I am driving my 10 year-old to her weekly gymnastics class. We are not in harmony. She is berating me for refusing to allow her an iPhone. I am berating her for spurning the supper I'd painstakingly incinerated for her. As we draw up at the leisure centre I have decided, not for the first time, that I am not cut out for motherhood.
She stumps off to the gymnastics hall; I join a slumped row of mothers on the floor of the viewing gallery. I am nursing wounded feelings and read a novel instead of watching my firstborn with the raptness she expects of me. Later I look up. She and her class partner are performing backwards rolls. Her partner rotates clumsily and doesn't get up again. Teachers bend over her, cajoling her to stand, but she lies there, head bent to the floor, legs twisted under her, and she doesn't respond. I think she's malingering and watch with amused exasperation as she ignores all overtures. A group of lifeguards are summoned from the pool. They too try to coax her into movement and it occurs to me that noone could sustain that position without crippling cramp. I start to study the scene more anxiously as people mill with clipboards and a blanket is fetched.
The paramedics are arriving as we leave. The crumpled figure on the floor hasn't stirred. Her mother kneels beside her, stricken. The lifeguards are in a solemn huddle talking of neck injury.
My 10-year-old is incredulous. 'She is so lively,' she says. 'She was only joking with me just before she screamed.' I too am trying to understand the swift swipes of Fate. It could have been my daughter lying there unconscious and me weeping terrified at her side. It could have been our familiar weekly ritual ending with a siren's wail.
I tuck my daughter up with more than usual gentleness this evening. I don't mention the foul chaos that is her bedroom. I ignore the nail varnish stains on the bath tub and smile through a final sally about iPhones. I am not as skilled a mother as I'd meant to be and my daughter isn't the smock-clad paragon I'd planned, but I must remember not to waste time on regrets. Blessings can be ripped away in a second before we have even realised that we possess them and, for all her impertinence, I'm going to be grateful for my little girl. But no way is she having an iPhone!