“Actually, I can’t have this conversation right now.”
My words drilled little shards of ice into my baby girl’s heart. She left quietly, heading outdoors to find solace in the still of the late afternoon garden.
Even as I said them – even before I said them, really – I knew the pain they’d inflict.
I also knew the devastation I’d wreak if I said what was bubbling through my boiling veins. I chose the lesser of two evils.
Goldilocks is fourteen. This incredible young woman is designing a civilisation from first principles, mapping out the relative migrations of tribes, and the natural development of their invented languages. Her study takes place on a made-up land that has two suns and a desert in the middle. She’s studying what she feels would be the natural results of such phenomena.
She is also teaching herself Japanese, piano, and guitar. By ear. And – despite technically being in Grade 8 – she’s averaging around 70 – 80% in all of her Grade 11 final exams.
She’s a genius.
But she can’t wash a dish.
Not even one.
Not even after instruction. From all of us. Over … and over … and over again.
Realising her inability to do what should (surely?) be a simple and obvious task, she was already on the verge of tears. She felt stupid. I, having well surpassed my capacity for doing all the things, all the time, had no patience or compassion left to give. I simply could not begin to fathom how this bright and capable young woman could so utterly fail to grasp the basics of domestic hygiene.
She was devastated.
And I could only add to it.
So I said the words least likely to cause lasting damage. As I washed the dishes myself (great teaching moment lost, mom), I felt awash with sympathy not for that beautiful and fragile thing I had crushed, but for myself. I would have given anything to head out to the cool of the late afternoon garden, sit under the tress, stare across the valley, and just …
But no. I had dishes to wash.
Maybe when I am all grown up, I’ll figure this parenting thing out.
And maybe, until then, my children will survive the second-rate version I am able to offer them in the meantime.
The thing is, it really isn’t all about me. But sometimes it is, ya know? It turns out that, like Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood, I, too, am a work in progress.