I KNOW what you’re going to say, but life’s not all about work and money. I want to be happy. So I’ve chosen the ones I want to do,” says Youngest Child at the tea table, referring to her exam subject choices.
Here we go.
I take a cautious tack. “I think you should do what makes you happy,” I say brightly, “but you should also think about jobs and earning a…”
Slam. Youngest has left the kitchen.
“You approached that all wrong,” says Eldest Child.
Personally I find it better never to comment on others’ parenting skills. None of us know what we’re doing and it will cause offence. But he does have a way with Youngest Child.
“What do you mean?” I say.
“Talking about jobs and money. No point. For young people life is about opportunity, being happy. She just hears you being negative.”
“OK. I’ll go and explain it positively.”
“No, you’ll only make her more angry, going on. Let’s have some music.”
I let ‘going on’ lie, he downloads tunes and we fantasise about a road trip from Nashville to Memphis and New Orleans.
“Coming to the pub to hear Johnny (his bandmate) play?” he says. “It’s the nearest we’re getting to Beale Street.”
“Yes. No, can’t,” I say. The days of taking Youngest to the pub and pretending she was Scotland’s Smallest Woman are long gone. She’s outgrown the role.
“I’ll walk you to the pub,” she says to her brother. She glares at me.
“No, you won’t,” I say.
“It’s dark. It’s a school night. It’s nearly your bedtime. It’s cold. You’re not walking back on your own. It’s…”
“Handled that badly,” says Eldest, pausing at the front door.
“So what should I have said? She can go for a walk in the dark on her own?”
“Em... dunno. I wouldn’t like to say.”