Schoolhouse Blues

This is my second go at one of my children starting school. I should be a pro. Only it’s different. Like every single bit of parenting nothing that we did with the eldest works with with youngest. Nothing with no.1 has served as any kind of preparation with no.2.

When I sent the eldest off to school it was safe in the knowledge that we were about to begin the prep for adopting a second. There was of course all the ‘my wee girl is so big’ sentimentality but no finality. I was excited for her starting her education and thrilled about the prospect of a wee bit of time for myself before we did it all over again with no.2.

This time I am eviscerated. Both of my girls are at school. The loss of my status as a mother of small children pains me.

We have decided, me reluctantly, that our family is complete. So my youngest starting school marks an end. An end that I am in no way ready for or welcoming.

My eyes were opened by my eldest starting school. I know how fast they mature and change from here on in. The independence that comes from nowhere and leaves me redundant. Monday to Friday now belongs to the routine. It leaves little time for life and none for the spontaneity which for us meant joy.

The youngest is in her element. Happy in her new role. Ravenously hungry for the challenges, opportunities and adventures heading her way.

The eldest is delighted that her younger sister is imprisoned as she is. Hopeful that school has a civilising effect, taming the wee wildling from tormenting her every waking hour.

And me? Well I’m papering over the cracks. Only really admitting how I feel on paper. Smiling and pretending that I’m thrilled with uninterrupted hot coffees, all the extra time I’ll have.

Only I don’t want extra time, well not this much. Yes it will be wonderful to not have to try and squeeze work into such constrained times. To be able to pick up a book or a pen in the middle of the day before the exhaustion sets in once they are finally in bed. It’s just that the house is empty, the living room too tidy and all this quiet is oppressive.

Once again I’m marvelling at the agonies of parenting. Do it right and you give them all the tools, skills and ability to leave you bereft and broken with the ache of missing them.

Get your filthy paws off my fundamental human rights.

This is not a #youknowme 1 in 4 story. I’ve never been pregnant. Never will be. My abstinence, timing, contraceptives or luck weren’t what prevented drama and hard decisions. My inhospitable womb is responsible.

Despite how much I desperately wanted to get pregnant I fiercely defend abortion as a fundamental human right and categorise it as healthcare.

No-one should be legally compelled to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. No-one should be forced to continue a pregnancy with the knowledge that their child will be born to die or be profoundly impaired. No-one should be compelled to play Russian-roulette with their physical or mental health in the hope that everything will be ok when all medical evidence and experience suggests otherwise.

Individuals must be given the agency and ability to make the hard, heartbreaking and life altering choices than any pregnancy can bring.

I was pro-choice as a teenager comforting my 15 year old friend who’s mother gave her no option but the termination. I was pro-choice in my 20’s when I accompanied another friend to a clinic and tucked her safely into a blanket fort to heal. But it’s in my 30’s that I’ve become confident and unashamed to shout that I am pro-choice.

Partially, because I am witnessing and navigating the long lasting impact and damage of inadequate early years care. My eldest daughter is massively affected. Read up on attachment disorder and containment theory and then bear in mind that we believe that this damage was inflicted while my daughter was within foster care.

This propaganda of utilising unwilling individuals as incubators before handing babies over to a fit for purpose system, which is caring and nurturing is bullshit. So called pro-lifers aren’t concerned about the life of any children.

On the 31st of July 2018 there were 14,738 looked after children in Scotland. 2% of Scottish children. Looked after is the official terminology used by Scotland’s national and local government bodies to describe children and young people in the care of the local authority.

Even with legalised abortion our services are in crisis, desperate for more foster and adoptive carers for vulnerable children and young people.

I would be really interested to see how many of these so called pro-lifers are doing the training, checks and opening their homes to the children who are in desperate need.

How many are out there campaigning for vastly improved sex education, free and easy access to contraception and engaging with the parents of these teens? All proven to reduce rates of teenage pregnancies.

How many are supporting rape crisis centres, refuges, child poverty charities, campaigning against the governments austerity cuts and educating themselves about the myriad of mystery that having a womb can entail.

How can you claim to be pro-life when there is a wealth of evidence that prohibiting abortion kills women?

My personal option is that a foetus is not a life. Life is something which is completely in the power of the individual carrying that foetus. When that individual acknowledges and accepts that they are forever beholden to that wee bundle of cells. For some that will be the instant a test confirms their suspicions. For others there was no life, no baby, nothing but the abject horror of possibility.

I’m pro the life of that teenager violated by a family member.

Pro the life of the desperate mother who has just been given an incompatible with life diagnosis on a much wanted and already much loved child.

Pro the life of my friend who ‘thinks’ that they used a condom on a drunken one night stand. Who absolutely can’t have a baby 2 years out of university and in the very early stages of launching a stratospheric career.

Pro the life of the already beaten mother who can’t afford or face the idea of adding another child to her burden.

