Tag Archives: children

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?

As a lawyer I am very familiar with the ‘clean break’ theory that is trotted out when discussing divorce but obviously when one had children, providing all is well with both parties, then this is just not possible, financially or personally.

So where does that leave the grown ups? In general, and as far as can be expected, my relationship with my ex husband regarding Lucia is pretty much based on reading from the same hymn sheet. However since she lives with me and he moved an hour and half away there are some decisions that I make for Lu that aren’t going to go in his favor but realistically someone will inevitably lose in situations like this on occasion.

I have no interest whatsoever in my husbands life, beyond his relationship with Lucia. Of course his health is important to me as he needs to be able to look after Lu but we aren’t friends, it isn’t how he wants the relationship to work despite my suggestions and that is fine – kind of. Being honest, I still find it odd that he can walk out on me after 14 years and feel ok about throwing all that history and shared experiences away, but each to their own.

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A few weeks after my ex husband left

But (isn’t there always a but?) recently my ex husband’s girlfriend of 4 years broke up with him. This was further complicated by the fact that he lived with her and her two young children. This of course had a knock on effect on Lulu which of course had a knock on effect on me. When did life get so complicated? That my ex husband’s break up should effect me in any way is ridiculous but of course Lulu was very upset as her dad was moving out of the house she stayed in with him, his home. Also the fact that she wasn’t going to see her dad’s girlfriend’s children anymore all added to making her feel very unsettled and I was left picking up the pieces. Through gritted teeth mind, muttering “for fucks sake hasn’t this six year old had enough disruption?” grrrrr. Next came Lucia’s expectation that now her father was single he would be moving back in with us. She was utterly heartbroken when I explained that wasn’t going to be happening as that wasn’t what her father wanted. Lucia’s distress and the tears she cried while I cuddled her broke my own heart all over again. It truly feels so bloody unfair.

 

If you go down to the woods today

I am not a naturally outdoorsy person by any stretch of the imagination but now that we have the puppy and we live in the countryside I do try and make the effort to go on some long walks.

My current favourite place to visit is Wendover Woods, it helps that it has a little cafe so I can stock up on coffee before heading into the unknown. Coffee is a wonderful incentive if you ever want to get me to do anything.

A few Sunday’s ago, when all three children were staying we had our usual breakfast of pancakes and then off to the woods we went. They much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the youth but they soon got over it. After all the English countryside is so beautiful, especially during the season changes, who could resist? I wrote about the gorgeous summer bluebells earlier on this year.

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Refreshments purchased.

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Coffee in hand, crunchy leaves and dungarees. Perfect.

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Very enthusiastic puppy.

Wendover woods currently have a really great Autumn Trail to follow and each sign tells you a little bit about the wildlife at the moment and what to look out for. We weren’t entirely successful but it kept at least Lucia busy and interested.

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Conker shells, but no conkers, damn.

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We found the mushrooms.

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Just because it looked so unique.

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These little balls of plants reminded me of the stone trolls in Frozen. I may have watched Frozen one too many times.

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Such gorgeous colours.

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The weather held until just before we left thankfully.

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No woodland adventure would be complete without a little bit of muddy puddle jumping and potion stirring.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror

I was brought up by my mum and my grandma, they were strong, loving, affectionate women, very different to each other but I always felt safe, secure and wanted.

 

My parents separated when I was 18 months old, and I have no re collection of having lived with my father at all, my mum  and I loved back to the UK and he remained in the Middle East. I saw him very infrequently during my childhood, maybe once every few years, a phone call every other year and absolutely no financial contribution to my up bringing at all. We lived in a bed sit when I was very young and eventually got a flat with social housing, but the lifts always broken and carrying a three year old up 24 flights of stairs, occasionally in the dark, can put a strain on you! My poor mum.

