When Felix Baumgartner fell from space last week it was nothing more than a miracle.
I watched the whole thing with my eight year old son.
“He is SO lucky” he groaned, adding, “his mum LETS him do THAT!”.
“Felix Baumgartner is 43 and probably didn’t ask his mother for permission”, I explained.
My lad nearly collapsed, he thought the daredevil was fifteen, not the same age as his dad.
When Felix landed safely back on planet earth, I jumped into the air and screamed with joy. But it wasn’t him that I was happy for; I was relieved for his mother.
When for a while, he went spinning out of control, she held her head in her hands. As he hurtled head first through the sound barrier she looked terrified. When he landed, she burst into tears.
One can only imagine what kind of child Felix Baumgartner must have been.
He was probably the child who spent his day at school jumping off the tables and spent break time hanging out of trees.
He probably stood on his bike saddle and threw himself down muddy banks. We all know little boys just like him.
My eccentric Uncle Richard, wanted to know what it felt like to break his arm so as a child, pushed his bike up to the top of a hill and freewheeled down aiming for the barn at the bottom.
He survived, not a bone broken. The bike didn’t. His little experiment failed and,to this day he still has all of his bones intact.
But that curiosity that he possessed as a child never left him and Uncle Richard went on to become a scientist.
Inspired by Mrs Baumgartner, I decided that from today I would encourage my own offspring to go out into the world, to be more independent and creative.
“Can we walk to school today?” came the request this morning, Can we bring the dog?”
I looked out of the window. It was raining. The walk to school is one mile.
That’s thirty minutes of walking in the rain with the family pet.
The dog is a new addition to the house, a Chihuahua. Half an hour in that rain and she really could be mistaken for a drowned rat.
I channelled Mrs Baumgartner’s positive attitude. Rain would not harm them. Her son wouldn’t have let the rain stop him jumping from space.
The dog was scratching at the door, eager to get the adventure started. They headed off.
“You drive up to school in half an hour and collect the dog”.
Of course, the two girls are almost teenagers. The last thing they wanted today was the embarrassment of their mother walking in to school beside them wearing welly boots, a raincoat and carrying something stupidly sensible like an umbrella. OMG how uncool would that be? Dressing appropriately for the weather is for dull people apparently.
As they began their walk to school, the only one wearing a coat was the dog. I bit my tongue. I didn’t call after them with a “You’re going to get soaked” or “Mind the puddles”.
“Can I cycle to school?” my son piped up. Now the pressure was really on.
Cycling a mile in the rain? Alone? Aged eight? What if his brakes failed? What if he skidded off the footpath and landed in a hedge with four broken limbs?
I took a deep breath in, looked out at the grey skies and raindrops the size of apples and said the magic words “Yes, you can cycle in”.
Usually I would have followed this with a list of warnings. This morning the list might have included mind the sheep, the dog turds, the teenagers in hoodies (plugged into One Direction). Then perhaps I’d have added a ‘don’t run over the new dog’.
But I said nothing, and simply watched as he pedalled off up the road with his enormous school bag on his back, like a tortoise on wheels.
Last to leave the house, my fourteen year old. Once upon a time I had four children under the age of seven. Now I have four children under the age of fifteen. It’s complicated. It’s a head wreck and with respect to the Alternative Therapy industry, it will take more than a few drops of Rescue Remedy on my tongue each morning to get me through the next ten years.
It took my teenager some time to open her eyes.
Nothing to do with tiredness but everything to do with the ten thick layers of Super Lash Mascara that she had applied.
Getting ready for school each morning used to be easy. Sandwiches, school bag and we were out the door.
Now it takes thirty minutes and that whole time is spent in hair and make up.
We usually have a five minute fight about eyeliner and school uniform policy but once again, inspired by Mrs Baumgartner, I said nothing. I would encourage her creativity instead.
I followed her into the car, choking on a cloud of perfume that drifted behind her like the Guinness cloud. She didn’t speak for the entire journey to school and left the car with a grunt and a slam of the door. Perhaps by encouraging this silence and lashings of mascara she’ll grow up to be a space jumper too.
Space jumpers don’t need to talk and she won’t need a parachute. With bats for eyelashes she’ll float through the sound barrier with ease.
Now that I have opened the door to a little more adventure, I am wondering what the next few months have in store for me.
Will my son soon be cycling to school through a snow drift?
Will the two fashion conscious girls ever feel the cold - even in the predicted minus twenties?
Will my teenager be moving on to ever bigger, better lashes?
I don’t want them too independent of course because I don’t really want them jump to earth from a space balloon. I’m saving that for myself. It’ll be my way of celebrating the day when one of them puts a coat on.