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Our Daughter is Living 2000 Kilometres Away - For Now

By Bern Morley - 14th November 2011

We are a family of five, yet when we relocated from the Gold Coast to Melbourne three weeks ago, we arrived as a family of four. Wait, nothing terrible happened to the fifth one; we just decided to leave her behind. Actually, wait, that does sound kind of terrible.

Maddison, our twelve year old daughter, is staying with her grandparents to finish her last year of primary school and graduate from Year 7. In Queensland. 2,000 kilometres away. This was a mutual decision, but mostly driven by our daughter. See, when we started to initially discuss the big move she was horrified. There were many long drawn out conversations with us trying to reason with her and her more often than not, they ended in her storming out of the room shouting “You can’t make me go!”  

So my husband and I sat down and seriously considered not going.  I mean, it was mid-year, she had made a lot of great friends, she was finally getting to that point where she and her friends (for the most part) were actually friends and not enemies, and she was finally loving going to school each day. This is why I suggested she stay with my husband’s parents. Just for the last semester.

At first I was horrified at myself. I mean, my daughter was eleven (she only recently turned twelve). There I was, suggesting as her mother, that my first born child and I don’t lay eyes upon each other for more than two months at quite possibly one of the most formative times of her life.  

She loved the idea. Luckily, so did her grandparents who were more than happy to take on the role as taxi driver, cook, carer and cleaner until she finished Year 7.

I’m not going to say it has been easy. And I’m not pretending that it is the ideal situation.  It’s not and it isn’t. There are many times I’ve second guessed myself and wished we had been less in a hurry to move. But there were timing issues with jobs, and Christmas, and money. In hindsight it’s easy to question yourself but there's always a reason why you do what you do at the time.

Maddison has been a model child. No really, her grandparents haven’t a bad word to say (and believe me, they’d tell us). She has had one bad day which I guess you could describe as homesickness even though she hasn’t technically been ‘home’ yet.  But we made it abundantly clear to her that she only has to say the word and we will fly her down – no questions asked, at any time. Just hours ago I spoke with her and she was in the midst of an extended family get together and she said “There was just one thing missing.”  When I enquired what that was, she replied “You.” This broke my heart more than just a little bit. But then she was onto a new topic and all was fine.

There is a real beauty to this situation however. Maddison has been getting to spend time with her extended family in a way she never would normally, and I think this will have long term benefits. I'm sure that spending time with her cousins and not influenced by us, will be long remembered by both.There is something different about spending time with people because it’s part of a routine, rather than a one-off situation.  

And please don’t get me wrong, our decision has been met with some questioning from other family and friends. Some have simply asked how we could possibly leave our child “alone”  2000 kilometres away, at one of the most influential times of her life. Some have pretended to agree with us, only to go home and colour us all kinds of terrible behind our backs. But on the whole, most have seen our point of view and agreed it is best.

And now, with less than four weeks until Maddison arrives and we can all give her a collective family hug (and sigh), I’m sure it won’t be long until we're back into a routine and life returns to normal. 'Normal' being a feisty tween who is your best friend one moment and outraged at nothing in particular the next. And I can’t wait for it. Absence and the heart and all that.

 

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