Running today, only the second time this week but it was easy, 5k was so easy I could have run more. Invigorating. Running in the blustery wind with the crunching sound of leaves underfoot. I wondered how many more days of leaves would there be? It’s so windy, the last of the leaves will fall. The men from the council will come and sweep up & then it will be truly bleak and wintery.
I was listening to the desert island discs of Mallory Jackman, I recognised her name. Wasn’t she the writer, I thought, who’d given a talk at Younger Daughter’s school? The one who’d been rejected 82 times before getting her first book published. Imagine the perseverance required? The self confidence & self belief to keep going. And the joy of receiving the 83rd letter? She’s now the Children’s Laureate! Of course many of us never realise how close we were when we gave up.
Rejection is not a word that our children know enough about. They live in a world which is correct, in every sense. There are no losers, any more. Everyone’s a winner. Certificates, medals and letters of commendation are handed out so often, that their meaning is sometimes eroded. And of course, we should praise the good, but at what cost?
Elder Daughter is a happy, charming and unsophisticated person, with a sunny personality. She sees only the good in everything and everyone. Wise beyond her years. A glass half full type. The first time she faced any type of rejection, was the theory stage of her driving test. I had to wait in the car, as there was some type of health and safety issue, which prevented me from sitting in one of the 7 rows of empty chairs. (I’d mistakenly thought the man at the reception desk was joking, when he told me that I couldn’t sit there).
As she walked slowly towards me, she didn’t have to say a word. Her face had transformed into one that I didn’t recognise. Mis-shaped by failure. Of course I was sad for her, but privately part of me, felt that she was lucky. Really lucky. I thought she was lucky that at 17, this was her first experience of failure.
We re-booked for a month later. She promised to study harder. I tried to encourage her saying it would be easier next time. She would know the routine. It would be less intimidating. The day arrived, I drove her to the to the test centre, we didn’t speak much, the air was heavy with nerves and anticipation. She’d been 7 marks off the pass mark last time. I told her to do her best. I distracted myself with my laptop in the car, writing a post for this blog. More than an hour passed and I kept looking up, scanning the exit doorway. Hoping, waiting for Older Daughter to emerge, joy filled & happy. But when I saw her, I knew. She had failed again! Four marks off, this time. It might as well have been four hundred.
I tried to console her. Next time, I said. She had only to get another four marks. She needed to try, just a little harder. Multiple choice is very hard for dyslexics. There’s always two answers which are very close. Nuances of language can easily confuse an child with learning difficulties. We booked another. This time, they greeted her by her name. Not a good sign, I thought. I waited and waited. She walked slowly towards me. This time there was tears. And she doesn’t cry easily. Oh dear! What could I say? What bad luck? You must keep going, I said. You’ll get there. There was no choice. She wanted to learn to drive. We’d stopped her having any more driving lessons until she passed the theory.
We booked yet another. Words of encouragement. Nights of learning and testing. Going over and over the rules of the road. The book is thick, with rules. By the fourth time, I’d had enough. Other Half, it’s your turn, I said. I just couldn’t stomach another visit to the test centre. Friday morning came. I waited anxiously for news. Time passed slowly. The ticking of the clock. I kept checking my phone. Finally the phone rang, she screamed with joy…I could barely make out the words but I knew. I knew, from the pitch of her screech. The rush of adrenaline flowing through her. She’d passed! I was so happy for her. I never did get to see the look on her face as she emerged from that soulless place. No matter. I can only tell this story now that she has passed the practical too, and you may even spot her driving.
It’s a difficult balance, we want our children to be happy, to have an easier and better life than we did. But, we also need to teach them that if it doesn’t work out first time or second or third time they must keep going. I’ve alway believed if you what something enough, and you stay on the same path, keep pushing, not taking “no” for an answer eventually, success will come.
Not very slimming but oh, so warming on a cold wintery night. A cheese & potato pie, a little fiddly to make but so pretty to serve. I won’t lie, my children were at first horrified at the sight of this, tried it reluctantly, but liked it! Inspired by Alistair Hendy’s Pies published in the Times.
You’ll need –
2 medium onions
60g butter plus a little extra for brushing over pie
1 kg potatoes skin on, finely sliced
150g Gruyere cheese
1 large bunch sage
2. Slice the potatoes, don’t attempt this without a mandolin! Check out the band aid, in the picture on my thumb. You have been warned.
3. Line a buttered 24cm cake tin, with the potatoes overlapping.
4. Lay some of the fried onion over the first layer.
5. then add some of the grated cheese, then some of the sage.
6. Cover this layer with potato.
7. Continue to build up the pie in layers with cheese, onion and sage. until you reach the top. I did three layers.
8. Brush the pie with melted butter
9. Top with sage, salt and pepper.
10. Cover loosley with scrunched foil and bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 1.5 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes until golden. Remove from tin, carefully when cooled serve with salad. Enjoy!