Should we go quietly or…

My daughter has not been to school for a total of 3 weeks now, due to a fall-out with her friends which somehow escalated to the point that she is now a social outcast in school, and is too afraid to walk around outside our home in case she is Seen by one of Them.

I am utterly consumed by this situation, although I am maintaining a semblance of an ordinary life, for example I’m still going to work (and even doing work whilst there).

I have spoken to the Deputy Head of the school about the situation, I have sent her copies of threatening, abusive messages that were sent to my daughter, and I have taken these messages to show the parents. I have found myself observing their reactions in fascination. I have to remind myself that this is real and it is happening to us.

The message was indisputably horrible.

‘I spent all of Monday investigating it,’ said the Deputy Head when we went into school to discuss it, so that I almost apologised for the enormous inconvenience this must have caused.

‘Her friends were all absolutely shocked at the message,’ she continued ‘and they are very sorry.’

We were unconvinced that the children in question were shocked at a message that they themselves wrote. Also by the news that they were sorry.

‘They’re all calling me a snitch,’ said my daughter (who has access to social media and therefore knows what is actually being said out of earshot of the Deputy Head). This unwelcome piece of news bounced off her ears and was seemingly absorbed into the walls without going anywhere.

‘It’s yesterday’s news now,’she told us.

My daughter refused point blank to go to school from that day.

I have written emails to the Deputy Head to tell her what I think of her effectiveness and methods. I have also rung her to tell her. She simply corrects me.

‘No,’ she says ‘It isn’t like that. I didn’t say that. That is not the case. You have got the wrong impression.’

She also tells me that my daughter is being irrational and getting things out of proportion. There is no point in arguing with the Deputy Head, clearly. And little point in trying to make my daughter go to school. She wants to move school and to move area. I feel sulky and angry, wish I hadn’t suggested this to my daughter because we already moved twice last year and I’m tired of moving and I want to carry on living with my parents, where I feel looked after.

I don’t want to be a grown-up. A single parent again, unsheltered, in some windswept, Godforsaken Northern town…

I don’t want to make it too easy for the Deputy Head, who has not helped. I worried about getting a reputation with the new school – as difficult, liable to complain – would this affect my daughter? Yet I have tried playing by the rules. I have been polite, I have been compliant, I have tempered my complaints with praise for staff who ‘obviously mean well’, and this has not helped. I am being forced to move 10 miles down the road, away from the support of my family, because my daughter does not feel safe at school. Therefore I must complain, and this time I must complain to the right person. Somebody, somewhere has to at least apologise for this, surely?

*sense of humour may be absent for this post. It will return.


Thought for International Women’s Day

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My Thought for International Women’s Day

After all, Gandhi said ‘Be the Change You Want to See in the World’ and for the mother of an 11-year-old daughter this seems as good a place as any to start.

As my daughter gets older, she certainly isn’t listening to anything I tell her any more – but she is watching every move I make. Like a hawk. Having spent so long focusing my attention on her, becoming invisible as mothers can tend to do, the spotlight is suddenly on me.

What am I showing her? What does the example of my life teach her? As she grows into a woman herself, what paths does she see ahead of her?

The thought of being a role model makes me briefly toy with the idea of giving my daughter a ‘How Not To’ Guide, something along the lines of

horrible warning, setting a bad example, role model, quotes

Quote from Catherine Aird

This would surely be easier, but I’ve already done this and it seems like a risky parenting strategy.

No; in honour of International Women’s Day, I will stop taking the easy way out. I hereby resolve to stop trying to become invisible, and to live consciously in the world. To become the woman I would like my daughter to become one day: strong, resilient, loving, but above all, happy and fulfilled.


Final task of Zero to Hero

Zero to Hero left us with two final goals: firstly, set up a blogging calendar, and secondly set a goal for the next 30 days.

I have always struggled with the editorial calendar. I could never decide which days to post, and what to post – how could I guarantee to have a funny story on a Monday, or a parenting dilemma on a Thursday? Life is not so predictable. I know that the idea is to write posts in advance, but I seem incapable of doing so. The only way I can write a post is by sitting in front of the laptop knowing that I have half an hour to do it (this is why my posts always get furiously edited some time after posting them – when I’ve sneaked back onto the laptop to read them back, and seen all my mistakes…)

Being an all-or-nothing sort of person, and being undecided about which day to post, I tend to post every day – or, not at all.

However, today as I wrote my post, I looked at my daughter’s facebook account and saw that in the couple of hours I had been sitting, writing and surfing WordPress, she had been posting selfies on Facebook. I saw us as if I was someone looking in from a distance. I saw what must be a common sight nowadays; two members of a family sitting isolated in separate rooms. I thought that this happens way too much in our family.

I decided that this wasn’t how I wanted our life to be. Also, I have just banned my daughter from using her i-pad for an indefinite amount of time (for reasons I will not go into, but I’m worried about her). This means that I will have to stop using the internet, to set the example that the internet is not the same as a life-support machine; we can live without it. Or give her the i-pad back (tempting…).

It seems, then, that an editorial calendar is a necessity.

I’m going to go for twice a week. Tuesday and Friday. Hopefully I will manage more, but my goal for the next 30 days is to become a better parent. Then I’ll blog about it…


Can You Learn Parenting From a Book?

