The girl comes home from school her lip trembling. I ask her if she’s ok and she says she’s fine. We talk about school for a minute, then I repeat my question. She repeats her answer a little louder and shrugs to her room.
The girl is just twelve but has become very private recently. She goes into her room and shuts the door – a reaction I think to spending all day with other people. I knock before I go in.
Ten minutes later she comes out of her room.
‘I’m upset because I did badly in on a science paper and I’m annoyed with myself.’
I tell my beautiful clever daughter the things I wish I’d been told at that age; that sometimes you do fail, you don’t get it right. Sometimes you just fuck up. And the key is not to obsess over the stuff that goes wrong when you can’t do anything about it. If you didn’t work hard enough then try to remedy that next time. If you can’t fix it then feel shite for a bit and move on. Don’t do what I did which was to ruminate on all the stuff that went wrong and dismiss the many other things that went right. And also to remember that grit and persistence wins out over being gifted and talented.
She sits and listens and occasionally nods her head. I’m beginning to feel like this could be one of those parenting moments I might be able to look back on with a degree of smuggery. ‘Is there anything you need to say?’ I ask.
‘Yes’ she says thoughtfully. ‘Stop swearing.’