Now that life has become a little less burdened with the rules of the last few months, and with us all having a few more freedoms than before, my two teenagers have been looking, understandably, to spread their wings a bit more and spend increasing amounts of their time with their friends.
It's taking me a while to adjust. After so many months of being together every hour of the day, I'm finding it hard to relax those apron strings and give them their independence back. I've reverted to looking at them as my babies rather than fledgling adults. Not, I hope, that my children have realised this. I've been working very hard at maintaining an air of nonchalance, keeping the smile plastered on my face when asked for a lift in to town, or to be dropped off at the park. I have been very happy publicly, privately not so, to resume my role of resident taxi driver.
Yesterday presented me with the biggest challenge so far to my sustaining this relaxed demeanour. My eldest girl, who's 14, asked if she and her friend could go on a walk together through our local country park. This park, just to explain, has several wooded areas that you pass through and, even at the best of times, it would have jangled my nerves a little to think of her, walking that route without her daddy or I there as her personal bodyguards.
Yesterday my nerves weren't so much jangling as jumping out of my skin. But I said yes, explained that they were to stay in plain sight and away from the forest sections and then drove her to meet her pal. At that point I should have gone home and waited for her to call and say she was ready to be collected, but instead I sat in the car, with the 'find my friend' app on my mobile phone open, watching the little dot on the map that represented my girl, walking her way around the park.
It's one step away from stalking and, even while I was doing it, I felt like I was intruding on her privacy. The feeling of guilt was so strong that I had to confess what I'd done to her when she came back to the car. Luckily for me, she laughed, rolled her eyes and then told me all her gossip.
I think it's the constant worry, high levels of stress and the sense of not knowing what's about to come next that we've all been living with over the last few months which has turned me in to such an over-anxious parent. It may also be my own experiences of being a teenager that have left me more than a little fearful.
At not much older than my eldest is now, I began spending every summer working as a nanny in France. I'd be booked to work five or six weeks in the summer but would tell my parents it was a week longer, using the extra time to travel a little further afield, visiting places like Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.
I didn't see it as lying, and it certainly wasn't done with any malice, but I knew my parents would worry about my travelling alone, so I naively thought I was saving them the worry. I would finish working with the family, say my goodbyes, pop my bag on my back and set off, sometimes using public transport but often thumbing a lift from one town to the next before making the journey in reverse in time to catch my flight home. This was in the days long before mobile phones and tracking apps, and it makes me shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't been as lucky as I was with the lovely people I met along the way.
Teenagers have that sense of invincibility, don't they? An innocent belief that nothing bad can happen to them. We as parents know only too well the possible dangers but our job, while warning them of the risks, is not to stifle their enthusiasm or thirst for adventure. Instead we have to swallow our fears and launch them, with confidence, into the world. I know all the theory. I'm just struggling to put it into practice...