Never Volunteer

Kahlil Gibran says that: ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.’

This helps me a great deal when I look at my children and think: ‘Quoi? Hein? Eh?’ Banging gently on my ear trumpet and wondering whether they are really mine or not.

Let’s take Matilda for a moment.

Where I am taciturn to the point of surliness, insular and cynical beyond all reckoning, she is gregarious, sociable and believes with unshakeable faith that the world is a wonderful place. Where I have been schooled by many generations of my equally cynical family not to put myself forward for anything, and have cleaved faithfully to my mother’s motto: ‘Never volunteer’, Tilly will join anything.

Absolutely anything.

She is affording me great delight at the moment with this mantra.

She started Sixth Form college in September. It is in the next town, and she now has a proper phone and a real bus pass, and independence to come and go as she pleases. She has embraced this to the utmost, and what with the Saturday job at the wool shop, where she spends large amounts of time colour coding alpaca yarn and advising people on the best way to knit pug dogs, we hardly ever see her any more.

One of the reasons for this is that she attended Fresher’s Fair in her first week of college, and was gently coerced into joining every, single, solitary society that there is. There is no need for the hard sell with Tilly. You merely have to look slightly doe eyed and desperate, smile a bit and tell a sad, sad tale of woe. She will literally give you a kidney within seconds of your mouth closing over the final sob.

This was the way of it at Fresher’s Fair.

Since signing up:

She has tried fencing, because a friend wanted to try it and daren’t go on her own. Fencing is now off due to the fact that the masks are very hot and make her glasses steam up.

She has joined the Islamic society, even though she is not Muslim and would actually quite like to be a buddhist. They convinced her to join because they sometimes need someone to put the chairs out at meetings.

She has joined the Marxist society, because a friend persuaded her. She is not keen because there is apparently a very irritating young man in the Marxist society (who could have predicted that?) who is also in the Debating society, which is annoying her, because she likes the Debating society, but wants to stab him with a pen.

She has been co-opted onto the basketball team because apparently, if she did not go, they would have to fold the entire society. She is their only hope Obi Wan Kenobi. She can’t really see much because, a la fencing, her glasses keep steaming up, but it was quite good, apart from that, apparently.

There are other things, but these are sporadic due to the fact that she had already committed to the art and design club on Monday nights, and AS level English Lit on Tuesday nights, and the life drawing classes and the trips to the print works to learn wood cut techniques (God help me. I have visions of visiting her at the LRI while they have to fit a bionic hand. I am praying hard).

So, you know. Not my child, except I am lucky that she is.

She is lucky too, because entirely spontaneously she has played a blinder when it comes to crafting her CV later on.



4 responses to “Never Volunteer

  1. Way to go, Tilly – loved reading that! And isn’t that how life is for those of us who struggle to say no? When I think of some of the societies I joined at Uni…

  2. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry!

  3. Yup. And of course Miss Matilda is well placed to cope with it – she’s maybe just a different kind of eccentric from the rest of you, after all.

  4. Brilliant. I’d hazard a guess that of all the things Tilly is signed up for the life drawing classes will be the most useful/formative — for all sorts of reasons.
    Oh, and if Tilly is at all interested in Buddhism-related things (and I’d thought this even before you mentioned B’ism) she might like to learn TM — it’s non-sectarian but very akin to B’ist techniques. (Tallulah might benefit too, but she may still be a bit too young.) Need to find a good teacher and I don’t know what their fee structure is these days but look at Apropos which this might also be of interest:

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