My eldest daughter has a difficult conundrum at work. A conundrum that would not have presented in my world at her age. I’m not even sure the right language was there then. She is too young for this dilemma and I too old to know exactly what to say: how can I relate when I know nothing of this particular quandary. It would be patronizing to even try.
This is the first time that this has happened to me. In every other respect I have been able to empathize with my children’s experiences: I failed exams as they sometimes have; I had my heart broken as a girl, several times, so I recognize what the splintering fall out feels like when they tearfully articulate it through sobs and snot and hiccups; I say, ‘I know, darling, I know’ and I mean it. I understand about bad friendships and good ones. I get being broke; I’ve been there too. And when my daughters fret that they don’t look as beautiful as they’d like to, I feel the sting again when I felt the dumpiest, dreariest at a party. My mother must have told me I looked lovely as I do them; must have meant it as I do now.
So, until my daughter called me last night and said, ‘Mum, there’s this thing … I don’t know if I’m going mad … what do you think’, I always knew what to say.
But her New World presents with experiences my old one never delivered, not in any shape – her dilemma was as far away from my 21 year old world as the internet and smart phones – so for the first time I don’t know what to say. And that is a difficult thing as a mother; we ought to have the answers. We always used to.
I ponder all night and find myself in hack-mode. If in doubt Google it. So I do the research and plough through opinion pieces and Facebook pages and readers’ comments and small answers are revealed as tiny gems through the soupiness of the ether. If I sieve them out, will that help I wonder?
And then I consider another obstacle. My daughter is full of young-freshly ironed Save The World idealism. Mine is old and crumpled and faded with cynicism. Somehow we must build a bridge across the two to a Happy Medium and perhaps on that island we will find a treasure map that leads to a solution that satisfies us both: her youthful desire to fix all things and mine as a mother to just mend what worries her.
This, I think, this uncertainty, this loss of bearings, must be what defines a parent who is tentatively handing her baby across a generation to the big teethed world of Grown upness.