How a father-of-three addresses his daughters heading off to university

'I think they've got to make their own mistakes'
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The Independent Online

Andrew Davies, from Edgbaston in Birmingham, has three daughters – Amy, 20, studying medicine at Cardiff University, Martha , 18, hoping to go to Nottingham Trent University to do a BA in fashion marketing and branding, and Lily, 14.

"When Amy left home two years ago, I wandered around the house feeling like I'd lost an arm. We'd prepared in every way, practically, just not for the emotional bit. I'm a car enthusiast and I liken my family to a five-cylinder engine: if one of the cylinders isn't working, the engine functions but it's struggling to run smoothly.

I found it hard at first, and we would speak almost daily. When Martha leaves, I'll be better prepared and I know that we'll be in touch regularly. I imagine that my wife and I will fall into the typecast roles: Martha will ask me practical things – to help to fix the boiler or ask my advice about the broadband connection. Her mum will deal with the emotional side.

The girls and I are close, and I was involved in the decision-making process. We took them to their universities several times to familiarise them, and us, with the areas they were going to be living in. I've been to Nottingham four times with Martha. Knowing where they are hasn't stopped me worrying about their safety. I like to think they're streetwise – they've done their fair share of partying in Birmingham. I'd rather they were introduced to clubs here, under our care, than encountering them for the first time at university.

Debt is another worry. We help them out a bit with rent and fees, and we check on Amy's account with internet banking. In my day, you did what you wanted with your grant cheque – my parents didn't have a clue about my spending. The girls know they'll never have to go without food, but I don't want them to rely on us financially. Amy does part-time bar work and works in the holidays. I imagine Martha will do the same.

Before I start worrying about Martha at university, we've still got to get through results day. Amy went with her mum to pick up the envelope while I was at work waiting for the dreaded phone call, as I will be this time. I was really nervous and couldn't concentrate at work. You do have to prepare yourself that they might not get the grades. You must have a fall-back plan.

I've always said that, as long as they do their best, we'll stand by them and help them through Clearing. As a parent, you have to encourage. With their exams and the university process, I think they've got to make their own mistakes. I stop myself from saying what I think they should do.

When I went to pick Amy up from the student house she shared with seven other girls, they hadn't read the water and electricity meters, and she told me the last girl out was going to do the cleaning. I thought that was unfair, but I didn't say anything. I sometimes see that my girls don't have all the life skills to go through to the next stage, but I'm confident their time at university will change that."

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