I open my mouth to respond to the question from my kids’ piano teacher, but my oldest gets there first.
‘I want to learn that last bit of the piece,’ they say.
And they’re off. The piano teacher and student – a conversation I struggle to follow to be honest, I’ve never been able to play the piano. They are talking over my head. I’m not required.
But I consider it. It is terrifying to think of all the conversations my children will have to negotiate their way through without me there, throughout their whole lives.
Here is evidence that it will be OK.
Here is evidence that they can ask for what they need, want, and be heard.
Here is evidence that adults around them also want the best for them.
So I listen. And I allow them to talk.
I’m rarely on the bypass at that time of night, stopping and starting, bumper to headlight. I always remember my sister’s advice. ‘There’s nothing you can do about it,’ she said, circa 1997, ‘just listen to the music, and chill.’
Suddenly, there was a blue light, flashing behind. How on earth would they get through all this? Thankful that I was passing a place to pull in, it managed past me.
As the car behind me pulled in too, I noticed that the car behind that had already done so.
These selfless acts reminded me. People are kind and thoughtful. Society does work. Most people – even people in a traffic jam – care.
Then the cars in front peeled off to each side, like a pulled thread, we were joined in a communal goal. And together, we let the ambulance through.
‘Yes I’ll keep that date free, what’s it for?’
‘It’s tee bee cee,’ I say. ‘I don’t want to say too much.’
As a youngest child, I often forget that things don’t always go my way. I can remember realising that the world did not revolve around me, so I must have come to this key message very late.
But I’m in my thirties now. I’ve really come on.
Well. I’m getting there.
Then I’ll forget, and tell people something is definitely going ahead, before it’s cee.
And then, when it falls through…
If they ask, I’ll tell them. But this time it’ll be in the negative, like holding up those tiny films and seeing what was the picture, its colours washed out and reversed.
So I’m trying, instead, to say it’s tee bee cee. The most optimistic acronym ever.
Today I have been thinking about…rain.
It would have been hard to think about anything else, from half past two the skies were full, water bouncing off the pavements, the roof of the car. We stood like livestock in the playground, trying not to move from under umbrellas, hoods firmly up, wellies shining black slugs, getting wetter and wetter as we waited for the bell to ring.
Normally we walk but we got just as wet getting into the car, and out again. Everything went on radiators as soon as the back door was safely closed. Fire on, thermostat turned up.
Then I remembered I needed something from the outside freezer.
But as I splashed through the waterlogged grass, the scent of blossom came through the rain. A salve on this miserable day, a reminder of beauty on earth.
Today I have been thinking about… looking sideways.
Looking sideways: not literally of course, that’s generally good practice, especially when driving. Left, then right.
No, I mean looking around at other people, in your field, in your industry, or in your community. Thinking ‘they are much more successful/talented/popular than me.’ Giving up a little. Checking who has the most likes or friends on Facebook, watching the stratospheric rise of a colleague, just plain wanting someone else’s raw talent instead of your own small gifts. Wishing you had started sooner, rose quicker, ‘made it’. Made what exactly?
Remember about subjectivity. Unless you are the best in the world in your field (if that can even be objectively proved), someone is always ‘better’ than you.
More importantly, I remember – that when I’m only looking sideways, it’s not safe to drive myself forwards.
Today I have been thinking…about my novel.
As if I’ve been thinking about anything else for the last two months. It feels wrong, somehow, talking about this on the blog. I’m supposed to have a tinylife, how can that include insurmountable, unbelievable, incomprehensible ideas like writing a novel? Let alone having a novel published.
And yet, this has happened to tiny me. I wrote and wrote a story I believed in, then I sent it to lots of people who publish books, and one of them said ‘Yes.’
Clearly the last 23 words do not in any way communicate what it was like.
So now there is a whole novel out there in the wide world,
doing its level best in a world full of novels.
I wrote it. I’m proud of it. I really am a writer.
Parenthood is a juggling act, they say.
But I don’t like that image at all:
The parent as a clown.
An audience giggling.
Ready to be amused.
Counting how many eggs you keep in the air. Speculating what you might drop: the career egg, the marriage egg, a child perhaps?
I choose another circus metaphor:
The parent as a trapeze artist.
An audience gaping. Ready to be amazed.
You climb up determinedly, swing wildly, throw yourself into the unknown. Sometimes caught, wrist tight, by another trapeze artist. Sometimes grasping the bar alone, clinging by fingertips, sailing onwards. Sometimes free-falling into unplanned empty space.
But always there is a safety net below – and your audience does not laugh, for you’re not a clown. Instead, hear them applaud your grace and your bravery even as you climb the ladder to try again.