I must say, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would become a role model for young people. My childhood was unremarkable; my teen years serve more as a cautionary tale than as an inspirational one (tattoos last forever; combining spray deodorants with open flames is only fun up to a point, etc.), and, although I’m pleased to think that in my twenties I brought some comfort to my older relatives, it was only because at least their daughters weren’t running around Jo’burg “behaving that way.” (In my defence, though, it wasn’t too difficult to break the law in South Africa in the early ‘90s.)
Anyhow, here I am, almost 50 and an example to the youth. Only two youth – my daughters – but still. I never thought the day would come. And now that it has, it’s nerve-wracking, I must tell you.
I first realised the full extent of it a few years ago, after I’d hurt my knee in a skiing accident (or, to be more accurate, a getting-off-the-lift accident) and was hobbling up the stairs, one painful step at a time. I turned to see both children hobbling up the stairs behind me, their little faces serious, their eyes trained on me. Okay, they seemed to be thinking, so that’s how it’s done.
Since then, it’s been like living in a hall of mirrors, where the mirrors are all like those weird shaving mirrors, normal on the one side and super-magnifying on the other, so you peer into it to do your eyeliner and then scream in horror at the sight of your pores magnified twenty times, and an extreme close-up of the moustache you didn’t know you had. I’m constantly seeing alarming aspects of myself reflected back at me.
“What a day,” the then-five-year-old once sighed, kicking off her school shoes and slumping into a chair. “I need a cocktail.”
“I don’t say things like that often, do I?” I asked my husband, who just looked at me pityingly.
“Stop wearing my clothes,” I admonished the teen, only last week, as she sailed off to bed in one of my comfiest T-shirts. “It’s not okay to just help yourself to my things.”
“It’s a great T-shirt,” she answered. “Does Dad know that it’s yours now?”
No matter how many times I point out into the world, to better role models than myself, my daughters have imprinted on me. To rephrase a popular parenting quote: yes, this is my pond, and those are definitely my ducklings.
I know that it won’t be long until everything I do becomes irrelevant to them (“OK, Gen-Xer”), but until such time as I escape the panopticon, I’m trying to be the role model they deserve. It’s strangely like being a child again myself: be asleep in bed by ten; only swear inside your head; if you must lick your plate, do it in the kitchen where no one can see you. It’s going pretty well, so far. And sometimes there is even a bright little cocktail waiting to offer me comfort, at the end of a difficult day at school.
By Robyn Goss
Robyn is a part-time writer and full-time slave to her two young daughters. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, she now lives in a little cow-rich village in Switzerland.
She spends her free time making To Do lists of things she’ll probably never get around to doing (have the car cleaned; vacuum under the bed; run a half-marathon) and putting the finishing touches to her third novel. To read more of Robyn’s writing, click here or find her on her Facebook page, Loco Parentis.
Illustration by Aleksandra Koroleva
Aleksandra, originally from Moscow, Russia, now lives in Adliswil with her husband and almost-four-year-old son. She specializes in clinical psychology and started studying illustration after her son’s birth. In her free time Aleksandra likes sleeping, just as all mothers do. https://www.instagram.com/uber_evil