Unparenting

What if they don’t live?

Do the safety briefing. Let them go.

I wrote those words just there back in 2016. It was the first time myself, friends and my husband were really discussing the questions and logistics around a bigger question;

What if I give my kid a freedom/responsibility – because they’re growing up fast and needing to detach as part of a new and natural stage – what if I do that and… and…  What if they die? 

The words above, in bold, are the ones I stuck down in a draft post to do a reckoning on;  they were the beginning of an answer we were all kinda formulating and which has crystallised for me in the years since. In that time one of my kids went on a whole holiday to Berlin with his pals (and without me) and then went and completely moved out this summer past.

If I had a pound for the number of times I have pictured said son falling out of any one of his new top floor flat windows while simply admiring a view or opening a blind I would have a decent stack of quids, by now. My brain likes to do this worst-case scenario imagery as a special, massively unwanted, self-horror gifting exercise. It’s part of my hypervigilance which flares from PTSD now and again and I’ve learned through therapy interventions that when I bring it into focus and look hard and lovingly at it, examining where it came from and why my brain would do this kind of thing, it helps to deconstruct unhelpful behaviour or feelings that might otherwise follow, and usually even makes me laugh and feel grounded instead.

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Recently, during a flare, one of my best friends and I sat and listed all the horrific ways we had pictured our fledged kids dying, thanks to the brain CGI movie that the experience of parenting adults often plays in the mind. It seemed like the right thing to do – to lean in fully to the macabre, deeply unlikely possibilities looping in our heads and torturing us, to throw light on them and see exactly what we were dealing with. We ended up in hysterical fits of laughter; hearing how ridiculous I am when I say things like, ‘Ok, well I’ve worked out how it’s possible for him to have a fatal accident while replacing a toilet roll’ is a great needle for puncturing an inflated fear with.

My son has had a word with me about it all too, as has his sister. Their points, paraphrased with swearing removed?

  1. Some credit, please. I am fairly invested in staying alive to enjoy my new found freedom.
  2. Mother, you are frightening me now as well as yourself.
  3. Oh my god, shut up mum.
  4. If you keep this up, I will send you gifs of me running down tenement stairs, wearing flip flops and holding open scissors between my teeth.

And so I have done the safety briefing, done the safety breathing, and let them go in different ways. And it actually feels really good. I’m acknowledging again I can’t control everything for my kids and that’s OK – this is a lesson I seem to revisit in different guises bi-annually, since commencing motherhood. That being the case, I think it might be good to factor this thought and behavioural change catalyst in as a constant point of mediation, for the kids and everything.

Roots and wings, Heather. Roots and wings.

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My recent free-spree from social media had been going really well right up until yesterday when I tried to pat myself on the back for dealing with my Twitter addiction so successfully then realised I couldn’t because my hands were so busy gripping my phone,  facilitating my new addiction to YouTube.

In my defence, can I bring your attention to jiggly cakes, the captivating beauty of Fresian horses, Alexa Chung learning how to dress more Frenchly and watercolour artist Lena Gemzoe blowing my mind with her ability to turn smears of paint into a piece of art I would like to step into and set up a whole new life?

I will do better.

I WILL DO BETTER.

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A rare moment off YouTube, afternoon walk up Calton Hill to share a winter-spiced coffee with the pooch and nosey down at the new shopping mall in progress where a henge of cranes worship daily and nightly, making the most of their ephemeral moment in the Edinburgh skyline. 

Inbetween YouTube sprints, DIY this week has been all about our bedroom now the en-suite’s had a budget glow up. It’s kind of stupid to work on the bedroom at the moment as next year we’ll be adding a walk-in wardrobe, removing two built-in wardrobes (with ludicrously inaccessible space configurations) and losing a corner of the room to make a downstairs loo accessed from the hallway. It’ll be the last of the building work we’ll do in the house and it’s pretty pivotal to completing the new layout in a way that feels intuitive while also making the most of as many original features as possible.  So, lots of dust to come but the room’s in such a tired and mildly depressing state meantime I’ve decreed interim fixes are justified and I’ve started with filling in plaster cracks along the edges of the ceiling and skirting boards and preparing the ceiling and walls for two licks each of paint. There’s a lovely built-in shelved recess next to my side of the bed too which we primed a few years ago to get rid of a horrible wood stain finish and I can bring that to glory now as it’s well clear of the two sides of the room that’ll be completely changed. Just like when I repainted the hall a couple of months ago, I’m working on the bedroom one wall at a time; it’s more set-up and clean-up in the long run but short-term it cuts down disruption and allows for the ebb and flow of available time and that feels good for how we live right now.