I celebrated when the Republic of Ireland repealed the 8th. Now I’m badgering my MP to stand with Northern Ireland and making sure that he knows that I won’t allow the UK government to continue to breach it’s international human rights obligations. The link is here if you agree with the United Nations that the rights of NI women and girls are being violated and want to ask your MP what they are doing about it.

I know how this ends

My TBR (to be read) pile is less of a tidy stack of books and more the contents of over half the bookcases in my house, a huge wordery wishlist and at least 75% of my local library. I will go to my death bed clutching a book and bargaining with the Grim Reaper for just one more wee chapter.

I absolutely have favourites. Books that I adore and attempt to foist on anyone who stands still long enough for me to push them into their hands. However, I very seldom revisit. Occasionally the notion will take me, only to be quickly overridden with the realisation that I already know how this ends.

My list of rereads is tiny: Good Omens, The Ocean at the end of the Lane and World War Z are the only ones which spring to mind.

The obvious exceptions to this rule are kids books. I reread some of my favourites to my eldest and now I’m counting down the bedtimes till I get to read them all again with my youngest.

We’re currently reading Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. She adores the films and the book is one which my husband read to my eldest so I’ve only read it once, about 20 years ago.

Wow, it’s good.

With all the brilliance of Alan Rickman, Dame Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, etc. on screen it is easy to forget just how magnificent a story this is. I’d forgotten far more than I remembered and I am loving rediscovering all these nuggets of JK Rowling’s genius.

All the foreboding, the clues that make sense only now I know how it all ends and the sheer scale of imagination. I’m in awe of the worlds that a good writer can bring to life. The threads that weave together to create this magnificent embroidery.

The first reading of a book for me is all about the story. What happens next, a race to the finish. What I’m discovering with this reread is that knowing what happens next means I’m able to pay attention to the mastery of the story telling. Freeing me up to look for clues, new discoveries and hidden gem. I’m loving it.

Even the exquisite delayed gratification of restricting myself to one chapter a night. I’m savouring this.

It’s almost making me consider rereading some of my favourites. I just need to work through the wee pile beside my bed first and maybe a page of that wordery wishlist. Just don’t let me anywhere near the library…

It’s the most ‘wonderful’ time of the year

Christmas is my absolute favourite. A small goth part of me wants to be all cool and claim that Halloween is my jam. But pretty coloured fairy lights, Bing Crosby, dedicated stationery and compulsory letter writing, a whole plethora of mythological figures, the sanctioned gluttony of the most delicious and decadent foods and the requirement to see and celebrate with all my friends and family.

Given free reign I would deck the halls with boughs of holly, have at least one Christmas tree in every single one of our rooms, of course there’s room for a wee tree in the bathroom and singlehandedly drain the national grid with the electricity requirements of bazillions of fairy lights.

One of the aspects of parenting I was most excited about was involving smalls in festivising. If toddler + glitter = carnage then bring it on. All the best dressed houses have glitter in the cracks between their floorboards. It’s fairy dust.

Christmas crafts, baking, trips to see the big man, carol singing, pantomime, sneaking into bedrooms to pop stockings at the end of their beads and basking in the glow of their joy as they rip into Christmas morning.

Only that isn’t actually anything like our festivities. Change and deviation from the routine must be minimised. Decorations must be contained to the living room and even then much lower key than I would like. Weeks of anticipation, build up and reminders that ALL IS NOT NORMAL will not be tolerated.

I understand. Life is unpredictable, confusing and hard to understand on the most boring and dull of days. Christmas is system overload for my eldest. It always has been.

As a tiny she was petrified of Santa. Not just wary but proper terror. The blood curdling screams she let out when Santa approached her at the supermarket silenced Sainsbury’s the Saturday before Christmas. I remain convinced people thought that at the very least she had lost a limb. She has never allowed us to put a stocking in her room. The thought of Santa coming into her room while she was sleeping took sleep completely off the table.

We now spread our Christmas over several days. Partially to minimise the impact. Partially so that we have plenty of time to deal with the inevitable meltdowns, dramas and crises.

This year we’ll do the meal, just the four of us, on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. There will be presents, probably a walk on the beach and a tonne of chocolate consumption on Christmas Day. Boxing Day will be for R&R&R&R – Rest, Relaxation, Recuperation and Repair. Then on the 27th we’ll head down to my parents, hoping that at least one of my sisters and her brood will have already gone home because she can’t cope will all the family all at once.

It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting because this is the final hurdle. We’ve been deep in firefighting mode since the 2nd of December. School starts to change. There is talk of dances – nope not a chance, trips to the pantomime with the drama department – cue weeks of trauma about who she will sit next to on the bus, PE morphs into Scottish country dance classes – traumatic to most teenagers let alone the socially impaired and this is before people stop wearing what she expects them to – her fury at a teacher having the audacity to wear a Christmas jumper and pudding earrings could probably have helped me power a good few of those bazillion fairy lights.

