“I just worry about things,” said daughter two the other day. I was anticipating something about climate change and the state of the world. The kids are well aware of all these things, given that the news is on more or less constantly in our house. There was a pause. “If Dolly Parton doesn’t think she can compare to Jolene who can, mum?” asked daughter two. I spend a lot of time worrying about whether the kids are worrying about what I’m worrying about, which is more or less everything. Perhaps they aren’t at all.
I took daughter one to a writing workshop the other day. We were asked what title we would give to our autobiography. “Boredom,” muttered daughter one. She then altered it to “Spring” – apparently, she is about to spring forward into her life. On the one hand, it’s good news that she feels excited about the future [previously she had told me that her generation would not play the Lottery because they lacked hope]. On the other, I get the feeling that the last 17 years have been a bit like treading water for her. Maybe we’ve held her back. She’s never got over moving to the countryside, even though I am continually bigging up every housing development in the area on the grounds that it will bring pressure for better transport links into London. We came across one by accident last year. It was really odd. We were walking in the forest and a whole housing development popped up full of enormous five-bedroom houses. “I’m sure that wasn’t here last time we were in this area,” said daughter three. We wondered if we turned our backs it might disappear, but it is still, as far as I know, in situ.
Everything is changing all the time. One minute there is a field next to your house. The next it’s a multi-storey car park. I’m not sure I can keep up any more. Every day seems to get shorter, but there are more and more things to pack into it. Every day I drive down the same route to school and it all looks very familiar, but I feel like things are shifting underneath the surface. Somehow it doesn’t feel stable. Perhaps this is what 17 years of interrupted sleep does to you. Or perhaps it’s just the current zeitgeist. It feels like everything you once thought you knew could be wiped out overnight. I’m thinking a lot about the Caribbean at the moment. Part of my childhood was spent there. It’s hard to comprehend how all the fixtures and fittings of modern life can be swept away so fast. Without these, all we have is each other. How we respond to our turbulent world will define who we are.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.