I’ve loved having her unconditional love, when her little hand slips into mine.

She says she needs to go to the bathroom, so I get up off the sand to go with her, because it’s at the surf club, and she has to walk through the car park all by herself and find her way to the female bathrooms up the stairs and negotiate waitresses and people and cars and skaters.

But she takes off without me.

Slowly I follow her over the dunes, careful not to let her know her mother’s following, as if I don’t know she’s a big girl already.

Inside the surf club, she’s nowhere to be seen. Walking into the bathroom, the cubicle door is closed but unlocked. A sign to me. Come in. I’m here. I go in and the pee smell is pungent but she and all her smells are never offensive. Not to a mother. She asks me to wipe her bottom, and even though she is seven and doesn’t need help anymore, her tummy is a bit upset, so I help. Still her Mama.

Thinking I might as well take advantage of being so close to ablutions, I sit down myself. She waits for a moment, then goes out to wash her hands. Usually we stay in the cubicles together.

Usually it takes forever.

Years of frustration have evaporated up the stall walls when she wouldn’t let me leave to wash my hands or just use the next cubicle. “I’m not far away,” I used to think. Sheesh. Just give me a little slack here

But this time she leaves. I hear the faucet go on as she washes both hands properly with soap, because she’s thorough like that. The paper dispenser grunts as she wrenches a sheet. She hates having wet hands.

Then, from behind my closed door, I hear it.

“Bye Mom.”

That’s it. She’s off.

Back down the long corridor, through the bar crowd and scruffy surfer dudes, past the waitresses, down the steps, across the car park and over the sand dunes and back to her friends on the beach.

We are not the only two girls in the cubicle anymore.

She isn’t waiting for me.

She doesn’t need to hold my hand.

She isn’t attached to me.

She left.

Her friends are more interesting.

My heart slams into my rib cage, and I want to cry.

I should be grateful I can finally pee in private.

I should be grateful I can come and go. But I’m not. I’m overwhelmed that this is the start of me not being the center of her world.

All her life her shyness has seen her slip between my skirts. The neediness has annoyed me at times. Don’t be so reticent, I have thought, gently pushing her out, which only forced her further into the folds.

Yet now, this afternoon, she’s playing a game in the sand with her friends at the wildest of beaches, and it’s left a small hole in my heart. She’s not looking around. Soon she will not want me to be visible to her. She’ll want me miles away, safely not looking, not knowing, not hearing anything. I’ll cramp her style. My skirts will cramp her style. She already hates it when I get song lyrics wrong.

Any shyness she faces will be her own, not mine to protect or fix.

I’ve loved having her unconditional love, when her little hand slips into mine. Yet suddenly her childhood is racing ahead of me.

It’s not mine to know everything about anymore.

She’s not mine.

She’s herself.

And slowly she’s riding away from me.

Which is exactly how it’s meant to be.