Monday, January 17, 2011


"You're biased, Mum, you're always biased. I'm crap at running, it's really hard and I bet there's no-one else in my class that's doing it."

Sapphire jumped off the treadmill and stormed inside. Her words hurt. I'd heard her worries about being called fat that were unreasonable and untrue and wanted to help her get physically fit, get strong and feel positive. I'd made up playlists of songs that would inspire her and would stand beside her, swinging my arms in time with hers, aching to be able to run too.

After loudly bellowing on this blog that it is my Achilles that is the regulator of my moods and events, it twanged again for the third time. Sleeping that night was an impossibility for my leg bones felt as though they were being boiled and grated in hot water with hammering nails in the heel. Luckily the night time agonies disappear during the day and it doesn't kick up during a brisk power walk or a long and boring session on the exercise bike, so I could pedal away as Sapphire ran.

But not today.

I followed her inside. "Look love, you're doing really well. Really well. You can run further than I ever could at your age or when I went with my Dad at fourteen or even when I started all over at thirty three. But if you want to do it on your own, that's fine."

"No, I want you there."

"Great, then let's get out there and start-----"

She rolled her eyes and folded her arms. The only low point of the school holidays so far has been the ongoing theme of No Eye Rolling or Rudeness Towards Your Parents. "What are you doing that for?"

Sapphire stared fixedly into the distance, lips pursed. "Well?"

"Look, I'm trying to help you as your Mum and your friend. However I'm a person first and do not deserve to be treated badly by you." The eyes rolled again and I started to see red. "DO I?"

I could see her struggling to put into words what she barely understood herself. The annoyance, the boredom, the familiarity-breeding-contempt, the powerlessness, the unwieldy growth and the swirling of hormones and self consciousness. I knew all that but didn't have the skill or self control to stop getting at her. "WELL?"

Still no answer. Arms still stubbornly folded. I walked towards her to hug her, even though I didn't feel like it. Parenting means swallowing frustration and making the first move. She remained rigid and I snapped. "Fine. Go sit in your room and feel miserable and fat."

She ran off, crying.

I could not believe that I'd said it. Fat. To my own daughter; a kid I'd do anything for; a child whose room I wander into during the day just to see what it is she's got on display, what she's working on, what interests her. I called her fat.

Sapphire screamed. "I'M NOT FAT!" and I rushed up the passageway, agreeing, apologising, trying to explain.

"You're right, you're not, you're really not. I am so sorry, Sapph. I was angry and hurt and wanted you to realise that if you don't start doing some form of exercise you could be in danger of getting fat. And I shouldn't even have said that."

"From my own mother," she wailed.

"I know, I know. I'm so sorry." She tried to close her door, but I pushed harder and walked in, standing directly in front of her, my hands on her shoulders, forcing her to look at me. "I love you so much and want to help you. Being fit isn't just a project, it's an important part of life. You are not fat but if you're anything like your father and me, you'll need to work at it or you could be."

"Is that why Dad's out for a bike ride?"

Her tears were drying, mine were starting. "Yes love. He's found something that he likes doing but it's also so that he still has the energy he needs for you, for me, for work and for his health. Now if you want me to shut up and stop being silly while you're in the shed, I will."

A half-smile appeared. "No, I don't mind your talking."

Several hugs and tissues later we were out in the shed. Me on the bike, now dragged across the rubber matting so that it was directly next to her on the treadmill.

She ran and chatted. She sang along to some of the songs and had enough breath left to ask me what having an ultrasound on my leg felt like and when did I know that I wanted to marry her dad. She ran three kilometres in twenty minutes with ease. We hugged, both red and sweaty and proud.

"You're not biased Mum, just honest."

"And you're not fat. Just a good runner getting fit."

Yesterday I waved her and Love Chunks off as they drove to the coast for a five day camping trip, leaving me at home with the dog and the rabbit to get stuck into The Novel. Four thousand words in a day and a half so far yet the house still rings with their spirits. Milly sniffs at LC's shoes under our bed and noses around Sapphire's music stand. 'Where are they?' she asks me with her eyes. 'Where has my pack gone?'

When I went to bed last night there was a scrap of paper on my bedside table. Sapphire and I had taken Milly for a walk in the local park that morning. As we stuck our fingers in the slot to grab a doggy bag for the offerings that Milly backs out the second she's on grass that isn't her own, Sapph had made up a rather funny song about the Poo Bag Pole; catchy tune and lyrics. "A stand up comedian would kill to have that as part of their act," I giggled.

My beautiful, stubborn, moody, funny, fast-growing girl.


Hannah said...

Oh, Kath. You are such, such a writer. I'm in awe of your honesty and Sapphire's maturity, and when I think back to some of the few times I gave my parents silent treatment... well, to be honest, I always ended up giggling too because I knew how ridiculous I was being. Bravo to Sapphire for getting right back on the horse (treadmill?) again, and to you for treating your daughter as an equal human being.

River said...

