The view as we crossed the Thames
After Day 1 of the trip, we were under strict instructions not to ring the doorbell of the student house when we left the car outside. We didn’t, and we got a text from the Small Boy Wonder soon afterwards saying all was well (although the Very Precious Daughter had taken him to a student party).
The Beautiful Armenian and I then spent a lovely day in London. We went to the Courtauld Gallery (see this post for more detail), wandered across the Thames to the South Bank and then made leisurely progress to where we were to meet our treasured offspring for a quick cup of tea prior to a whiz round Sainsbury’s – one of the various stealth taxes that goes with being the parents of a student.
The VPD ceased being a teenager a little while ago. But so stunning was her performance in that role – with such utter conviction did she make it her own – that she has been invited by the NCATB (National Council for Appalling Teenage Behaviour) to stay on in an honorary capacity. And this afternoon she confirmed what an outstanding decision that was.
After talking about holidays for next year (including something potentially very special) and what we might do on her birthday, we had a conversation that went something like this:
PARENTS: You asked us yesterday if you and your four housemates could all come and stay with us for a night a few days before Xmas.
DAUGHTER: I did. We’ll be on a tour of the country visiting all 5 home towns, and having a night out on the lash in each one.
PARENTS: We’ve talked about it overnight and although we love seeing your friends we just don’t think it’s reasonable to ask for this in the week before Xmas.
DAUGHTER (tossing head): I knew you’d be like this. I almost didn’t bother asking.
PARENTS: We’re normally very happy for your friends to stay whenever you like, and to come on holiday with us as well. But you know how much we’ve got on at that time of year. Any other time would be fine, but on this occasion we’re saying no.
DAUGHTER: I just hate it when we have these conversations. All the other parents have said yes, by the way
PARENTS: Sorry. We’re not.
DAUGHTER: Well you do realise this means I won’t be able to spend as much time with you guys at Xmas, don’t you?
PARENTS: Really? How does that work?
DAUGHTER: Because we’ll now have to do the trip after Xmas and so it will eat into the time I would have spent with you. But if that’s how you want it, it’s your choice.
My Total Bollocks Detector was beginning to flash red at this point. The Beautiful Armenian doesn’t have quite such a high spec model, and I could see she was beginning to wobble. The VPD hadn’t gone into a full eruption, but experienced observers were looking with concern at the gathering clouds. The government was on the brink of cancelling all flights over the south of England. The VPD then unleashed her “You really are the world’s worst parents” look and announced that she needed to get on so could we go to Sainsbury’s now please.
She stormed off. As we followed in her wake, I said that I had very serious doubts that the trip would ever have got off the ground, but that we shouldn’t give in to this sort of pressure. The Beautiful A saw it in an even dimmer light. She felt she was being bullied. Right conclusion. Worrying implications for the rest of the afternoon.
If I said that the first 5 minutes in Sainsbury’s were chilled and relaxed, I would be misleading you ever so slightly. But at least things were finding their way into the trolley. We then all got separated and at this point TBA decided that of the bullying she was having none. Telling the VPD that she had spent too much of her life pretending that everything was OK when it wasn’t, she explained (quietly but unambiguously) that she found it unacceptable for the VPD to try to force us to agree to her request under threat of a disrupted Xmas.
The VPD said that she could see this, and that she was very sorry for the upset she had caused.
That last sentence is my little joke. The little darling in fact completely went off on one. She denied that this is what she had said, and turned the volume of her indignation up to 11. She stormed off again – even by her standards twice in less than 10 minutes is quite something. She also demonstrated admirable female multi-tasking skills by simultaneously displaying complete moral outrage and continuing her progress round fruit juices, bread and cereals at our expense.
The four of us did convene briefly in frozen foods for an exchange of further denials and accusations, whilst pensioners with sticks and young mothers with double buggies tried to navigate their way round us.
What was most disappointing about all this was that it looked as though this would be how we would part company.
But long story short, we did in fact make our peace on the tube train back to where the Very Precious Daughter lives. She didn’t climb down as such, but she did say that she had misunderstood what we were saying. We let her have this way out. And we all parted on good terms.
I’m writing this a couple of weeks after it happened. A lot more has happened since (more on that another time). But I feel that we have slightly redefined the nature of our relationship with the VPD, and that things are better for it. I think she was genuinely caught out by her mother’s unexpected resolve. And if you want to know the origins of that, look no further than the course and the therapy.
My daughter is beautiful. She is talented. She has wonderful friends, and is a wonderful friend to them. She can be warm, funny, engaging, and she is always sincere. She is deeply, deeply loved by us.
We’ve probably let her get away with too much at times in the past. This probably won’t be the last time we have hours like this, nor the last time it will all seem so petty and inexplicable in retrospect. Somehow – and sometimes it takes a lot of hard work – we always seem to be able to get past these moments and move on.
Nobody ever said that being a parent would be easy.