Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England
A couple of weeks ago DALC1 had to do something most of us have never done - walk back into school for the day after four months off. The weekend before, she didn’t talk about it but she couldn’t settle to anything for more than a few seconds, punched her little sister everytime she had the audacity to walk past her, didn’t want to do anything and didn’t want to do nothing. When Monday morning came I walked her to school (dad and DALC2 not being allowed to swell the numbers at the gates) and we stood on a blue spot on the playground until the headteacher told us we could go round to the classroom she would be in for the day. She was the first one in the room, face to face with a teacher she hadn’t seen in months. As she crossed the threshold she flushed from her collar up. For one so intent on burying her feelings, this poor child is going to be plagued by her inability to hide them.
I had to quickly put my sunglasses back down as I headed round the new one way system back to the school gates. I was so proud of her. The book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” could be written about her. She is the most determined person I've ever met, and at times like this I am really grateful.
Of course, she is equally as determined to never eat anything green, was just as determined to learn a new skill 48 hours before the virtual school talent show and is, every night, extremely determined not to be sleepy. 90 per cent of the time her determination is the bane of our lives. Similar to that Austin Powers character who can’t lie three times, DALC2, on the other hand, can’t refuse to do something more than twice so bedtime with her involves us saying “go to sleep” three times and her agreeing on the third go. But DALC1 is as stubborn as a mule. I could tell you numerous stories about when we have gone head to head with her- like a few years ago when I tried to get her to listen to the Beach Boys in the car and she didn’t want to, but lacking the ability to change the music from the back seat, actually pulled out some of her own hair in anger. I was mortified when I turned round and saw. I only wanted her to listen to some Beach Boys.
I wonder if she has to consciously make her legs move forward the way I do sometimes with mine - I remember having to do it if I walked past a boy I liked at school, and more recently on the infrequent occasions when I have to walk into a courtroom and do my own advocacy. Instinct must be telling my legs to stay still, or run in the opposite direction, and only sheer will makes them go the way I need them to go.
My mother in law once said “well, she was never going to be a weak character, was she?” with a sideways look at me and my husband. My gran used to say “you wouldn’t want a wishy-washy sort of child, would you?” I used to say “Yes, Gran, I do! Right now I want a wishy-washy sort of child!”
But, of course, as with everything, my gran was right. Thank goodness she is determined.
Going back to my legs for a moment, I have recently got back into jogging and as with every single run I have ever completed, about three minutes in I think I can’t do it. It feels like my legs just won’t be able to keep this up - but I remind myself that I have done it before. I remind myself that my playlist is still on its first song and earlier in the week I ran for eight. I say to myself “just see if you can get to that lamp post” and then do the same with the next.
And I can do it, not because I am magically suddenly fitter or have more energy, but because I tell myself I can do it. Determination is all in the mind, and therefore within our control.
If you or I consider the worst thing someone has ever said that has knocked your confidence, resilience or determination - a complaining client perhaps - compare it to what some women have taken on the chin. For example, Diane Abbott being knocked by everyone all the time, despite having the remarkable achievement of being our first ever black female MP and - according to Amnesty International - receiving more than ten times the online abuse of any other MP during the 2017 election. For another example, US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was called a “fucking bitch” recently - not by an internet troll but by a fellow congressman on the steps of the Capitol as she went in to vote. How on earth did that remarkable woman’s legs keep striding forwards?
Confidence, determination and resilience seem more important now than ever - as women we are less likely to have had inspirational female footsteps to follow in and as we grapple with caring responsibilities, mum-guilt, flexible working and not letting any of those things stop our careers going where we want them to go, on our terms, we need to be as determined as it is humanly possible to be, even in the face of what is - objectively speaking probably occasional and relatively mild criticism.
And I don’t suppose AOC ever went to bed if she wasn’t sleepy either.
*Some facts and identities have been altered in the above article