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  • One minute my 14 year old daughter is an adult, the next she is a child.

    She sprawls on my bed-covers, in one of her child-moments.

    “I need a hug,” she says.

    “What’s wrong?” I say.

    “I have a maths exam today,” she says, and the tears shoot forth like gunfire. “‘And what if I have a mental block and forget everything?”

    I picture myself in the exam hall. I set her on my lap and wipe her tears and rock her, the way I used to do when she was a baby. Oh, God, I’m not coping very well, I realise.

    “Look, why don’t you just go downstairs and put some food in your stomach. You probably need to eat,” I say, panicking.

    What if she gets depressed, I think.

    “What am I going to do?” she says, wiping her tear-drenched cheeks with the palms of her hands.

    My thoughts go into over-drive. What if she is driven to suicide?

    WHAT IF?

    WHAT IF?

    WHAT IF?

    “Just tell me I’ll be okay,” she says. “Just tell me that even if I forget everything, I will still know enough to get by.”

    I relax. She is parenting herself, I realise. The best kind of parenting. You can’t live their lives for them. They have to be able to let out their troubles and find their own way ‘home’. My job is to listen, not to have all the answers.

    “You will still know enough to get by,” I say.

    She snuggles into me like a baby.

    My 12-year-old daughter rushes in and lies down on my other side. Strange, I think, for she’s not really the huggy-type.

    I snuggle her, too.

    “Closer,” she says.

    I pull her further into me.

    “Closer,” she says again.

    “What?!” I say. “Is there something wrong with you too?”

    “No. Look!” she says, pointing to my youngest daughter by the door.

    My youngest daughter scowls at me and runs off bawling. “It’s all about them!” she yells.

    “God!” I say to my 12-year-old. “You’re such a teaser!”

    She giggles. My wife appears on the scene and chases after our youngest to console her. She comes back a few minutes later.

    “She won’t listen to me,” she says. “I can’t say anything right. They all hate me. They love their father. Look at them snuggling into you there.”

    “Freud,” I say.

    “What?” my eldest daughter asks.

    “Never mind,” I say. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

    My wife laughs.

    “Will we tell them what their giant of a father who can do no wrong is really like?” I say to my wife. “Remember, the hospital trip.”

    My youngest daughter reappears at the door, all ears. She is not going to miss this!

    “Oh, yes, your daddy collapsed two days before your due date,” my wife says to our eldest daughter, “and he had to be brought into hospital in an ambulance with the siren going full blast, and me sitting beside him, holding his hand, thinking he was going to die. He thought he was the one having the baby. A panic attack.”

    I nod.

    My daughters laugh.

    One minute I’m an adult, the next I am a child.

    Aren’t we all?
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