No one can get themselves into a pickle like Lulu can. And I love her. I dearly love this child.
Lulu’s first playdate was when she was six-years old. September 2011. Her best friend Amalie came round and they fell out. What it was about I have no clue, but Amalie started crying. I made the mistake of trying to get Lulu to apologise. Suddenly all chaos broke loose. Amalie tried to escape the house and ran down our driveway shouting, ‘I have to go home!’ I managed to catch her before she hit the main road. Meanwhile Lulu was sulking in the bedroom. ‘I never wanna see her again!’ she yelled.
Jack had been at his dad’s house. I remember his face looking confused from his dad’s conservatory as I was trying to haul Amalie back down the driveway. We got the kids into the garden and gravitated them towards the climbing frame. Lulu, hiccuping from crying, climbed the trapeze swing and stood on the wooden bar like she’d done a hundred times before.
‘Come on Lulu,’ Jack said softly, ‘your friend has come to visit and I think you should just say sorry and clear the air.’
I swear on the deep breath that Lulu took before she could order the word sorry, she slipped. All of us were standing around her – me, Jack, Amalie, even Delphine was somewhere in the mix. But none of us were fast enough. We heard the crack of her elbow bone on the grassy ground only two feet below. And her shocked howl.
She wailed, ‘I can’t get up, I’ve broken my arm!’
I went into mustn’t-grumble premise. Must be my British genes. ‘No Lulu, you’re fine. You couldn’t have broken it.’
But of course she had. She got up and her right arm stayed on the floor. We bundled her to hospital and were quickly told she’d need pins in her arms. Two lots of surgery. A large scar that remains to this day. It’s impressive, enough for people to ask her about it – and when she tells them she was bitten by a shark, they believe her.
Now, eight years later, Lulu is still getting herself into pickles. She asked me last night before bed if she could go to town today. I set my conditions which included abstinence from sexual acts, particularly in public places.
‘I can’t promise you,’ was her reply.
‘I can’t let you go then.’
It was as if her life had ended. Complete meltdown. ‘But what if I want to do those things?’ she wept.
‘Well, nothing stops you from doing them to yourself, but you are too young and too vulnerable to have anyone else doing them to you. Nice boyfriend or not nice boyfriend.’
All the hysteria and defiance had given her a sore ear by this morning. No school.
‘Why can’t you just be a cool mum? Why can’t I have cool parents? I wish I never told you anything!’
‘But you did tell us, Lulu. And it’s our job to protect you. You are simply too young to be doing those things.’
‘But everyone else is doing them.’
‘Not everyone else. Unfortunately the role models you are setting yourself against are the ones who are vulnerable and probably not protected by their parents.’
The hysteria carried on. Eventually Jack called the police. He spoke to them quietly with his earpiece in. Finally he put the phone down.
‘They don’t want to scare you,’ he said to Lulu, ‘but if they see you doing any of these things in public places they won’t ignore it. And if you go on the sexual register, it’ll be a mark against your name. You won’t be able to get certain jobs, you can’t be admitted to America. It has all sorts of serious repercussions.’
The last bit of colour drained from Lulu’s face.
‘It’s not that we are not cool, Lulu. It’s that we’re trying to do things correctly and legally too.’
Lulu emitted one last, heaving sob. She went off to text her boyfriend who immediately texted back to say that was fine. Of course he did.
I waited till she left. ‘Did they really say that?’
Jack raised an eyebrow. ‘Of course not. They said they’d only do anything if there’s a five year age difference between them. Otherwise, if they’re both consenting to it, there isn’t much that they can do. But they did say to call your GP or your school liaison officer for further advice.’
‘We won’t tell her that though right?’
He raised his other eyebrow at me. The one he specifically reserves for my moronic questions.
Fifteen minutes later, Lulu was calmly eating lunch with us. Picking up a plate of cheese she said, ‘I feel much better now.’
Why’s that, Lu?
‘I don’t know really. I guess just accepting the situation.’
‘Accepting things always makes us feel better, hey?’ Jack said.
‘Yeah, Lulu said, ‘I guess it does.’