There've been some telling signs of late that my antics on the way to and from school are also becoming a source of embarrassment for her:
"Mu-u-u-um, stop talking so loudly to Juliet's Dad.... everyone's looking at you."
How could they be? I was calling across at the traffic lights and he was in the car on the other side of the road and needed to wind his window down. Everyone else should have been busy crossing the road before the bip-bip-bips stopped. Sure, your mate Juliet might have been slumping in shame in the back seat but I wasn't talking to her, was I?
Fine, she replied, shoulders slumped, gripping Milly's lead and looking straight ahead. Obviously my retort wasn't the "Oh darling, I'm so terribly sorry, it won't happen ever again my dear, sweet precious petal" that she wanted.
"Mu-u-u-um why don't you have a shower before you take me to school? You've still got eye boogers."
Look kid, I get up at 7am to make your lunch, feed the dog and the rabbit, unpack the dishwasher, get your breakfast, hoik the buckets of shower water from last night out on the garden, hang up a load of washing, read/sign/pay money for a bucketload of urgent school notes and hassle you to get dressed, eat your breakfast, stop playing with the dog and do some quick viola, guitar or recorder practice before we go to school. And I have to have that first cup of coffee. No negotiation there. And I ain't getting up an hour earlier at 6am to go for a run, cool down, have a shower and pretty myself up just for a five minute stroll into the school yard where you ignore me the second we walk through the gate anyway. Geddit?
She nodded, silently.
"Mu-u-u-um, why don't you have a normal job, like Phoebe or Sarah or Sian's Mums do?"
Because I don't want to. For about eighteen years I did do what they did, but eventually I started to hate it. My body started to let me down, I felt tired, resentful, angry and sad and didn't spend enough time with you or Love Chunks. I now laugh more, notice more things, sing more (whether you like it or not) and have met more interesting, genuine and kind people than ever before and I'm starting to get paid for it. And you get to invite your friends home for playdates instead of being stuck in after-school care every day and that's a good thing, isn't it?
She nodded again, slipping her hand into mine.
"Mu-u-u-um, stop kissing me, the bell's just gone."
Tough. I just have to. I must. See, if I don't kiss you or Love Chunks before we go our separate ways for the day, it just doesn't feel right. Yes, like when we all say 'cheers' and clink glasses and you've got to tap everyone's glass or the vibe doesn't work. And yes, I know you're studying Unicef and the rights of children at school right now, but as your parent, I surely have a right to kiss you. At least once in the morning and once at night. You don't seem to mind being kissed at night, do you? And if anyone here teases you, you can tell them to get stuffed. Yes, you really can. Because having someone wanting to kiss you is a really nice thing actually.
She rolled her eyes and proferred her cheek as though she was about to be brushed with a dead fish. I kissed her, angrily at first, but then the softness of her skin, the sweet smell of her hair, the warmth....
"Yeah, bye Mum." She was off before I opened my eyes. Perhaps I won't tell her that I'd just auditioned for a tacky new game show, considered getting another tattoo or was about to interview an old lady who feeds the pigeons every morning.
And at morning tea time, she still made her presence felt: