I didn’t just lose Abi, I lost my daughter, and with her a much coveted connection to the female world, and a female future. Sure, I still have my own girlfriends, they have been good to me and I trust their support will endure. But losing my daughter saw all the silly dancing, hairstyles, nail-varnish, cupcakes, shopping and netball evaporate from our family in an instant.
Sons, though equally loved, are not the same. The relationship is fundamentally different, not only on a day-to-day basis, but also over a lifetime: certain moments can only be accessed with a daughter.
Trying to adapt to this strange, new, daughterless world, I am like a well-trained dog, waiting, wondering, wishing my boys to throw scraps of womanhood my way. Discouraged from fishing into their relationships, I attempt to wait obediently for the moments they let me in. You can say otherwise, and I know there are exceptions, but enquiring about “all that stuff” is not usually the place of boy-mothers. Not our right. No longer my world.
I mean look at Paddy's face in the picture above. He's just not quite getting the stupid fun of the Kaiteriteri Fashion Show. The girls, on the other hand, are all over it. Daughters are natural confidants, at least mine was. Cocooned in the car after school my conversations with Abi would be peppered with snippets about Paddy’s girlfriends, conversations with Charlie Murray, requests for bikini tops that “make it look like you have something”, insights from the bus that morning, and plans for mass weekend sleepovers. I might not class myself as a outwardly girlie girl (it’s a rare day that I brush my hair, and I sit here at my desk with no make up or nail varnish) but I am cognisant of the profound pleasure I derive from being a woman - and being with them. The power of femininity, the complexity of 21st century womanhood, the frivolity, the cookiness, our vulnerability, and best of all, the solidarity from our friendships, and with the wider Sisterhood. Since the day she was born I’ve anticipated the decades of mother-and-daughter closeness (and challenges) lying ahead, and taken pleasure from sharing my little girl with daughterless friends.
Now I face a life with my boys and Trevor. No shopping trips for semi-formals to look forward to, no talking through break-ups, no mother of the bride, no babies that are truly mine. I tell myself to trust the process: believe that Ed and Paddy will have generous girlfriends and one day marry wonderful, caring women willing to share their hearts. That one day, way in the future, I will no longer be the only woman in our family. Until that time I will wrap you up in my heart, Abi, and endeavour to watch your friends grow with love, not envy. Choose admiration over mire, and be a willing surrogate mum to those who need one.
Girls, I need you. Share your worlds with me please: your hopes, your hobbies, your bad outfits and favourite impractical shoes. Your unsuitable boyfriend choices, best makeup finds, tales of disastrous mini-breaks and of sweet success. I will value them all. Don’t leave us mothers-without-daughters-to-smile-upon out in the cold waiting for the boys to feed our souls. Stand by us, dear fantastic Sisterhood, help me move forward without my little girl.