“A prinses livd in a casl”

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.


“Mummy doesn’t like me”

Source: http://akaspvn.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/sad-face.jpg


She didn’t say sorry. She never says sorry. She hurt my feelings. Mummy doesn’t like me. 

Poor Rosie. She is standing by the oil heater again, muttering a tearful monologue. I’m dead. I’m a spirit now. You don’t have a child any more… Are you sad? Are you sad that I’m dead?

When I say I am sad, she says: You’re not. You don’t want a child. You don’t like me. When I say I love her, she says I don’t. I’m dead, she repeats. When I protest that she isn’t really dead, because the dead don’t usually speak, she simply says: I’m dead.

The catalyst for this behaviour can be anything really. This morning, there are a series of meltdowns that begin with underpants – pouffy underpants, I should add –  in which she rages that the underpants are bothering her, followed by an extended   lament over her vest (You have to pull it down. You’re talking. SO YOU HAVE TO PULL IT DOWN AGAIN.) She wants me to tuck in her vest but she is sitting down. I mime to her  to stand up (since I’m not allowed to speak to her while she dresses), but she decides this is a game and wastes several minutes going limp as I try to hold her up in a standing position.

Eventually, we get her school uniform on, vest and all, but we don’t get out the door until I have pulled down her vest and shirt another six times to straighten it out under her pinafore. The blood is finally shooting up to my temples now and it is taking a lot of heavy breathing (I try not to breathe too loudly for fear that this, too, may constitute talking) to keep me from exploding.

But when we get out the door and she demands that I pull her shirt down again, I lose it and shout: You are going on the late register AGAIN!!!

Of course this unleashes a barrage of tears and some very public tantrumming on Rosie’s part. My neighbours are staring and I am mortified, but they have seen me in nuclear mode with Rosie, too, so I now figure they have me down as some social services nightmare. I am dismayed.

I spend the rest of the day asking myself why I always revert to type and shout, when I know this will do nothing to help Rosie. And when I get her back home, she starts again – shouting and screaming at me without warning, demanding that I help her remove her sweatshirt NOW. RIGHT NOW!

I don’t shout at her. I just tell her she is behaving badly, that I am trying to get her dinner ready and that I will be with her in a minute. When she throws herself on the kitchen floor, I ignore her. She calms down after a little while and by the time we finish dinner, we are back to being friends.

Until the morning comes and the lines are drawn again.


“You’re the most beautiful, cleverest girl I know”

Source: astrocounsel.us

Rosie and I are walking to school this morning. She’s chatting away, her words getting eaten up by the traffic roaring beside us. The wind splays her hair in all directions and her eyelashes are like the sun’s rays, beating warmly against her cheeks.

“Do you know?” I say to her. “You’re the most beautiful girl I know.” She looks down with an uncertain smile.

“And you know what else?” She looks at me, eyes round. “You’re the cleverest little girl I know, too.”

She grins, and walks proudly. “Smarter than Leah?” she asks.

“Well, I don’t know Leah,” I say. “But I do know you. And you are clever.”

This is me resisting my usual Tiger mother self (for make no mistake, I am one of those mothers), and deciding that what Rosie needs is a lot of positive reinforcement. I had a meeting with her teacher at school last week, and although she said that Rosie is doing very well, she also said she suffers from low self-esteem and poor self-confidence.

This is not surprising to me. Rosie is 4.5 years old. She can read and do basic mathematics. Yes, I encouraged her to do these things from a very young age. Yes, I was a bit hard on her from time to time. But really, I did these things out of curiosity more than anything else. I experimented on her –  I saw that she picked up her phonics quickly, so I tried her on reading simple words. That was when she was three – and she did it. Naturally, I tried some more.

But much as she excelled at these things, she would not demonstrate her knowledge or ability to anyone. Take headstands. She can do them, wherever, whenever, but she won’t show her friends how to do them. She won’t show them she can do it. She doesn’t believe she can do it.

I put this down to the Tiger mother in me. My parents were of a generation that didn’t believe in praising children too much. I think they were right, to some extent, but I also think that that strategy only works on certain types of children. I realise that Rosie is not one of those types of children. She needs praise – she thrives on it. Most kids do. And given how sad she is right now – how much she misses her dad – praise is the easiest thing I can give her that seems to make a difference to how she sees herself.

I don’t over-do it. If I did that, she would stop believing me. But if she does something good – like folding her clothes by herself – then I give her a star. If she dresses herself without going nuclear, she gets a star. If she reads really well, she gets a star. You get the picture.

We had a few terrible days after my last post, where she set off little mushroom clouds of fury that nearly annihilated me. I have two matching bite marks on my thighs – both executed through my jeans by those sharp little milk teeth. I had a meeting with the school nurse who has referred Rosie to the local children’s mental health service (although how long it will take for her to get an appointment is anyone’s guess – the government has cut these services drastically, so they are floundering like everything else in the UK).

