It’s early Sunday morning and, unusually, our 14-year-old daughter K is up.
I’m so tired I don’t even want to look at the phone to see just how early it is. We’ve been at the Netflix and the wine, my missus and I, and she is as stuck to the bed now as I am.
How do I know it’s our daughter?
Trust me, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes: our girl doesn’t bother leaving clues, she just leaves unfiltered chaos in her wake as she moves through the house.
The first “clue” this morning was the full, echoing clack of the main bathroom door being closed behind her. Not for K the gentle easing of the door behind her so as to not disturb the sleeping house.
Breakfast is being made. There is a noise for every step: cupboards are opened impatiently and slammed shut, a drinking glass is banged down on to the worktop, followed by a reverberating cereal bowl.
Another rummage and clunking cupboard shutting and I can actually hear the Special K flakes being shaken from the bag.
Frozen yogurt and the milk are extracted from the fridge, which has its own fridge thumping shut sound. She just seems to do it louder.
The blender whirrs into action.
She makes a lovely smoothie, does our girl, and this one must have been particularly tasty as there is a loud slurping noise as she stomps up the stairs, and a satisfied belch as she passes our bedroom.
I am about as rested now as a dog with the mange. And one paw sorer than the other.
Each sound thuds into my brain. My eyes are tightly shut but blinking furiously. I am locked into that seething, teeth-grinding, dilemma all parents know: should I say something or save my energy/sanity for a later battle?
Last night’s resolutions to do better with our girl are forgotten now as yesterday’s resentments feed into this morning’s indiscretions.
As is my wont, my little local tale of a noisy unthinking teenager has grown bigger and bigger in my head until she is the lead character in yet another chronicle of Ungrateful Generation Snowflake and the Bastardry of Modern Parenting.
And the words of Steve Earle’s My Old Friend the Blues seep into my weary, sorrowful head.
I don’t know if it’s the saddest sweet song or the sweetest sad song I know, but it floors me and it lifts me every time.
“Just when every ray of hope was gone
I should have known that you would come along
I can’t believe I ever doubted you
My old friend the blues …”
The bedroom door is opened as K leans in: “Mom … Mom … can you drop me to the gym … I told * I’d be there in 10 minutes … Mom …”
A stirs, and confirms she will. The door is shut. Thoughtfully. Gratefully. But still, what the hell …
I turn to face A beside me and my rant is just warming up, like the day.
“Look through the curtains, it’s a lovely morning … the gym is only a five-minute walk … and she wants to get fit, and she won’t even walk …”
My wife’s large slate grey/green eyes look at me, into me, and something in her expression dissipates my anger, and I pause.
She speaks: “Isn’t it great that she’s up, and doing something, going out …”
“Hell, yeah, of course it is …”
“It’s only a minute in the car and I’m delighted she’s doing it … she got up, got herself all set up, breakfast … you know how hard that can be on a school morning to have her up and ready and eat a proper breakfast before she goes …”
“ Yeah, I know that, but surely she should walk .. especially on such a lovely morning … she really needs the exercise … why can’t she let you, and me rest … it’s Sunday morning FFS …”
“Look it’s a start, she went last week as well … I so want to encourage her to continue, to do stuff like this … I’m happy to take her down there …”
Then, my wife lands the killer blow:
“Look, I know she is a physically a big girl, and I know how difficult she is … but she’s still a child … our child, our girl … your’s … “
This floored me more than Steve Earle. And then lifted me even more.
“hiding my heart in you
My old friend the blues”
I can hide my heart in the truth of my wise and caring wife, and the truth of the beauty and enigmatic character of my daughter K. Our special K.
I get up too and it’s like I am looking at a different girl: she is standing there in the sunny Sunday morning kitchen, make up-free and radiant, her lustrous hair up in a simple ponytail, and looking the part in her grey Coca-Cola T-shirt and gym pants.
She is calm and she is happy. Not the surly girl of too many recent encounters. And I at least part of the reason for that. Surly Dad creates Surly Daughter, who feeds Surly Dad who nurtures Surly Daughter, and on and on it goes …
Generation Snowflake? Why not Generation Brave but Slightly Misguided, or Generation Confused but Coping? On the right road but in need of gentle direction. Or at least the right gym.
A snowflake is a delicately intricate thing of mesmerising beauty and complexity. When you look at it properly. Not made with sunshine in mind, and so we have to mind it. Or come up with a better metaphor.
I don’t know if what I feel is the saddest sweetness or the sweetest sadness. But it sure feels good to feel hopeful.