Clipped Wings

It’s just before 3am and LO has woken me up complaining he needs a cuddle from his dad. I pack him back off to bed unhappily (he has form) and then, wide awake now, I turn to check my phone. It’s in the boy’s room, by the MO’s bed. I had given it to him last night to listen to a mindfulness meditation in another attempt to try and calm his ever-increasingly bad behaviour down. As I look at the phone, I see an email from his teacher that arrived later in the night, after he had fallen asleep. We correspond regularly to try and keep on top of the issues that he has at school and at home. What I read, feels like the worst one yet; he spent another morning out of his yr 5 class and was with yr 3 instead. She is worried about how this is affecting him academically; I agree but equally I understand that this ‘low level’ behaviour has a ripple effect on other children’s learning and let’s face it, it’s downright wearing.

At home, we deal with the manipulation, the anger, the tantrums. Equally, there is humour, compassion and affection. I watch him flit from emotion to emotion like a butterfly, unable to land for long before being tempted elsewhere. Like a motor he is propelled by his thoughts and his ego, what can he do to impress next and if that fails, who can he mentally destroy? He somehow sets us all up, himself included; maybe a request to do something he knows he can’t do so that when he is declined, he over-reacts, a ready-made vent for his anger and emotions to pour out of; unrepressed steam from an engine. It’s like having a car that constantly overheats, you live in fear of being stuck in traffic on a hot day; eyes straining to see if there are tiny tell-tale wisps of steam creeping up from the radiator over the bonnet. A bottle of water lying in the passenger footwell, just waiting to refill the arid void but knowing that it’s always a bit too late. Everything is a bit too late.

I worry about his future. I worry about our future. How is he going to get through the teenage years? Will he get his school qualifications if he can’t even sit still during a class or is constantly moving to a different one? Will he get expelled? Will he make college? Will he hurt someone? Will he go to jail? What, to some, may seem extreme fears, for a mother who has watched, like a car crash, their child struggle with regulating their behaviour since they were two and a half, these fears seem real. He slips through the system like a piece of mercury. He hasn’t hurt himself or anyone else so CAMHS won’t touch him and he doesn’t ‘qualify’ for NHS help because he isn’t severe enough. Even friends and other parents of his school friends don’t completely understand what it is like to live with him because he is so highly functioning; so utterly charming and clever. Only those closest to us can see the cracks that show when he is denied. When his speech gets so bad that his voice becomes shrill as he forces his words to get out. I feel like inside this locked cocoon is this child desperate to break free of his shackles but unable to find the key. His wings are clipped.

We have strategies (which fail) and we have plans (which we hope won’t fail). I hope to get him on an intensive stammer course in London this Summer and I am waiting for another CAMHS referral to be refused but will push on regardless and we have other appointments in the pipeline, some NHS, some private.

In the meantime we shall continue to tell him we love him and we shall continue to ground him when he is mean. And until he can break out of his cocoon, I’ll continue trying to make his butterfly house the best it can be so that when he is ready, it is has all the nourishment he needs.

We’ve Talked About It, So…….

Nothing.. absolutely nothing has changed!!

justbeinghere

….why the f**k hasn’t it happened? (Not quite ready to swear yet, too early for online swearing).

This morning has been the usual humdinger of a morning. 6am began with MO winding up LO, getting hurt by him and then sliding down his usual helterskelter of woe and ending up in a proper shite mood. For some reason he doesn’t understand that jumping on our bed at that time of the morning and shouting at the top of his voice isn’t acceptable by anyone’s standards.. certainly not our Very-Quiet-Despite-Also-Having-Children-Neighbours. He then proceeded to slam his bedroom door repeatedly (although we were edging towards 6.30 so police/socialservices/noisenuisance team, slightly less likely to be called). By the time I had got downstairs to iron, yes I did type that correctly – changes are afoot as promised – his clothes for school.. I was then told I didn’t care because he…

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Shoes and Nail Varnish

I miss my grandmother. Things so small can suddenly remind me of her. Elderly female patients with their painted fingernails or the way they bend and reach their fingers down to remove their shoe for an examination.

