I’m sitting in Urban Betty a trendy hairdressers in Austin. Classy paper chandeliers anf tiny tinsel trees. A fake real fire on the TV.
For those of you who know my careless off hand aproach to dressing. and physical appearance, I haven’t had a personality transplant. This isnt my hairdressers- its my daughters. Today, as a treat for her 15th birthday, she is getting a special ‘treatment cut’ for added upmarket pampering. Later we will get her nails done. Her earlier birthday trear included a trip to Sephora Make Up store when she was thrilled to get rhe latest eyeshadow palet.
As the sound of hairdryers, chatter and American female singer blend, I wonder yet again how I ended up with such a sophisticated well groomed daughter. So unlike me.
Before I had kids I thought as a parent I could mold my child: that my guidance and care would create the grown up of my imagination. All parents reading this will already be laughing at my naivety.
Because when you have kids you very soon realise they come with their own inbuilt mould. Which rarely matches your film vision of the perfect child. There are no perfect children. However much you push them these who like ice skating will never love horses. Even if you were hoping they would win the Grand National. As a parent you soon realise that kids come with their own agenda. There is only so much you can do to steer them. Every child is unique.
Having two kids just rams this point home. How can two kids with the same upbringing have completely different attitudes to school, friends and food. You raise your kids the same way but they turn out very different. One can’t have enough friends and hates to be alone. The other hates crowds and craves solitude. One is open and tells you everything, the other is quiet and shares little. One is restless longing to go places the other complains if prized from the cocoon of the house.
Sometimes, because I have a girl and a boy, I blame the difference on gender. But actually I know better. Male or female no two kids are the same. My own sister is so different than me though my parents raised both of us the same way.
I look at my daughter in awe as she confidently chats with the hairdresser about High School. She is wearing an outfit from her favourite clothes store Urban Outfitters- she looks about 18. I flash back to her first hair cut in Chepstow on the edge of Wales when I netvously watched her curls drop to the floor. Even then she was composed and confident.
More than I am in a hairdressers. Even now I view hairdressers with the same fear as is normally reseved for suspected serial killers. They look innocent but they could have me sobbing in the shower trying to wash my hair back to being longer and less chopped and clumpy. My son shares this fear. For him with his wild thick wonderful curly hair, haircuts are mostly a source of noisy distress as the reality is so distant from the cut in his head that he thought he requested.
But in other ways I am more like my daughter. We are endless chatters fascinated with people. She writes amazingly well and currently wants to be a journalist also an ambition of mine at her age. Did I push it on her?I tried to be just as supportive of lawyer, film maker, fashion designer. Hopefully even if she had been raised on a ranch in Texas, without the news constantly in the background and me writing on my computer, she would have chosen this for herself.
The music changes again it reminds me of an Eighties song in the rock concert where my daughter played electric guitar and my son played bass guitar. True parental pride moment – Digital SLR and video camera mode. Their musical talent? A minor miracle from their dad who once played piano really well and my mum who sang in the choir and absolutely nothing to do with me!
Music is the one thing my kids have in common, other than that they are chalk and cheese. She rises early, 3 hours before school, often before me, He stays up late prowling the house late at night in search of food to fuel his -inch a week -growth spurt. I used to think it was a boy girl thing. But now I think it is just your own person thing. My daughter as a baby and young child was inquisitive, precociously verbal, in need of endless of cuddles to settle and endless stimulation to entertain. I still see all those things in her now in different ways, curious, excellent at communicating, still as needing of cuddles and daily exposure to external stimuli like shopping or seeing friends,
My reverie is interrupted as she emerges from behind the mirror chatting with the stylist and flicking her hair over her shoulder. I gaze at her. I am in awe of the young woman she is becoming: smart, kind, creative, popular, academic, hardworking, very funny, musical, ambitious and though sometimes temperamental (she is a teenager) always loving. She is blessed with a caring group of friends who return the love and earlier today turned up on our doorstep to surprise her with cupcakes and presents.
It occurs to me again how miraculous it is that a clump of cells that grew inside me somehow became this. Nurture or nature or a bit of both?
Later we go to the Oasis overlooking Lake Travis for my daughters birthday meal. In doing so I keep my promise to take my dad to the Oasis and watch the sunset. I miss my mum. She was always part of these occasions, though increasingly I seem to carry her inside me in a weird way. As my grief ebbs her presence grows. I always feel I know what she would say, how right now she would coo over the sunset, the food, how she would take out her phone to photograph the food then insist I pose with the kids. How I would protest but comply and later be grateful for a photo I was in. I look at my amazing kids and stand myself stretching out my phone to my husband I adk him to take the photo that I know mum would have done. Inside me she smiles with us as he presses the button.