On Growing Up

Road Today’s going to be furiously active. There’s a tempo run, a call with the agent, the dogs need kibble, the cats probably do too because I don’t want any of them eating my face, editing to get out the door, and buckling down to revising Gallow and the first three chapters of the upcoming Fireside serial. Plus piano practice, cleaning the fridge, leftover laundry from the weekend…Christ, I often need a day or two to recover from the damn weekend, things go so quickly.

This particular weekend was nerve-wracking. The Princess went to her first Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was a birthday celebration for one of her friends, and there was plenty of adult supervision, but I still had a very restless night, all told. You spend so long watching over their every breath, anticipating their needs before they can speak, waiting and worrying…and then, as they grow up and individuate, it’s hard, so hard to work against that habit. Years and years of safeguarding every breath these little people take, and then one day you realize…well, it’s time to start fighting that habit a little in order to give them the room they need to test their wings.

It’s hard to know where that line is, because it changes on a day to day basis. Some days they need to bump their noses on the wall of Mum’s Rules just to reassure themselves that in a big scary world there are some certainties. Other days they need to fall and get their knees scraped, because it’s far, far better that they learn about disappointment and consequences now when the stakes are small and mistakes are easily rectified rather than later when they can be life-changing, not to mention life-threatening. The endgame is not to have a child dependent on you for the rest of their life, the endgame is a person who has the tools to function in the real world and who knows they always have your love and support. It’s a difficult job, the most difficult job ever.

I try, every time they go to school or anywhere, to have the last thing they hear from me be “I love you.” Just in case. I work hard to be reliable for them, especially since my ex is, to put it kindly, out of the picture by his own choice and has been for years now.

So far it seems to be working. The Princess is sixteen and contrary to what one might see on the telly, things are actually very calm. There are no screaming fights or slamming doors. If a rule is unreasonable we talk about it; if there’s something she wants to do we discuss any safety concerns and I make a decision. The Prince is twelve (dear God, how did that happen?) and, while hormones are starting to rear their ugly head, he’s still the same sweet compassionate kid he’s always been. They fight with each other, of course, but largely where I can’t hear them, and it’s just normal sibling stuff. The only thing more constant than their poking at each other is the united front they present in times of trouble. “Nobody but ME can mess with my sibling!” is the order of the day.

I’m cautiously beginning to hope that the huge teenage explosions I hear so much about are going to mostly pass us by. Of course, the universe could just be wanting me to relax so it can fling explosive poo at me, because the universe is a monkey with a strange sense of humor.

So while she was throwing rice and laughing at callbacks, I woke up every hour on the hour, and at 3am there was a text from the Princess. “Safely back.” Which meant they had returned all in one piece from Rocky Horror. I could finally turn over and go to real sleep, and when I picked her up the next day I thanked her for Being Responsible.

“Oh, no problem,” she cheerfully replied. “I just didn’t want to have you show up at 6am looking for me. You need your sleep.”

They are so funny, and so sweet. They come out with distinct personalities–hell, the personalities are there in the womb, and they only unfold into more and more complexity as time goes by. They’re damn fine people, and I love them to pieces. My life does not belong to me, and it hasn’t since the moment I found out I was pregnant with the Princess.

No, it belongs to them; I do my best never to forget that for a moment. It’s a funny thing, how that can end up saving you. Honestly, I never thought I’d live this long. I never thought I’d have a reason to.

I am very lucky to have two.

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My sister and I used to fight like cats and dogs, especially when I was about 10 and she was 8. People would comment on how much we fought and we would have screaming matches at eachother (I think we probably both sounded like angry squirrels, with our high squeaky voices). And now… it couldn’t be more different. People mistake us for being best friends, and once, (rather awkwardly) as lesbian lovers. Ill kiss her on the cheek and of coarse she’ll pull the whole “Ewww, icky big sister!!” But at night when she has a nightmare it’s my bed… Read more »