a Prinses livd in a casl and she wus tow [two]
and she didnt wunt a bad mum
Rosie brought this “story” home one day. She had drawn a portrait of a girl under a bright yellow sun, and on its reverse were these words. At first, I was proud of her for working out the sentence phonetically – proud, that is, until I got to the end and read the bit about a ‘bad mum’.
Then I was sad, and a little worried. What if they use this as evidence against me? I asked myself, imagining a scene in which Social Services take Rosie away from me on the strength of this, her first attempt at English composition.
Well, we’ve all read the horror stories, haven’t we? The one about the family whose child was taken into care because the parents didn’t feed them junk food (ok, so I read that one in the Metro on the tube – hardly a reliable news source). Still, there are other disturbing stories. Either there is too much intervention or none at all. Social Services appear incapable of treading the middle way, meaning that most people would rather give them a wide berth than approach them for help.
Anyway, this post isn’t about Social Services, although I am meeting the community nurse this week to complete a common application form for Rosie, which will complete her referral to the children and young people’s mental health services.
Typically, this has come a bit late. I have found a number of methods to keep Rosie calm, and her behaviour has improved a bit. We have even had a few mornings where she has successfully managed to dress herself without going into paroxysms of rage and grief.
How did we do it? Through talking about it. We had quite a few abysmal mornings, in which Rosie wept and screamed on the street, in front of our neighbours and commuters. I can still see the tears rolling fatly down her cheeks, and me at the end of my rope, ready to walk away…. sometimes doing just that.
But the last few days, we have had a few quiet successes. You see, some time last week or the week before, I sat Rosie down and explained that her underpants were always going to be a bit uncomfortable. “It’s not going to change,” I said, “so we have to find a way to think about it differently.”
I suggested she distract herself by singing a song while dressing, or by looking at some illustrations in one of her books.
She does this now. She accepts that it isn’t going to change and that she just has to get on with it. “I can’t help it,” she says, but she tries nonetheless. Sometimes she succeeds. This makes her so happy, she skips up the pavement to the bus stop. It makes me happy, too.
We are also using the marble jars – we’ve filled two now, and she has won time with mummy baking gingerbread and time with daddy painting a rocketship. We’ve now moved on to a star chart. Lots of praise, lots of positive reinforcement. I’m trying to see whether helping her believe in herself will help her triumph over this mental block.
I don’t know how long any of this will last for. I am willing to take whatever comes my way, right now, and improvise something new, as and when necessary.
As for being a “bad mum”, I asked Rosie whether she was thinking of me when she wrote her story. Of course she said she wasn’t. “Ok,” I said. “If you say so.”
“I do,” says Rosie. And for a moment, I almost believe her.