With one parent whose attitude to life is incredibly wild (Grandad El Paso) and another who is fairly cautious (Grandma Tiny-Face) you might expect that Auntie Kate and I would be at least a little wild.
In actual fact, Kate and I would be better described instead as “wildly cautious”. We take caution TO THE EXTREME! There are very few people, even very few health and safety officials, that are wilder about being cautious than we are. We are COMPLETELY 100% risk averse.
In our defence I’d like to give some examples of the parenting we experienced, so that you can at least understand where these wild levels of caution began. Also, as I still don’t have the balance right yet, there’s a pretty strong chance that you’re going to grow up with some “issues” in that area. I’m not saying explaining it will help, but hey, who doesn’t love a good origin story?
I think we’ll start with a Grandad El Paso story because, well, there are so very many of those to choose from. First, our trip to Devon when I was five and Kate was around three.
It was a long journey from the Midlands, but with Grandad driving our Triumph Toledo at speeds ordinarily only achieved by jet planes, and with the same level of care and attention as the Dukes of Hazzard escaping the law, if anything, it felt even longer.
Flattenin’ The Hills
We reached the steep and windy roads of Devon in record time, powered by Grandad’s competitive nature, and seemingly inexhaustible levels of anger. As the car skidded around tight bends, atop steep hills, my “fear of heights” (or as I like to call it, my fear of death) kicked in rather strongly.
Grandad, annoyed by my constant whimpering and occasional screams, pulled the car over, and calmly explained why there was no reason to be afraid, promising he would drive slower to put me at ease.
No of course he didn’t, that’s what a “normal” parent would have done. What Grandad DID, was on the largest STEEPEST hill he could find, he drove straight off the road, skidding down the almost vertical drop, in an, admittedly impressive, handbrake turn, until we finally came to “rest” at a fortunately-positioned tree. I shall never forget his reassuring words:-
Now, Grandma Tiny-Face, as I’m sure you’ll know from the way she flouts use-by dates, is not overly cautious. However she is a big fan of pre-empting trauma.
To be fair to her, despite Grandad’s best efforts, she did a pretty decent job of keeping us alive. …Which brings me neatly around to the way Grandad often mistook homeless people for a reliable source of childcare.
I realise, from my proof-reader’s sharp intake of breath here, that this looks like quite a dangerous situation, even to people who aren’t as risk averse as I am. However, I want to reassure you that he was indeed back in under 3 hours as promised, and the homeless people we met were very kind, offering us sweets and drinks, only some of which were alcoholic, so you know, no harm no foul.
Ok, even though this goes against every single one of my instincts, and mental scars from childhood, I need to tell you, DON’T be wildly cautious like me. For the love of God don’t be as crazy with risk-taking as Grandad, but don’t be like me either.
The Dalai Lama said “Great love and great achievements involve great risks” and unfortunately he’s right. You can’t get the most out of life without taking at least a few anxiety-inducing risks.
Bearing in mind that I consider going to a different branch of the same supermarket a risk, at eighteen I still said yes when Daddy asked me to marry him – even though everyone else said we were too young, and one of my friends had helpfully declared him to be “too handsome for me”.
Daddy and I have been together for 26 years now and, although I don’t like to say this too often, he’s pretty bloody brilliant still, and marrying him is one of my favourite big decisions ever.
You two are obviously my other favourite big decisions. Pregnancy and childbirth aren’t fun for ladies (or indeed for anyone in the vicinity). You go through all that discomfort, then intense prolonged pain, with absolutely no guarantees of what the outcome will be.
You can’t know if your baby will be healthy, how long you’ll have them in your life for, or indeed whether they will grow up to write a blog about what a terrible parent you were, but for me you’ll always be two of the best risky ventures I ever embarked upon.