She was a force to be reckoned with on the outside, soft and insecure on the inside. Crabby sometimes, like the Cancerian she was. And vain. Oh so very vain. She needed prettiness in her life to brighten the dark evenings that being alone brought her. She once said to me when I complained about a boyfriend, ‘surely it is better to at least have a man in your life, rather than have nobody?’. She craved attention and whilst loved by many, in those last 20 years, it wasn’t the kind she sought.

Brought up with austere Victorian parents who apparently didn’t have much by way of loving parenting skills and by her own limited accounts, were shy of affection or warmth. Her own house apparently should have been a bungalow except her husband refused to sleep on the ground floor and so an upstairs was built – which was a shame – he ran off with another woman not long after.

My memories of the house are that it was cold and often felt ominous. Difficult to put a finger on why but it was the sort of place where you had to sing very loudly whenever you felt scared. Just in case. I couldn’t manage to enter or exit anywhere that was dark without loud singing, it was a Ghost Shield. Central heating didn’t exist in Woodpeckers and often it felt like there was literally no heating at all except for when you were practically sat on top of a two bar electric fire or sat directly in front of the open fire, competing for space with her oversized cats. And of course then you had the choice of having one side of your body absolutely freezing and the other burning to a cinder.. so you’d quickly turn round and repeat the process on the other side. I remember in the mornings before school, watching my breath above the counterpane.. knowing that I had to somehow race across the room, plug in the electric fire and then race back, grabbing my uniform on the way and hurtling under the covers again. I would dress inside the bed, getting tangled up in my knickers and tights. Only then could I brave the ‘outside’. The bathroom and toilet were the worst. You had to brace yourself before you sat on the toilet seat… the water from the bathroom basin burning your hands and face, it was so cold. The millions of spiders in the corners that kept watch, looking on, their eight knees a-knocking.

The kitchen, was a different story. I loved the kitchen. A coal boiler in the corner, the Heat Mecca; I would worship it first thing in the morning and straight after school. There was a wicker basket beside it, just big enough for a cat much wider to try and wedge it’s gargantuan body into. The walls were yellow and white painted French windows overlooked  the wild front garden, with a string of monkey nuts hung from one tree to another. The nuts were for the birds but the squirrels would often get there first; cue Phyllis racing outside shouting at them to go away. I would sit in the kitchen at the small dining table doing my homework after school, listening to her teaching the piano to another child. She painstakingly attempted patience but both I and the pupil could hear the rising irritation as she would try not to bark “back straight, shoulders back!”.

She had shoulder length brown hair that she would curl and pin every night. She practised her floor exercises every morning and I remember being tiny, laying beside her, desperately trying to do bicycles in the air. Her nails had to be painted, usually a coral sort of colour and she wouldn’t be seen without her lipstick. If you rang the doorbell before she was dressed she would shout ‘bugger, bugger, bugger!’, with each step as she came to the front door. Seething with anger that she had been interrupted. And sometimes if you rang her on the phone you could almost hear her angrily muttering “I can’t STAND IT” as she answered. She would tell you she had no time at all to talk to you but you couldn’t get a word in edgeways until she had finished regaling her current news.  Then in a fit of fresh annoyance she would protest that you had now made her late for something and  hang up. Left open-mouthed still trying to say hello, slowly you’d replace the handset.

