We had a great week camping in Scotland (apart from driving for hours to Mass on Sunday only to find a lay-led Eucharistic Service…). But I returned reflecting that I had spoken and played less with Dominique than with any of the others. It was just a feeling, but a little unsettling. So I paid attention to our interactions and particularly to what she said, and there was no doubt about it – she was feeling a bit neglected.

It’s understandable. There has been so much going on with celebrating Bernie’s exam success, welcoming Ant back from University, celebrating Charlies’ exams too; and Dom is often quite self-sufficient and busy with her own friends and activities. But she was also developing a habit of retiring to her room to read or listen to story tapes, rather more often than I liked. A degree of quiet time on one’s own is important, but this was going beyond that.

So this weekend I have started to address that. We went to confession on Saturday morning, which is always a good start to the weekend, and then on Saturday afternoon it was very rainy, so she suggested getting her mum’s old electric train set down from the attic and playing with that. So I abandoned my plans for the afternoon (which were only various domestic tasks that could easily be deferred, but even so it took an effort of will, which I found telling…). We spent a happy few hours assembling the track and then playing with the trains and all the accessories.

Afterwards I was reflecting how much more natural it used to seem to do that when Ant and Bernie were younger. Life is more complex now, and I am busier (and older…) but that is no reason for Dominique to be short-changed. And I am aware of the importance of really maintaining that solid relationship through into the early teen years: if you lose it then, it takes much longer to recover, and a lot of harm may be done in the meantime.

On Sunday, she was out for the day with her Girl Guide pack, going ghyll scrambling in the morning and learning archery in the afternoon. And again it was just a small thing, but on her return, I didn’t simply ask her if she’d had a good time, but took the time to have a real conversation about it and share her excitement and enthusiasm.

And that’s all it takes. A small adjustment in me, being a little less self-centred and a little more sensitive to her and generous with my time and attention, and the relationship feels as though it is back where I want it to be. That will need to be sustained, of course, and I need to make sure I don’t overdo it. It is like sailing a boat – a small adjustment on the tiller now saves the need for much more drastic correction later on.

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