The main thing I did was try to disengage immediately whenever Rosie threatened to kick off. I told her a story at night, about a mummy and little girl who shouted at each other very loudly because they were hurting inside, and who, through the good offices of the moon fairy, managed to overcome their anger and find a way to deal with the little things that bothered them, with patience. I also swapped her clothes out of the wall cupboards which she couldn’t reach, to the lower cupboards that she can reach. This gives her the power to choose her own clothes and feel like she has some control over her things. It’s made a huge difference.

In the end, I relented on the underpants and reverted to the pouffy ones again. That’s just a battle that I’ll have to wage later. One day she’ll grow out of them and the whole thing will start again, but I’ll face that inevitability when it comes. For now, I’m going to try to enjoy the little bit of peace that seems to have crept back into our lives. Tonight, Rosie became my refuge again. Tomorrow, who knows?





“I HATE you, Mummy!”

It’s such a common phrase around the house now, I find I hardly blink when she says it. The other morning, I woke Rosie up for school and the first thing she said to me was: “I hate you.”

Anything can prompt these three little words. I might refuse her a piece of cake before dinner or tell her she has to tidy a mess she’s made or simply try to brush her hair. It makes little difference to her. If she’s unhappy about a situation, those are the first words out of her mouth and they are only ever directed at me.

Let me remind you that she is not yet 4.5 years old.

It isn’t just the I hate you’s either. If she doesn’t get her way, she will go from 0 to 100 in mere seconds. She will scream, throw herself on the floor, launch her little body at me head first, pummel me, punch me, hit me in the face and bite me.

This morning, she did all of the above because I told her she had to wear her underpants. To be fair, she has had an underpant issue for months – nothing seems to fit her, aside from those puffy bloomers usually worn by babies still in nappies.

Still, 28 pairs of underpants and about £50 pounds later, I’ve found a style that does fit her. I have checked them thoroughly, but she is so fussy (she can’t abide creases in her dresses or uniform shirts) that the slightest discomfort (and I do mean slightest) will send her into paroxysms of rage.

So, this morning, I insisted she wear her underpants and not the puffy ones which, let’s face it, won’t fit her soon and then what will we do? No, she has to get used to wearing regular underpants and the ancillary discomforts that come with them.

She didn’t shout, she screamed. On and on and on and on. I didn’t know what to do. I thought the neighbours might ring the police. I threatened to walk out – I wanted to walk out. I stood there and watched her thrashing on the floor and a strange cloud descended over me. I got my coat and thought how easy it would be to walk down the stairs, close the door and just go to work, leaving her behind. For the first time, I felt like I didn’t like my own child. I felt like I didn’t know her.

Ironically, she, too, kept saying that I wasn’t her mummy, that I didn’t look like her mummy, that she didn’t have a mummy any more, and that she was all alone.

I wanted to hug her, but she was so angry, so full of rage that I couldn’t – she would have hit me or worse. The last time she bit me, I had a bruise for up to a week. Right now, I have a bump on my arm that came from somewhere at some point this morning – I can’t remember how.

It is all so disappointing and dispiriting. It is also a source of deep shame. I haven’t written about this until now because I am ashamed. She is only 4. She has seen too many things she should never have seen, has experienced too many upheavals for her little lifetime. Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother is most likely depressed. Why should I be surprised that she is acting out now? I just didn’t do enough to protect her from what was happening at home. I failed.

You see, if I really de-construct what she says: I hate you. Shut up. Go away. If I really listen hard enough, I can hear myself. These are exactly the same phrases I used on Ben. I have shouted at him, hit him, pushed him. I’ve done all of these things in moments of rage, when I found him pissed and witless on the couch or in the doorway. Sometimes, I did them in front of her.

There. I said it. I failed to protect her. I let my own rage take control and now my daughter is damaged goods.

She blames me for “sending Daddy away”. She says: Mummy was mean to Daddy. And Mummy is bad. To some extent, she is right. At the same time, when I scold her for doing something naughty (like flinging her yoghurt around the kitchen this morning), she says: “I’m a bad person. I’m a bad girl. Mummy won’t give me any more stars.” And she weeps.

We are trapped in a dark and despicable cycle. First it was Ben and me. Now it’s Rosie and me. And the common ground in all this is… well… me.

I accept responsibility for where we are, but I also need to find a way to repair  the damage I’ve done. All I want is my child back, snug in my heart. But each day, she seems to recede further and further from me. Each day we crawl into this well-worn trench and battle it out, spitting and raging at each other, ultimately losing hold of one another.

source: dancingqueen65.blogspot.com