Today is a day of marking achievements. I went to my daughter’s celebration assembly at school this morning, where she received her Bronze merit certificate and was Golden Child.
God bless the children, their patience is amazing: the assembly was three quarters of an hour of hearing about how well the ten children selected had done, and what they had earned their Golden Child status for.
I was immensely proud to be there, and thought I would blub (it doesn’t take much to make me cry these days) but I was fortunately sat next to a good friend and her little jibes kept me tear free.
I also didn’t feel like crying because, while I was very proud of my little girl, the things she was praised for set off alarm bells in my mind. Other children were praised for skill at hockey or gymnastics, for using their brains, for being enthusiastic or helpful or cheerful. My daughter was praised for trying so hard at her studies. And I think that’s wonderful. Except I don’t.
I worked just as hard at school – I was top of every year, more or less, the typical straight-A student. But I didn’t really have friends (no one likes a teacher’s pet) and when I left school the only thing I knew how to do was get good grades.
I’d almost like to see my daughter get into trouble, or be praised for her happy personality (she is a bubbly, happy child) or her empathy for her friends (which is great) or her willingness to try things; to fall over and get back up again.
Being praised for working hard at her studies reinforces a behaviour that doesn’t need reinforcing. Ah, well, it’s a nice problem to have. 🙂
The other achievements today are that this is my 400th post since I started the blog, and Two-Hundred Steps Home passed 250,000 words in today’s instalment.
They say you have to write a million words of rubbish before you write anything good. If I add the eleven THSH volumes to the two published novels I have (another 250k words before editing) and the four unfinished NaNo novels on my laptop (another 200k words) and probably 150k words of blogging since last year, I’ve only got one more full length novel and a few blog posts to go and I’m at the million mark! Hurrah, it’s all upwards from here. 😉
To have written a quarter of a million words of prose this year, on top of blogging (which is probably around half that) feels amazing. That’s like writing three full length novels in eleven months. One of the things I love about blogging is reaching milestones, and how that can show you that you are achieving things even when it doesn’t feel like it. Every number reached – 300 followers, 13,500 views, 1337 likes – is like going to a celebration assembly and holding up a certificate to show the world and say “I did that, and I’m proud.”
Maybe one day my milestone will be “Number 1 Bestseller”. 🙂 I can dream.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“Has your boyfriend gone back home, Auntie Claire?”
Jack’s face shone with sincerity but Alex’s barely audible snigger suggested the innocence was feigned.
She glared from one boy to the other, feeling the heat rising up her neck. “Did your father put you up to that?” She spoke without thinking and regretted it immediately, as Alex’s face dropped into the stony mask she was coming to dread.
Jack glanced at his brother, confusion clouding his open face. Claire wished she could unsay the words. Better some harmless banter than the freezing atmosphere that appeared to be Alex’s natural state. Despite their fragile truce, Alex had barely spoken three words since they’d returned to the hostel.
“Sorry, guys, I don’t mean to be touchy. Conor is my boss and a friend of sorts but we’re not involved. Your father and I had words about it before he left, that’s all. I didn’t mean to bite your heads off.”
The impenetrable mask remained on the elder brother’s face but Jack smiled. “Will we see him again?”
“Probably not,” Claire replied, wondering if Conor would find another excuse to drive the hundreds of miles from Dorset to Cornwall. “Right, what shall we do today? I’m guessing the Lost Gardens of Heligan aren’t going to be your cup of tea. What about surfing; either of you lads any good with a board?”
Alex looked as if he’d rather spend the day at the dentist, but Jack bounced in his seat like a toddler.
“Really? That would be super. I’ve done snowboarding and I have a wave board at home, not that Mother likes me to use it. I think she’s worried I’m going to break my arm and get sent home from school like Alex did.” He rattled on enthusiastically.
When he drew breath, Claire turned to Alex. “What about it?” When she got no response she said, “How about you humour me this morning and I let you spend the afternoon playing Candy Crush or texting your friends, while I write up some notes?”
Alex gave an indifferent shrug and Claire decided that was probably as positive as it was going to get.
“Wow, Auntie Claire, that was amazing.” Jack’s grin matched hers, as she rode the board into the beach.
“How about we drop the Auntie, Jack, you’re starting to make me feel ancient. I’m barely old enough to be your mother.”
“Okay, Claire,” he called, as he ran back into the waves. “Last one on their feet’s a wet fish.” He threw a mischievous look at his brother and the sound of his laughter echoed behind him as he ploughed through the surf.
Alex scowled but said nothing. So far he hadn’t managed to get on his knees without toppling in the water.
“You’re taking it too seriously, dude,” the instructor said, clapping a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about your brother, he said he was a snowboarder. I hear you’re a demon black run skier?”
Alex glared at Claire and she shrugged. “Jack told me. He’s proud of you, for all your endless bickering.”
In answer to an unspoken signal from the instructor, Claire followed Jack into the sea. As she looked back, the instructor was earnestly explaining something to her eldest nephew. She hoped it worked. Then she pushed all thought of the troublesome pair from her mind and surrendered to the waves.
“Hey brother, way to go!”
Jack’s voice tore through Claire’s concentration, and she lost her balance. When she surfaced, spitting out sea water, her board tether tugging at her ankle, she saw Jack walk over to give Alex a high five.
Alex’s face split in a beaming smile and it was the first time she’d seen him look genuinely happy. Without the scowl he seemed younger, more like his father: the brother she had looked up to as a child, back when he knew how to have fun.
A tiny spark of hope ignited in her breast and she curled herself around it to keep it alight.