We're in the car when daughter number two decides to enlighten us on the qualities she is looking for in a boyfriend.
It seems to be a toss-up between being rich, being good-looking and being good at maths (1). Daughter number two is a "pre-teen", as she constantly reminds us.
We're on our way to Livingston to go shopping. I feel this is a mark of how good a father I am. I'm prepared to spend my Sunday afternoons in a mall. My mother-in-law is with us. She's just been telling us she was attacked the other day. By a cockerel. "All I heard was: 'Look out, it will come for you.' And then it was hanging off my coat," she explains. This is not the first cockerel-related incident in our family story (2).
It's raining outside but it's warm and happy in here. The "good at maths" bit is, it turns out, an optional extra, we learn as we splash through some B-roads in the wilds near Avonbridge. We've moved on to definitions of good-looking now. Long hair and model features are not what is required actually. "I don't like girly male-model men," daughter number two points out. I miss a bit of the conversation as I swerve around a particularly submerged bit of road and the next thing I hear is something about a missing head. "What? Is a head an optional extra or something?" I chip in. "No, I'm not weird."
I love this. Love this sense of being part of a family. I'll be moaning later, I'm sure, but for now this seems like the good bit, just sharing a day together. Even if it is on the road to the Livingston Designer Outlet.
But you need space too. The morning before I take daughter number two to her acting class in Linlithgow. It used to be I'd go and do the weekly shop at the supermarket while she was there, which was grimly utilitarian of me. But I've given up on that now. I've decided to claim the time back for myself. So most Saturdays I wander down to the town centre, have a coffee at the Strawberry Cafe and try to guess the age of the young girls behind the counter. Was I ever that fresh-faced? Not that I remember (3).
I like this too. A moment to myself. Yet on my own I feel I'm only ever an observer. As a parent I'm a participant, even if it is only as a designated driver. In the back of the car it's coming down to brass tacks. What is the key boyfriend ingredient for pre-teens? Good-looking, it would appear. Not rich.
"I'm not that shallow," daughter number two explains.
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