When I think back to when Ella was a baby, I conjure up wonderful images of a delicate, golden haired child with an open and engaging smile that radiated beauty and warmth, lighting up any room. Now she is 18, her smile still has the same effect. Ella shines with a glow that quite literally lights up our lives.
Ella was born at a time when I was still reeling from the devastation of losing my eldest sister. Before she died, I told her that I was pregnant and that my baby girl would have her name as her middle name. I'm so glad she knew, even though she never got to meet her niece. It was so hard knowing that I had created a new life as my sister's life was ebbing away, but carrying a new baby brought me some comfort and I felt that a part of my sister, some of her spark, had become a part of my unborn child.
This weekend, Ella will be leaving to go to university, and left behind will be an Ella shaped hole. However, we will be filling that hole with our pride and love and giving Ella all our support and positive energy as she embarks on this big adventure.
She has grown up to be a most wonderful daughter and an amazing friend to me and to her siblings. She is such a calming influence on everyone and she possesses such natural empathy that she knows exactly what to do and say in any situation. Her little brother Freddy and sister Kizzy adore her and are going to miss their big sister dreadfully. I have never seen siblings as close and the bond shared between them is something very special and so precious.
Ella will be studying Criminology and Psychology in Manchester, the city that my eldest daughter Megan has made her home. It's such a comfort for me to know that my girls will be near each other and there for each other. As a family, we love Manchester and fully intend to make many visits to see both of our grown-up girls.
As Ella forges her path into the big wide world, I will have to become accustomed to a whole new normal. We've enjoyed some wonderful quality time together these last few weeks, shopping, lunching and watching trashy films before doing the afternoon school run together. It's been lovely for me to have her around. She is great company.
Ella is my third child to fly the nest and I will be left with just two of my little chicks living at home. I'm sure the house will feel disproportionately quieter and emptier without Ella in it. I'll miss the sound of her singing and playing the guitar (thank goodness for her YouTube channel) and I'll miss spending the evenings watching and discussing our favourite TV shows together. (Although we do have some Skype plans in place for the season finales of our favourite shows!) However, knowing that Ella will be making a brand new life for herself is just so exciting. I want her to grow her wings and fly out into the world of opportunities and fulfill her potential. I know how much fun and how many adventures lie in store for her. It's just that I will miss her...that's all.
I'm sure it will take me longer to adapt to my new normal than it takes Ella to adapt to student life, but I know that we all have so much to look forward to. This is yet another step on our family journey and I couldn't be prouder of having such an intelligent, beautiful, loving and talented daughter.
"Good luck Ella. You have done us all proud and we adore you. Go rock Manchester!"