Balancing her needs for home to be a sanctuary with my desire to mummify the house in tinsel is hard enough. Throw an excited, Santa daft 4 year old into the mix and things get, well interesting just isn’t quite right, I need a metaphor around nuclear fusion.

I’m running myself ragged trying to meet the needs of two girls so diametrically opposed that it should be funny. Only we can’t laugh. The eldest is horribly paranoid and will flip out believing that we are laughing at her. The little one is so excited that if we start laughing you know she is going to join in. I’m confident that she is going to prove that the scene in Mary Poppins where Dick Van Dyke has tea on the ceiling is possible. There is enough DIY to do around here without having to repaint the ceilings after scraping over excited children off them.

So while it will always be the most wonderful time of the year, please excuse me if I don’t look full of the joys of the season, I’m spent. But I absolutely mean it when I say that I hope you have a magically marvellous Christmas and that 2019 is happy and healthy.

Mummy Manifesting

It took us a while to become parents. Years of trying, fertility investigations, treatments and adoption. My girls are very, very wanted and It is no secret that becoming Mummy was and is massively important.

The other day I caught myself mid rant. Miserable. Exhausted. Thoroughly fed up with the whole thing. I am not the mother I envisaged. Admittedly that lentil weaving, floaty skirted, zen mama maybe is a little unachieveable given my personality. But even so this short tempered, screeching, she devil is way too far in the other direction.

I do not want. No that isn’t strong enough. I completely reject the knackered, shouty, stressed mother I have become.  I spent years putting heart and soul into becoming a Mother. It was not for this.

I love being Mummy. I adore the house being filled with their laughter, sticky finger prints, plastic tat booby trapping every floor, socks of varying sizes all missing a buddy and all the apples in the fruit bowl missing just one bite. This is the life I dreamt of. This is precisely what I signed up for.

I’m going to be a lot more conscious of the mother I want to be.

Using a quiet and calm voice. The fact that this is way more terrifying when a small knows that they have done wrong is definitely a bonus.

Actively seeking out time with and activities with my girls. Spending time with them is a pleasure, a joy and a privilege.

Refusing to engage in moaning, bitching or embracing the negativity. We create the life we focus on. Yes there is always room for improvement. By concentrating on the good, the joy that they bring me and the smiles this becomes the story.

I am manifesting that zen mama. Although I’m still at a loss as to how you weave a lentil…

 

 

When love just isn’t enough

My eldest daughter has complex additional needs. Her diagnosis is far from clear cut and includes a couple of conflicting conditions, which aggravate, mask and exasperate each other. Getting her help is never going to be a magic pill which miraculously transforms her into the girl she normally manages to pretend to be.

See this is the truly heartbreaking nature of it. If you were to meet my eldest daughter you would find her to be charming, personable and engaging. If you got to know her well you might think her a little socially awkward but these complex additional needs, well her mother is obviously neurotic.

Only I’m not. Ok, well not in this instance!

My darling, kind, funny daughter has two sides. A side that she shows to the outside world. A mask she can maintain when everything is calm, safe and predictable. Sadly, her conditions mean that very often the world to her is far from calm, safe and predictable. She lives is a heightened state of anxiety. A state she is completely unable to cope with.

In this state of anxiety the other side of my daughter makes our family life miserable. We call them meltdowns. Probably the easiest comparison is to a toddlers temper tantrums. But in a 12 year old and with a 12 year olds stamina. They can, and frequently do, last for days.

During these periods we all have to endure being screamed at, insulted, physically threatened and what is worse watch her treat people we love so horribly. It absolutely is emotional abuse in a pure and potent form. If she was my partner I would be packing up and running. But she’s my daughter.

This behaviour is functional. She is attempting to communicate her distress. I am massively sympathetic to that and on hand to help in anyway I can. But when she is in this state she is beyond reason. In this state she absolutely does not want to sit down calmly and tell me how a classmate’s perfectly innocent comment has left her confused, hurt and entering into a primal fight or flight adrenaline roller coaster.

No, in this state all she is capable of is trying to show me how she is felling by making me feel the same. I’d describe myself as pretty empathic, finding it incredibly easy to imagine how another might been. If she was able to articulate even a fraction of what she was experiencing I’d get there. But she isn’t able to identify, untangle and discuss her emotions in this way. She just doesn’t have the ability.

How she communicates is by inflicting pain. My girl who isn’t really able to understand that the sensation she is feeling is cold and can be fixed by putting on a jumper is an absolute master at finding a point of sensitivity and exploiting it, mercilessly.

I am used to screamed insults, my younger daughter will frequently play in the middle of what should send a less desensitised 4 year old crying to their Mummy, my husband normalising the physical interventions when he has to get in her way as she flies at me. Our family life is frequently a battle ground. And I am without a weapon.

I need to find a way to protect myself and those I love without wounding a confused and distressed wee girl.