Janet Christie: Teenageland is thick underfoot with eggshells

I've decided to take history as one of my subject choices so I changed the form,' says Youngest at tea time.
Janet Christie. Picture: Lisa FergusonJanet Christie. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Janet Christie. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

“Oh, have you? Well, you didn’t discuss that with me, did you?” Is what I don’t say. Instead I opt for, “Good.” Brief, simple, affirming.

“Yes, I like finding out why things happened.”

“Good,” I say again, treading carefully through a teenageland that is thick underfoot with eggshells.

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“Yes, they explained what we would be doing and I thought civil rights in the US sounded interesting, Martin Luther King and stuff, the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Interesting,” I echo, then, “have you thought about reading To Kill A Mockingbird, or watching the film? It’s really good and it’s all about that.”

“Why are you so angry today,” she says, glaring at me.

“Eh? I’m not angry.”

“Yes, you are, saying ‘You should read this book!’ and you always have to say something about what everybody else is doing.”

“I just meant it was another way into something, to read a book set at that time or dealing with some of the issues...” My voice trails away.

Am I angry? No, mellow to knackered. Am I killing off any nascent interest my offspring ever have in anything by over encouraging, colonising their discoveries? Probably. There they are, finding out about something, and I have to breenge in and take over, recommending books and films and plays, completely spoiling it for them.

“Sorry,” I say, but it’s too late. She’s up off her seat and out of the door.

“Was I angry?” I ask Eldest Child.

“No, but you do go on,” he says. Cheek!

Later she returns. “I’ve been round at my friend’s watching Hairspray, it’s soooooo good.”

I could have said, “Oh yes, did you get all the racial integration stuff, and what about the “pleasantly plump” female lead as a positive role model, and did you like the music?”

But I don’t. History, I’ve learned from it. Let’s just stick with “Good.”

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