The boy and I are alone together for a few days. Jason is in Berlin, the girls are somewhere in Shropshire with their father.
He asked me how much ‘alone time’ he was allowed to give them. He told me it was healthy for them to be able to explore unchaperoned. You can imagine how much I love it when he tells me things like this. Unsolicited parenting advice from people who do not have children send me to the place of red rage, unsolicited parenting advice from absent parents who spend three quarters of the year roaming the globe footloose and fancy free and deign only to see their children when time and tide suits them, and who have done this for the last ten years, send me into orbit.
Then he mentioned a lake, and the vastness of the estate they were staying at.
I did not say what was at the forefront of my mind which was: ‘It is very convenient for children to have alone time, not because it fosters independence, but because it means that adults can have alone time and kid themselves that they are building the leaders of tomorrow, as long as those leaders don’t drown in the lake before they reach voting age.’
I don’t believe I answered anything at all. It makes not one iota of difference what I say. He will have his own way, and if my children drown, unsupervised in a lake while he is snoozing, I shall skewer his liver while he is still alive, and eat it with a fine Chianti and some favva beans.
I am trying not to think about them too hard. It is something I have perfected over the years. This ability to skate over my thoughts about them, and shove them to the back of my mind, only allowing myself to really fret about them at say, three in the morning, when as Fleur Adcock tells us, all the worse things come and haunt us.
I did, however, allow myself to go into mild panic mode when Tilly rang me yesterday lunch time. My immediate thought, given her hatred of the phone and total avoidance policy where it comes to using it, was that perhaps Tallulah had been the one to drown in the lake, and wouldn’t that be a crying shame after all that character building stuff we went through last week.
It turns out that Tilly’s phone is the only one that works where they are staying, and she rang me to tell me when they were coming home.
She also told me that she had been feeding peacocks, and that they were lovely.
I said that I was very glad she was feeding peacocks, and even gladder to know that she was coming home eventually, but I would not be glad if she came home with a peacock.