Magazine article The Spectator

Standing Room

Magazine article The Spectator

Standing Room

Article excerpt

I have the fear. The fear wakes me up at 3 a. m. and for a split second I forget what it is exactly that I'm frightened of.

And then I remember. I am a mother and one of my children is off travelling and is on the other side of the world.

In the still of the night I prioritise The List. I practise the breathing techniques Betty Parsons taught me when I was first pregnant 24 years ago. The ineffectual huffs and puffs that were supposed to transcend pain. The List catalogues 'worst case scenarios' and I systematically shuffle my top five in order of anxiety. I have become the peri-menopausal, female Charles Highway of irrational angst. While The Rachel Papers were concerned with getting the girl, my list deals with how to let her go.

I try to rationalise the fear. My parents had to do all their worrying without the gadgets of teenage surveillance. No mobile phones, no emails, no Facebook - therefore I am lucky. My generation has been spoilt. We've enjoyed the luxury of parenting teenagers tethered to an umbilical cord of techno-communication.

We send our children out on a safety rein that is supposed to give them freedom and us peace of mind. Why then can I not sleep?

Moving up three places on The List to number one is the fact Tilly has now moved to the beach. The Beach. Ok - so she's on a beach in Bali, not Thailand, and I realise the Leonardo DiCaprio film was fictional and gave backpacking a bad name, but surely even good beach life can turn ugly - it's far too close to the sea.

Still holding position at number two is accommodation on the beach. …

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