Thursday, 3 December 2015

When your child goes missing...

It was 8am when the 13-year-old left for school. As usual I had forgotten to pack the 11-year-old's lunch, so as usual I was distracted by Hovis crusts when she called out a goodbye.

It was 11am when the school texted to say that she had not turned up. They asked me to ring but my calls landed in a voicemail box. I crouched over my phone and decided to think things through rationally.

I thought of how I had berated her for her messy room when I'd bidden her goodnight and how I'd complained of her rolled up skirt instead of a morning greeting. I thought of a man in a van snatching her off the street and of a secret tryst with a Facebook imposter. I recalled headlines of body parts in bin liners, of teenage runaways and hit-and-run drivers. I imagined all the empty Christmases of the future without my little girl in.

It was an hour before the school returned my message and told me that she had been in class all along. In that hour, the world shifted infinitesimally.

I spend a lot of time on my daughter -  a lot of time castigating her for smearing foundation on my towel and nail polish on the bath; for plundering the biscuit tin, skimping her homework, ignoring her bedtime and isolating herself on a computer screen.

I do not spend enough time sharing her enthusiasms, inviting her thoughts, appreciating her being. I often think nostalgically of the little girl she used to be; I can't remember the last time I treasured the young woman she has become.

Now the panic is over, I am grateful for that tortured hour. We are inclined to appreciate what we have only once we have lost it. But in my case it was given back to me.

I hope I shall remember now to overlook the superficial annoyances and be thankful for my blessings. I had intended to start tonight - but oh boy, the state of her bedroom when I went in to welcome her home!