After years of my mum telling me I haven’t got the time; months of working out the childcare arrangements for a full working week; and an agreement from work to pay the costs (subject to terms and conditions): this week I trained to be a mediator.
After all this deliberation, I still managed to book the course in the week of Deceptively Angelic Looking Child 2’s first ever pre-school sports day. Having cried a little bit (me, not DALC2), and considered cancelling the course (and nearly phoning the preschool to ask them to change the date of the sports day) I decided to just go ahead with the course and feel guilty for the rest of my life.
Inevitably, as an ice-breaker we are asked to introduce ourselves and state why we want to be mediators. My reason seems sentimental. I don’t necessarily want to spend the rest of my life arguing; instead I would like to spend some of my time resolving problems. When DALC1 first asked me what a solicitor is, I loftily replied: ‘I help people with their problems’. Which I would argue is true, but I can imagine what she will tell her friends at school. When she learns about the parable of the two loaves and five fishes (or is it five loaves and two fishes?) she will put her hand up in assembly and say ’Yes! My mum helps people with problems like this!’
The day will come when she realises that I help one group of people with their problems, but not for free, and there is another group of people - consisting of each of my client’s opponents- whose problems I kind of make a whole lot worse.
Also, when I am not dealing with disputes, the other problems I solve are inheritance tax-related. Perhaps by the time she is the liberal, caring, idealistic teenager I was, I might be able to tell her that Mum really and genuinely helps people with their problems. I also think I will be good at it. Having made an effort to take on all contentious work that comes my way, but coming from a non-contentious background, my approach is generally pretty conciliatory. Plus, I have spent six years arguing and negotiating with DALC1, which has given me the skills and experiences to handle the toughest, most entrenched parties in a dispute.
I know Theresa May has been having a tough time of it of late (please do not read that as sympathy) but once I got DALC1 really excited about going swimming and then realised the pool was shut for refurbishment. Brexit would be a breeze in comparison to negotiating my way out of THAT situation.
The course is fascinating. Since, well, probably since I started my GCSE subjects and gave up courses like drama in favour of Very Academic Subjects all my formal education has been technical - from physics to contract law to civil litigation to inheritance tax. This course is all about listening, and showing that you are listening, and building rapport, and how if someone looks up to the right when they are talk they are lying. On the Friday I have my videoed assessment, as well as playing a part in videoed assessments of each of the other course delegates. I’m pretty sure I’ve done well, but I am shattered when I get home.
In the morning my husband gets up with the kids but by 7am ten little spiky fingers are prizing my eyes open and crying. My husband storms in after her with a face like thunder. ‘All I said was “I’ve cut your toast in triangles, is that OK?” and she has been screaming ever since!’ It’s not just David Cameron who hasn’t learned that you don’t ask a question to which you don’t know the answer. Let the mediation begin.