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The lack of financial contribution may not seem unusual but he is an extremely wealthy man and it seemed rather cruel of him. My mum worked as a cleaner to support us, food was scarce on occasion, but my mum was the one that went without, never me. The only furniture we had in our first flat was a chair and a mattress, in our second we had no cooker so used a primus camping stove ring, all very exciting for a city dwelling child – felt like ‘camping’ indoors. We had the gas and electric cut off a few times, so out came the candles and battery powered radio, rather romantic! I remember the day the men came to take our sofa and armchair away as we couldn’t afford to pay the monthly amount, that was the first and last time my mum ever got any thing on credit, she still doesn’t have a credit card. ‘If you don’t have the cash then don’t buy it’, she hated owing ‘the man’. And yet my father still refused to contribute, he would turn up on occasion to our flat, stand around in his expensive suits and remark how disgusting it was, how disgusting london was and that I (me) could have a lovely life if my mum just sent me back with him to live but she always said ‘ no’, thankfully. Essentially my father is not a nice man, as I hit my teens when ever he would show up he would call me a slag or a slut for wearing a summer dress above my knee, he would say London had made me dirty. See, what a charmer! Incidentally, I hadn’t seen or heard from my father in many months when I had gone to the local Sainsburys in Hammersmith during my lunch hour in Sixth Form, and there on the magazine shelf was was dad – on the front cover of Hello or OK magazine at the races with Princess Anne, at least I knew he wasn’t dead. He, of course, couldn’t say the same of me.

 

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Now, where was my mum in all this glorious father/ daughter bonding I hear you ask? Well, my mum had her own issues to deal with and so, for her own reasons, she never stood up for me. When he would telephone when I was little and I would cry and ask why he never remembered my birthday or bothered at all with me, he would start shouting and call me disrespectful, my mother would then shout at me telling me it was my fault that my father was shouting because I had upset him, thats hard for an eight year old to hear. I shall now divulge two rather sad things that could only come from the mind of a child; firstly, I thought that my flat must have TV cameras in so that my dad could see me because surely he couldn’t go for so long without seeing or contacting his child? I imagined him watching over me during his busy life. When I figured that wasn’t true I thought that I must be adopted, why else would he treat me so differently to his other children? Because they come from a different mother I hear you cry? well, no, I have an older brother and sister that stayed with my dad and that my mum didn’t see for sixteen years despite all her efforts, see? a cruel cruel man.

 

Between the ages of eight and eighteen my mother forced me to spend at least a week a year with him and his family, at last count he had seven children, all living with him, or now I suppose, holidaying in one of his properties in Switzerland, or Vienna or Morocco or Dubai or London. I’m not sure any more as the last time I had any contact with my father was more than ten years ago. I telephoned him, one day, thought I’d give it another go, he answered and  asked who was calling, I said to him ‘Miriam, your daughter’ and he hung up immediately, never to be seen or spoken to since. How to win friends and influence people!

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Those weeks I spent with my father in my childhood were awful, mostly spent living in a bedroom, I couldn’t understand what people were saying and I was homesick, no one ever actually spoke to me, it was as if I didn’t exist. Those experiences took a big toll on the relationship I had with my mum which has never really recovered, and yet she kept sending. In her her mind if something happened to her I would have to go and live with my dad and she wanted me to know him. When I went to stay with him in the holidays I saw him for maybe five minutes in total as he was often away working or simply had no interest in seeing me, neither did anyone else for that matter! I would have preferred to take my chances with my mum’s family had something happened to her. Well, the irony is that out of all my fathers children I am the only one who looks like him all, my siblings look like their mum, and I don’t look like my mum at all, my older brother and sister look quite like my mum. So, everyday I look in the mirror and I see the features of a man I really dislike,  a man who has treated me appallingly, left me emotionally bereft and feeling worthless, big stuff for a child to try and dissect and deal with. I used to worry about how unpleasant a man he was as I had half his DNA in me, that somehow I would turn out like him, I’m hoping I haven’t -selfish, spiteful, cruel and mean – but that up to other people confirm!

 

 

 

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

At the beginning of January Lucia turned five, which in my head seems much older than four and a lifetime away from three, she is now actually a proper bona fide walking talking little girl. I admit that it must be a bit crappy to have a birthday so near to Christmas, people trying to amalgamate gifts etc but so far this hasn’t happened to Lu which is good. She was meant to be born on my birthday in April which I was furious about as I’m not good at sharing (might be the whole only child thing) but as things turned out she was a January baby. The other thing that is a little rubbish about winter birthdays is that the weather is always shit and so out doors stuff is never a option but who am I kidding, even if her birthday was in July there is no guarantee of sunshine.

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Pre party outfit

Last year was the first time idid a ‘proper’ party for her. I rented the village hall, made sandwiches and played pass the parcel and all her nursery friends came, I had loads of super kind friends who helped me do it all and a wonderful time was had by all.

