (I don’t think there’s anything sinister in his secrets, just the wish to be a separate person.) We’re still very close but the prospect of him living his own life apart from us now seems very real. Savour the time!

    • I remember a mother of sons telling me of the day she walked into her son’s bedroom and saw this great hairy leg hanging out of the bed… She’s already doing the bus seat separation, so it’s happening in increments… I’m savouring all the last bits of mother/child closeness. Sigh.

  24. Beautiful post. I am deep in the toddler years now and have read that what is happening in the toddler brain is very similar to what happens in the teenage brain (around age 13 in girls) – lots of rewiring of neuronal pathways as they whittle down the ones they will take with them through life. Hence the tantrums, impulsivity, extreme mood swings etc. Just as toddlers need to be held when they are tantruming, so too do teenagers I think, although not necessarily physically! As my new guru (thanks to this blog) Gretchen Rubin says “the days are long, but the years are short”. So I’m trying to write a few things down and take lots of photos. And take the good with the bad.

    And this from Steve Biddulph’s “Raising Girls” (the section on the 10-14 year old stage)
    “Take every chance she gives you, on car trips or doing tasks together or sitting with her in her room at bedtime, to listen and ask about her thoughts about her life and the world. You will find that you are starting to share more about your own life, your teen experiences, your beliefs and ideas, and that she is now more ready to listen. Suddenly you are not so distant in age.”

    In the end, we all go with our instincts. But I miss my little baby girl already; it’s bitter sweet to already feel nostalgia for the moment while you are still in it.

    • Yes – present nostalgia is almost unbearably poignant, isn’t it? But better than not realising you were having the golden moments as old school dads used to do… Steve Biddulph slightly gives me the sh*ts, but that does sound like good advice. x

  25. Ah, while I’m not sorry to be through the teenage years, there was still plenty of joy to be found. My advice: try not to be too prying if you have a private child; and when they’re throwing all the nasty personal stuff at you, try to remember that it’s not personal, everyone goes through that stage.
    And trust her to cope with her life. If she doesn’t get sprung misbehaving (in the later teens) then she’s probably handling her life well. Deep breaths and try to find fun things to do together.

    • She’s just told me that she doesn’t want to come and see the family’s favourite musician with me and daddy next time because ‘it would be so painful having to watch you dance…’ Oh my LORD.

      • Sounds like it might be time for her special Godfather (or sim) to take her for an outing so you and your man can dance in peace? BX

  26. Gorgeous pic and sentiments Maggie. Wait till she turns into a Fashion Police and you cannot walk out the door “looking like that Mum”; but perhaps you will be exempt from that … Enjoy your blossoms in Spring. I’m enjoying autumn leaves in Sydney, and have very fond memories of crabapple blossoms at my last place. Thank you.

    • She’s already told me ‘you know nothing about style…’. That was choice and ‘all your shoes are grim’. Because they love us, they kick us where it really hurts…

  27. Nice to look back at when they were cute, but don’t spend the entire time talking to your teen about “when you were little” and how great it was. My mother did that and i always felt annoyed/ guilty for daring to grow up into this “lesser ” version of myself, that she found so inferior to her little girl.

  28. Hi Maggie, I regularly get out one of your Good Weekend articles that you wrote about boys and the Teenage Tunnel Years; with a nearly 16 year old who is becoming more and more ghastly I’m needing all the positive thoughts that I can get, so thank you for that article which gives me something to look forward to! I know that he will come out of it and become a wonderful man, but boy is the journey a rough one.

    Girls do the Tunnel in a different way, my Head Mistress at high school called it ‘the silly season’ that was in full flight somewhere between 13 and 15 but if you and your husband maintain a united front with good humour and love then Peggy will be fine. More damage is done to children who are not allowed to find their own adult self – one day Peggy will look back at the photos of her ‘looks’ and listen to you recounting her episodes and she will realise your wisdom.

    • Hang on in there, Tanya…. so so hard and I am dreading it. Knowing it’s so close is like knowing you have an exam the next day or something. My three nephews, who all did their time in the tunnel in different ways, are now all fabulous young men. He’ll come back xxxxxxxxxxxxx

      • Hi Maggie, thank you for your kind words, I have just found out that his half yearly exams for Year 10 start in just over a week and he has done no work at all … previously B+ student … oh dear! Can’t wait for the Tunnel to be over.

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