Blogs about motherhood tend to attract me, as motherhood is – well, it’s the thing that makes me tick. It’s the aspect of my life that I have mulled over (and over and over), more than anything else. Reading this post on ‘Defining Motherhood’ echoed some thoughts that I have had over the years.

The author of this post was trying to answer a question about how to resist criticism from a parent about your own parenting choices. Is there research that could convince my Mum that I am right? the questioner asked. I love Defining Motherhood’s answer, that research is to convince yourself that you are right, but is unlikely to convince anybody else of that.

When I became a mother, I had no idea how to go about being one, but I assumed that (as with pretty much everything I knew) I could look it up in a book. And look it up I did. I read book after book after book, and looking back I can see that I was in fact trying to convince myself that I was doing it right. I was lucky in that my parents were not overly critical, but as a single parent I found that criticism was in no short supply. Feeling defensive, I would often rage about people who thought they could tell me how to parent but hadn’t read a single book on the subject, when I was practically an encyclopaedia of knowledge (if only my daughter had read the damn books too, and behaved like one of the children on those pages instead of being so obstinately her).

The next point that Defining Motherhood made was that childcare advice is subject to fashions which come and go through the years; another reason why parents of mothers are unlikely to be impressed by the latest research. They have seen it all before.

There are many many different ways to bring up children, probably as many as there are children. I believe that children actually shape you as much as you shape them, but maybe that’s got more to do with my parenting than children in general. All I know is that I experimented upon my hapless child with all the theories from all of the books – eventually settling on the ones that worked. The more regimented methods failed, while the ones that focused on communication were the most effective. The book ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ while not new, formed the basis of my parenting techniques for some years. I remember my amazement on first using the simplest of counselling techniques – she was claiming to have stomach ache, but I knew that there was a lesson at school that day that she didn’t like.

‘My stomach hurts,’ she said and instead of my usual reaction which would be to focus on whether or not she was going to school, I used ‘reflection’

‘Oh no, your stomach hurts,’

‘And I’ve got a headache.’

‘You’ve got a headache.’

‘I don’t feel well.’

‘You don’t feel well.’

To my amazement, she then meandered off to get dressed for school, satisfied that her point had been taken (or deciding that school would be more interesting than staying at home with a robotic mother who had lost the art of conversation).

The last point that Defining Motherhood makes is that in trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of your own mother you must try not to swing too far the other way. I have always been conscious of that because that in itself was the mistake my parents made – they over-reacted to everything their own parents did. I felt as if the fact that their parents did things a certain way would be reason enough for them to do the opposite.

I decided that my decisions would be my own, independent decisions, based on scientific methods of looking at all the available evidence (books, straw polls of what friends did) – but in the end, my daughter decided how she would be parented by simply being her own, unique self. We did it our way, then found a book that told us we’d been doing it right – and that, is the only way to do motherhood.


Coffee Break

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Photo credit here
It’s just not the same without caffeine..

My post is late today, as I had to go to hospital for a scan and when I got home I found that my daughter had disappeared (when I say disappeared I mean that we couldn’t actually see her at that time. She had told babysitter Grandma that she was going to a friend’s house but wasn’t answering her phone, which is unusual). After approximately 10 minutes panic I found her safe and sound at her friend’s house, dancing around the garden giggling with three other girls, who were daring one another to flash their bras at passing cars.

So, that’s alright then.

Parenting duties done, I will now quickly tell you about my health problems, which should make for a scintillating post. Firstly, the scan was all good. My ovaries are fine, apparently, and as I already know I’m not pregnant. But for the past couple of weeks, I have been suffering from the most excruciating headaches, to the point that I have wondered if I could possibly have a brain tumour (straight to the worst-case scenario, that’s just how my brain works). I’ve been feeling permanently exhausted. My brain doesn’t work, and what’s more I’ve been hit by attacks of yawning at 3 o’clock every afternoon which just don’t respond to my usual remedy of a strong coffee.

In fact, I’ve been drinking more and more coffee, every day, simply to try to stay awake at my desk; but to no avail, all it does is make me feel worse because I add too much creamer, and then my stomach hurts as well as my head.

The manager with whom I share an office seems affected, too. He yawns more than he used to and sometimes has to open the window for a blast of fresh air to wake him up. I wonder if we have caught some terrible virus.

We have been drinking so much coffee that today at 3 o’clock, the tin was completely empty. I looked in the drawer where we keep huge cartons of coffee, ready to tip more granules into the tin. As I opened the carton, I notice that the colour of the label is green.

‘Oh, this is no good,’ I said ‘this is de-caffeinated. We need caffeine.’

I noticed that the carton was already depleted and the penny slowly began to drop

‘Hang on, is this what we’ve been drinking for the past two weeks?!’ I ask my office companion, and he nods. ‘NO WAY!!!’

‘Way,’ replies he, and laughs. He thinks that caffeine withdrawal is something to laugh at. I do not. I have learnt today that I NEED caffeine in order to function as a normal human being. I have learnt that luckily, I am not seriously ill. I have also learnt my daughter getting fresh air in the garden is not always a good thing. Hopefully that is as eventful as this day is going to get.

Hope that you’ve had a good day. Have you ever had caffeine withdrawal and did you, too, think you were seriously ill?