When I was a kid I was, for a time, a member of the Young Ornithologists Club, essentially a birdwatching society for children who got bullied in the playground.
Recalling it during a conversation with my sister I tell her,
“I used to go to meetings run by a woman called Mrs. Bird (true) on a Friday evening. She’d show us pictures of starlings and thrushes or play soundtracks of blackbirds or cuckoos and all the other kids knew exactly what they were. I sat silent as I didn’t have a clue.”
“Why did you go?” she asked me, not unreasonably.
I really didn’t have a good answer other than, “I imagine it was something mum thought I should do, so I did it,” which was generally good enough reason for me doing anything I didn’t really want to do.
“Keeping mum happy seems like the best way of keeping me emotionally safe I suppose”. I told her.
Recently I told a client that the obligation she felt to keep doing what her mother expects will not die when her mum does. What I didn’t tell her was that I knew this to be the case.
As I was driving to Battle late last week I had a call from my daughter. She was very upset that her boyfriend, having promised not to work on New Year’s Eve so that they could enjoy their first one as a couple together, had agreed to work on New Year’s Eve.
She was inconsolable but as much through frustration as anything else. He is a people pleaser and finds it incredibly hard to say “No”. She knows this but it doesn’t make the impact of it easier to bear.
“I feel like I’m not important,” she tells me.
I am reminded of something an old boss of mine, a man who spoke almost entirely in cliches, used to say. “When everything is important, nothing is important”.
I tell her to stop messaging with him back and forth for a few hours to give them both a bit of space to work out what to do next, which gives me a bit more time to work out what to do next.
In a break, I text my daughter to ask how she is. I tell her that we are having a day all about genital identity and that it’s absolutely fascinating.
She texts back and says she’s OK and that she’s written down what she wants to say to her boyfriend and includes a woozy face emoji in response to my genital identity news.
“I’m not prepared to be off with him for weeks on end about it but I’m not prepared to be treated like this either,” she tells me.
“Good for you,” I say, happy that she was never in danger of needing to join the Young Ornithologists Club.