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Samples tried for the en-suite. Loved them all, ended up sticking to two greys and one dark green.

The next big tick off the things-to-do-in-the-house-makeover-list will be fitting the engineered oak flooring in the porch, kitchen and hallway. The boards arrive in about ten days, we managed to get the ones we were after with 50% off last month so I am beyond excited to see, stroke and smell them after all the years of saving, fantasising and not being very patient at all. I can’t quite believe we’re shortly going to be looking down on actual flooring rather than the patchwork of subfloors, carpet trimmings and rugs. Aesthetics aside, best of all will be the reduction in dust from the generous crawl space under the house which, thanks to essential ventilation panels, pumps miniscule historic debris into the house every time there’s a draught outside (and hello, it’s Edinburgh, there’s a draught outside twenty-three hours out of every twenty-four).

We’ve never laid flooring before so have been swotting up (on YouTube, natch) and bending joiner’s ears whenever we can about the tricks of the trade. We’ll start at the easiest section – the porch, then move into the kitchen and finish in the hallway with all it’s doorway challenges and half-hexagonal shape. That’s the plan anyway. If I’m no longer married in summer 2020 you’ll know the new flooring teamwork challenge was a push of optimism too far.

I usually listen to podcasts while DIYing but, again challenging my phone and 24/7 information addiction, I’ve been hitting Spotify hard for music only instead of podcasts and letting it do its rando playlist thing. I’m enjoying how that’s a source of stories from my imagination and memories that feel helpful and curious rather than heavy. I even walked home from the Post Office the other day listening to the soundtrack for a Broadway musical and trying to guess what it was – Groundhog Day, turns out, who knew? I hated the movie but the musical lyrics made me laugh and imagine all sorts.

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Look what happens when I put down my phone/keyboard. I’m going to try a huge board before the end of the year too.

Workwise I’ve been contributing to the amazing WomenBeing network’s next step which is a magazine teaming with international content and grass-roots energy as well as being a love letter to practised feminism everywhere. Editing and reading the magazine pieces in advance of publishing has been a privilege that’s made me feel so much more connected to women around the world, reinvigorating my belief that change for the better is happening faster than we think, and that for many likeminded people feminism is a whole-life, whole-behaviour philosophy and even if we don’t get to be around each other every day, we’re connected in our intentions and deep efforts. As well as checking out WomenBeing, there’s brilliant stuff on related issues here on Gender and the Economy here, too. Well worth a read, especially if you, like me, are close to death by boredom in conversations about quotas with people who are change-resistant and stuck on repeat about what they don’t want to do because they’re comfy rather than changing the topic to working out how to make things comfy for everyone.

I’m lacking motivation for chasing and developing my own new writing stuff right now. I think this is a downside of not being on Twitter; I used to gather good momentum from watching what other people were saying or doing, chipping in and enjoying the energy and validation/challenge. The lack of all that has rather left me with my own ever-quietening echo which, creatively speaking, isn’t helpful for how I build up ideas of what’s next. The motivation problem is weighted by the fact my novel isn’t getting any bites from publishers or agents too, and the fact that I currently feel pretty meh about the Edinburgh literary scene generally, having seen a totally mind-boggling amount of weirdness in it during the last eighteen months. I have the feeling something’s brewing inside me though in terms of new material, and that I just have to let that develop and see what pops out one day. Meantime, there’s editing and painting and flooring and walking with the beautiful black dog. And maybe the odd bit of jiggly cake porn.

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Otto, less of a dog, more of a lifestyle.