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There’s been no word from daughter three. Her school has banned mobile phones for the exchange trip, which is probably for the best. She developed a terrible cold the day before she left and spent the whole of Monday on the sofa sneezing. Dosed up with paracetamol and travel sickness pills, she headed off, looking slightly miserable in the rain. I have images of her trampsing around small damp market towns in France with a clipboard, coughing and feeling generally not so great and dreading the last night of the trip which is a school disco, her least favourite activity. Still, it will be character building, I tell myself, and daughter one always rises to any occasion.
Meanwhile her sister, daughter two, has turned into a full-on political campaigner, taking on all comers at school. Who would have thought that the person who said news was the most boring programme ever and that she would rather pull all her teeth out than go to a festival of ideas would turn into the voice of the young idealist? “She’s a dark horse,” as my mum always says. She has swapped videos on zombie killers for programmes on making the world a better place in the space of six months. Both she and daughter one have been avidly watching the election coverage.
We are currently preparing for an exchange bonanza. Next week, daughter two’s Spanish exchange arrives for two weeks, followed by daughter one’s. This looks likely to double my favourite pastime – driving around Essex – and my anxiety about keeping young people safe in the current times.
Daughter one went into central London the other day. I didn’t want to panic her so all I said was “be alert”. The undercurrent was clear. “Still alive”, she texted an hour or so later and I spent the next few hours waiting for the news that she was on the train back.
Only son, meanwhile, has spent the last few weeks on his own, not quite so political campaign, making a strong case for why he needs a fidget spinner. In fact he got three for his birthday. He went up to every single person in the motorway service stations up to Wales telling them about his fidget spinners and showing them how they work, such was his enthusiasm.
He came out of school yesterday announcing that he had given one to his best mate. “I am feeling very generous,” he announced to everyone in sight. Only son is very much a live in the present kind of person. Maybe that’s the best way to be in these unpredictable times.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.