This year was a tad different. Let talk about school party politics. Lucias’ Reception class has 60  children in it, they are then split onto four sets of about 15 and each set pairs up with one other, so really she spends most of her school time with 30 kids. We were all given the names of these children at christmas time, I think with the aim of knowing who we needed to write christmas cards to so I had my invite template. I asked Lucia who out of the list she wanted to come and then added a few others that she had left out as they are nice children and she had been invited to their parties. Phew. I also invited some of her friends from nursery who she is still in touch with. I gave the invites to the teacher to put into the bags and then waited for the RSVPs – which never came. Why? So frustrating. By the morning of the party I was expecing anything between six and 30 children based on the number of RSVPs I had received. Friends with older children who’ve ‘been there done that’ assure me that this is totally normal, for me it was totally frustrating. So i erred on the side of caution and catered for 30, in the end i think it was about 12 children but they included Lucia’s most favourite friends so she didn’t notice how few children there were. It was only looking back on the photos that I noticed as most parents stay for coffee and made then hall look fuller than it actually was.

What a potential emotional nightmare? As adults we fret that no one will turn to our parties , imagine how a five year old would feel if no one showed up?

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Elsa and me

So to cut a long story short it all worked out fine in the end. My super friend S, who is also a chef, bought and made all the party food and drove it over and set it up, she also made the requested unicorn cake. R, my other super friend, came early and helped set up the tables and C & D, Lu’s god parents helped decorate.  I put the older children to good use and had them blow up the 40 balloons – twith the aid of a hand pump – I’m not Cruella de Vil you know.

I also found this amazing company online called Boxed up Party, you choose from a number of themes on offer, rainbow unicorn was perfect for me, and then choose how many children and they send you a box containing all that is needed, cups, napkins, table clothes, plates etc, I also ordered the ready made party bags, it was fantastic, great quality stuff and really cost affective, believe me I shopped around for ages and they still came in as the best value. I orders additional mini bubble bottles for the party bags but they had leaked when they arrived so I couldn’t use them but the company gave me an immediate refund and a apology which was fantastic. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Ps they haven’t paid me to say this, I’ve never come across them before but I do love a one stop good qulity shop and thought I’d pass the info on.

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My Aussie friend made these – fairy bread apparently.

Is there a secret amount of competitiveness going on re children parties and entailment? I’m not sure, Lu has been to parties where parents have hired people who do the whole shebang, entertainment, bouncy castle, games and food, I think its sensible considering how much it costs to do all the parts separately. But I had not arranged any entertainment, I have no excuse, illness, pooryliness blah bah blah. Three days before the party I was in the midst of starting to accept that I would have to do all the party games ever to keep five year olds entertained I contacted a parent at Lu’s school who does entertainment at parties and begged for help, she was booked for the day but put me in touch with a colleague who could help and snap, it all fell into place. She did a neon disco games theme, the children loved it, they danced, ate, ran round, made a mess and then all went home. Horray.

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After – As if we had never been there.

In our bath that evening I asked Lu if she had enjoyed her party, waiting to bask in the glow of parental victory but she said no, it was boring and where was the teacup roundabout? I shall explain. The village hall, where Lu had her party, is also where the Summer Fete is held and on the green in front of the hall there is usually a teacup roundabout ride Lu clearly imagined it would be there for her birthday too – ooops. I think I need to up my game next year. After her comment I did actually look up hiring teacup roundabouts for next year but at an average £750 plus it is not going to happen!!!

 

 

 

 

Here I go again on my own.

Last night Lulu sat in her bed weeping, begging me not to send her to school in the morning because she hated everything about it, and more specifically because she was lonely at school. Lonely? How could my gorgeous, kind, vivacious baby even know the existence of such a word let alone have a concept of what it means? and so there, sat on her bed holding her hand and wiping away her tears my heart fell out of my chest and shattered all over the floor. Which is where it remains.

I have written previously about Lulu’s difficulties settling into school, but I genuinely felt that things had improved. She doesn’t dawdle in the morning and scoots happily off to her class room, other children say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to her each day, when I drop her at her class room she goes off with out a backward glance to do her drawings at the communal table. She has never been sent home from school, apart from the time she had laryngitis. On Sunday night she indicated she didn’t want to go to school the next day because she had no friends and no one who she asks will play with her, that the only people she speaks to are teachers, that people play rough in the playground and she sometimes gets pushed. I have already spoken twice with her class teacher about my concerns but she assured me that Lu does have friends, does play with others and is never sad at school. I believe her so what to do?

