I’m recovering from the lurgy and only son is still taking a keen interest in my health, although not to the extent of letting me off the Sunday morning rota. “It is now 8.18, mum. You have 42 minutes until we have to go downstairs,” he announced. He was very proud of himself because the clock is 15 minutes fast – a psychological ploy to get us up earlier in the morning which has not worked for all the years we have been doing it. Only son then proceeded to update me on my remaining minutes with every minute that passed. “Can you not just let me enjoy my remaining 37 minutes?” I asked, resolutely keeping my eyes closed. “It has snowed, mum!” announced only son, dancing on the bed. “There is snow all over the car.” We have been trying to train only son for years to go downstairs on his own and maybe put on Alvin and the Chipmunks for an hour or so, but we have failed absolutely. Only son likes someone to be downstairs with him, even if his big sister sleeps downstairs.
Daughter one is going through a transitional period. She is 18 this month and I think it has concentrated her mind. On the one hand she is, perhaps, excited about the world outside [it’s hard to tell], but on the other she is terrified by what she sees as the awful responsibilities of grown-updom. I told her that you don’t have to be grown up to be an adult and that the responsibility thing is a gradual process in any event. I am worried that my partner and I are not presenting her with a fun-tastic view of adulthood. She has been quite pensive of late. I caught her making a secret video of only son the other day. I have to admit that I told her off for invading his privacy. Then she replied that it was so that she could still see him on her phone when she “leaves home”. Daughter one adores only son, but fears he will forget her. I have assured her that this is not the case and that if you love somebody, absence only makes the heart grow fonder. There is a reason for those cliches.
She seems to have withdrawn a bit and be preparing herself for eternal separation. I realise that I have not been preparing myself at all for when she finishes school. I fear this is going to be much worse than saying goodbye to my brother all those years ago when he left for Argentina, even though I know that, unlike him, I will hopefully see her regularly. Mainly this is because, in addition to missing her intensely, I am going to worry about her all the time. This is the real test of parenting – letting go. She went to a party in London the other day and we were debating how she could last out one soft drink for the entire evening, given the prices. She said that in future she could get people to buy her drinks. I think she may have been watching too much Friends. “Alarm bells should be flashing in neon if some bloke you don’t know offers to buy you a drink,” I said, outlining the many possible risks. “Why does it have to be like this for women?” asked daughter one. On the one hand, I don’t want her to live her life in fear, but on the other she needs to be prepared.
I realise that I have spent my entire adult life risk assessing outings, most particularly, the journey home. I’d like to be optimistic that things are going to change post-Weinstein, but from what I’ve heard about porn culture at secondary school and from what I’ve seen on Twitter I would think there’s still a very long way to go.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.