Mood swings are tricky waters to navigate through. Thank goodness you two are both mature and level headed so things don't blow up completely out of proportion.
3kms in twenty minutes? I can walk that in twice the time.....

WV is larding. As in my bottom is larding up with inactivity.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Hannah. I'm in awe of Sapphire's maturity too. She is far ahead of what I could deal with at her age and yet.... and yet I still struggle. Makes me want to ring my own mother up and thank her for not killing me on, oh, about 600 occasions I can think of.

River, I think you're right (not about the larding bit!). I'll always find it hard not to brood and stay angry after the event has passed - there's not the luxury of doing that with children to raise. And I also need to remind myself that none of us enjoyed adolescence and puberty.....

Pandora Behr said...

I so wish I had a mother like you when I was growing up.

That Sapph can run 3 kms already is amazing - as I was going to suggest the Couch to 5 Km plan to you (and her) as a way of strenghening her legs and lungs safely - but you know this already.

Keep up the great work.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Pand. She's already talking about doing a fun run together and I'll do it even if my Achilles crawls up my leg and punches me one. :)

Cat J B said...

Wow, you are such a great mum Kath; as one of six I feel I had a much more distant, though loving (except for the teenage years silent treatment....tho I'm sure mum loved me even then of course) relationship with my mum.

And running? Kudos to anyone who can do that, and I love seeing youngsters running for fitness, it is SO not me and I am in awe of all runners.
As I sit here 'larding' up, hehe...

Kath Lockett said...

Cat, 'great mum' is the last thing I feel like most days. Flying by the seat of my pants and trying hard to be the (slightly) more mature one is about all I can manage :)

Helen said...

wow, I can run 3km in 20 minutes but not with ease at ALL! A fun run sounds like a great idea - something to work for and help focus on!

Louisa said...

I'm a parent to a 12 year old girl and am well-aware of the pitfalls of trying to negotiate with a nearly teen who sometimes feels thirty and at other times three. We have started running together on the beach while the younger two do nippers and I take my hat off to you - we are far from doing 3kms yet - maybe in a year of two! And I agree with Miss Cat - being one of six meant a distant although loving relationship with our Mum - I love the closeness I have with my three.

Andrew said...

I think you were right to blurt out what you did. Kids need to know that their parents are human, have feelings and can become exasperated. Kids now receive so much parental attention compared to when I, and perhaps you, grew up. It has to be a two way street. They need to learn how to survive life's knocks.

nuttynoton said...

you are so good when I fall out with my kids, I just get stubborn and walk away then regret it later!! Oh for patience and understanding!

Baino said...

You do realise that parenting is an ongoing learning curve? I'm still learning things and mine are in their 20's. Everyone says silly things in the heat of the moment. You're lucky your kid has a head on her shoulders and a big heart.

Kath Lockett said...

Helen, running is running - 1km, 3km, 30km - you're doing it, so you're already a winner.

Louise, the closeness you have with your three kids is a credit to *you*

Thanks Andrew. You're right; and Sapphire was right too in that I've tried so hard to give her the praise that I craved and often didn't get as a kid but to get her to stop fretting and start doing, a bit of honesty (as in what could happen in the future) worked.

Nuttynoton, patience and understanding aint always in my bag of tricks. Sometimes I grit my teeth and walk away, muttering to Love Chunks, 'she's all yours!'

I guess the learning stops when our lives end, hey Baino?

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

Parenting is tough. My lads think I'm a joker and don't take me seriously unless I shout at them (which I really hate doing - but thankfully do rarely).

Now they are grown up, they have become mates more than sons - and I like that.

It sounds like you are doing a grand job to me.




Kath Lockett said...

I'm not a shouter by nature either, Plasman, but have found the need to do it at times. Shocks and hurts me more than it does her I reckon.

Lidian said...

Sapphire sounds like an amazing young woman and you are an equally amazing mum. Truly.

I am not supposed to talk about my girls online (I promised them!) but...have had Moments somewhat like this, and I know, I know it is tough (for both generations).

Maxine said...

Refreshingly honest!

Kath Lockett said...

I wasn't supposed to talk about Sapphire online either, Lidian, but I'm not a good enough writer to *not* rely on my own life for material. Plus, when something happens that makes your heart ache.....

Thanks Maxine; I try to be.

Nicole said...

This made me all teary Kath! Especially after your comment on my blog. I am really not looking forward to this kind of confrontation with Scarlett in future as I know how stubborn she is going to be and I know she will not forgive and forget as quickly as Sapphire appears to. I'll take note until then...

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Nicole. I'm reading 'Queen Bees and Wannabes' by Rosalind Wiseman at the moment and it's an eye-opener. The advice is brilliant but unless the book is in my back pocket and ear marked at exactly the right page I don't know how I'll remember to be the sensible, understanding, supportive, caring, perceptive, sensitive, forthright, boundary-setting, forgiving and nurturing parent an adolescent needs in order to escape drug addiction, failing school and therapy.....