I like Lulus school, it is academically good, the staff are nice, the parents and children are nice, the headmistress is lovely, the ethos is brilliant but not all children will fit into all schools and visa versa, neither of these things are necessarily anyones fault. Square peg, round hole. And this is the conclusion I am coming to regarding Lulu. There are 60 children in her reception class, split into four groups but at anyone time, including the children from nursery who come into play, there can be 80 plus small children in one room doing any number of activities that they choose, drawing, writing, craft, art etc. It is a vibrant place to be but I can see that it can also be potentially overwhelming. Lulu’s concept of having’friends’ may be different to the actual reality of it but she started full time nursery at 10 months and didn’t seem to have these issues. She isn’t a ‘I have one best friend’ type of child, she plays with lots of different children but is finding it hard when she asks someone to play and they say no. She doesn’t seem to grasp that it isn’t because they don’t like her but they that want to do something else.

I hung out in Lulus classroom this morning for an hour or so, just watching what was going on, parents are allowed to stay as long as they want, it isn’t sormething I have done before as I don’t think it is helpful for Lulu as it could prove to be a distraction but I needed to see what was going on. It was as I expected, a classroom of happy, loud, busy children. Playing in one area then moving on to other things as they wished, Lulu did the same.

The only conclusion I have come to is that the school may just ‘too much’ for her, that she may fit better in a smaller class, a smaller school but its not as if we can magic these things out of nowhere. I am a single parent with no family, save my mum, I can’t afford school fees for a private school, I could consider one of the small local village schools but how do I get her there and home. I work full time in London and my mum can’t drive. So what to do? I’ve decided to sit with it a while, and see how the next few months go, but I worry that she will feel I have ignored her fears, that I don’t care when she says she is unhappy, that I increase her sense of loneliness. I just want Lulu to be happy, that’s all, she is only four. That’s not too much to hope for is it?

Just call me Doctor.

I love academia, I love books and libraries and lectures, always have. I did my first degree at the University of Liverpool, a BA(Hons) in Classical Studies, but I wasn’t a massive fan of being there. Liverpool is a fantastic city but I was shy, I was lonely and I couldn’t focus. I didn’t have that ‘amazing time’ that everyone else talks about, I didn’t make lots of friends but I stuck it out. I was also in a very unpleasant and unhealthy relationship for a lot of my time at uni which left its mark on me, in some instances, literally. In my first year I didn’t do much and got rather ordinary grades but then I worked my ass off for the final two and got a 2:2, I was pleased with that.

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Then I got full funding to do a Masters, I didn’t know anyone else doing post grad study and I remained shy so I retreated into my books, spending hours translating great swathes of Virgil from Latin to English and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I came out of that with a Masters in Classics, with specific reference to Latin and Ancient Greek and a dissertation on Infanticide in 5th Century BC Greek Tragedy – stop yawning, its fascinating stuff.

After that I had no idea what to do so I came home to London and ended up running clubs and bars for 6 years then one morning I thought ‘ooo, I’m a bit bored, I should take a class in something interesting’. I watched Legally Blond and thought yes, that looks fab, and so I did a Law Conversion Degree part time over two years (honestly, that bit about Legally Blonde is true), then a two year part time Legal Practice Course to be a Solicitor, then the required two year training contract which I was super lucky to get as each training contract has on average 100 applicants! Then I qualified as a bright new shiny Criminal Defence Solicitor and I loved it, even the prison visits. But the government decimated legal aid, the on call at nights and weekends wasn’t conducive to baby rearing so off I went to do a pseudo legal job relating to employment law which is what I do now and I am very satisfied. But I haven’t been resting on my laurels, I have been working on a research proposal for the last 18 months and finally it has come to pass, I have been offered a place at Oxford Brookes University to do my PhD!!!! Yeah. I shall still work full time and do the PhD part time, I start in January and its going to be brilliant.

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The topic isn’t to everyone’s taste, Why Parents Murder Their Children, but it happens, we can’t ignore it and I think is a worthwhile study.And I’ll also get to do all the important school stuff like buying stationary and pens and making homework lists.

On a more serious note, I am nervous about taking such a vast project on but I am excited, I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time and finally my dream is actually coming true. It’ll be a learning curve, full time work, commute, single mum and PhD but it will all so be worth it, especially when I make everyone call me Doctor.