I'm sure I gave birth to my two daughters only a couple of years ago, but they already appear to be adolescents.
And what seemed like only a few days ago my daughter ran upstairs to find her tellytubbie yet came back down wearing heels and looking like a young woman.
Today, sitting on the beach on our first full day of summer holidays, I watched a young family nearby. Their two daughters played in the sand, with sunhats on and their chubby toddler legs slathered in sun-cream. Then I glanced across to my own two girls stretched out on their beach towels with their bikinied, modellesque figures and realised that our sandcastle days are over. And believe me, I even offered to buy new buckets and spades but they were having none of it, and there's nothing sadder than a lone middle-aged woman competing with small children to make the best sandcastle.
It's at times like this that the reality of time passing becomes heightened, and I realise there are only a small number of years left before they become adults and head off into the world.
But I don't intend that to sound like a Bad Thing. It isn't. It’ll be hard to let them go, of course it will, but it's what I've been preparing my girls for all of their lives. Otherwise all of those nuggets of information I've shared over the years, and all the times I've given them the benefit of my years of wisdom will have been in vain. (Incidentally, when I asked the girls what the most important lessons were that they'd learned from me they said....none. Nada. Zilch. I've taught them nothing apparently, they can remember no words of wisdom or instructions on how to do anything of merit, which means I won't be writing a parenting book anytime soon.)
What it does mean, however, is that I'm more aware of the fleetingness of childhood, and how I want them to have happy memories of the time we spent as a family. It's one of the reasons we recently started to have 'family Tuesdays' where we spend the evening together doing a chosen activity. We've been to the cinema, eaten out, been bowling, played board games and even just watched a DVD together - just the three of us without the distraction of 'phones or laptops.
It's an attempt to find some more pockets of time where we enjoy each other’s company instead of talking to each other over the top of a laptop or during the ad breaks. It has meant we've had to spend dedicated time to actually talking to each. That's real conversations instead of tweets, texts or short chats in the car. It's been a bit of an eye-opener to be sure, recognising that my girls are actually turning into young woman with their own strong opinions of everything from music to feminism, and everything in between. I have raised girls with minds of their own, with views that they're happy to defend in the face of their much more knowledgeable mum *cough*.
When the time is right I want them to become independent, feisty, adventurous women and confidently fly the nest, but for now I'll hold onto them just a little bit longer...