She loved nature. Her garden was her world. She had somehow managed to create a fantasy world for me as a child. The French windows and doors opening up onto a patio that flowed onto a rockery – full of pink flowers and jumping spiders – which led to a a lawn split into two by a flowerbed. Then there was the woodland part, to the left a black metal swing with an uncomfortable rotting, wooden seat and upon which I spent many a day swinging on.. until I felt sick. To the right there was a little copse with painted white metal furniture and between two staunch trees, lay a hammock. She would lie in it whenever she felt she had time but most often I remember her retiring there in late summer evenings. Her safe place. Past the copse the path took you to the rose garden, the apple trees and the vegetable garden. Long, hot Summer days I spent there ‘helping’ her garden. As I grew up, the more I resisted, preferring to spend time with other teenage friends, getting wasted and preying on fresh blood who simply saw me as the London bike. She gardened up until 3 weeks before she died. Balancing awkwardly on a kitchen chair, bending down to slowly pick the weeds, she refused to be beaten. I remember climbing the apple tree with my (imaginary) friends, I would dress up and pretend to have adventures; she even had a rope ladder made for me. In this same tree, my mother once sat there in her early teenage years, angrily refusing to go back into the house after having locked Phyllis and her musician friends in the front room. She caused quite a stir.

We camped when I was young. She would put the tent up in the garden and I remember lying there, the sky still light. There were long walks with picnics. So many, many picnics. No season would, or could stop the picnics. Birthday ones were a favourite. The older she got the more scant they became. For her 80th I threw her a summer party at her house and I am glad I did, as she died less than two years later. She used to have one most summers; a midsummer party based on a theme.. She would always get cross with the guests not going into the right place at the right time. “But it’s warm and light outside, why aren’t they in the garden? They should be in the garden!”. She was a social butterfly but like a moth to a flame, she would return to the house, banging against its loneliness.

When the three of us were together, my Mum would inexplicably become naughty. She couldn’t help herself. Phyllis would start a conversation, Mum would snigger and make a joke and before we knew it, the three of us would be snorting, then howling with laughter. I miss that. I miss that so much.

The house was sold and within a few years it had been sold again and knocked down by developers. I have seen the new house, mostly in dreams. And I still see Woodpeckers. I am never afraid now and I know Phyllis is dead but she comes back to life in her bed upstairs and the doctors are baffled. And then I nurse her while she dies again. I put this down to guilt or grief, as the day I decided not to stay with her in hospital, happened to be the day she died.

Finally, my favourite memory is on Christmas Day and us squishing in her queen size bed, Mum at the end.. all of our legs managing to find space. And on the bed too, was a baby rabbit I had received just before Xmas, Cecily Parsley (later named Cecil.. for obvious reasons). S/he bounded about the bed, skipping and causing us to squeal with joy. Droppings pinging everywhere but we didn’t care. He slept in a box next to the cats, by the boiler until he was old enough to move into a hutch.

Whether our paths will ever cross again, who knows.. But each time I see a rose, or smell lavender, or I hear the word ‘Bugger!’ – I’ll always have her close to me.

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Bitter Lemons

Sometimes I just want to write and write and write. But I can’t because too many people know me and I have to censor what is written. I don’t want to drop any huge bombshells or go on a rant about friends or colleagues, I just want that freedom to share some of the things that lay hidden and buried, like an unfermented piece of lemon at the bottom of the compost- too bitter for the worms to swallow. I can’t talk my words if that makes sense. The moment my mouth opens, the words sound whiny and empty or maybe that’s just because they are linked to my face. Maybe it’s my expression as I speak, which nullifies the true depth of what I am trying to express. I think it harks to childhood. The desperation to be accepted and the anger at feeling pushed away. The strong entities in my life that I hated and adored at the same time. Their ability to turn (in my mind) totally justifiable protestations into mere whinges or at best, petulant tantrums. That feeling of never being quite good enough.

The EO is living this currently. She, too, has the luxury of these same figures advancing upon her self-esteem with the ferocity of the Queen or Bishop on the chessboard. Don’t look away, they have crept up closer. She, too, is battling with the horrors of rejection and I see her sink lower each day. I don my armour and stand her ground but I am invisible, to her and to everyone else. ‘Not my battle Chloe’, I remind myself, ‘not my battle’.

What I am trying to teach her is that these are lessons. Really shitty, shitty lessons. We both have the tendency to over-dramatise. I think it is probably one of the crappier legacies she and I have been left.. fed down from my grandmother if not before her. Strong women but harbouring a fontanelle the size of a fucking lake. Knowing what, but not knowing how. How can she reset this so that she doesn’t follow this same self-destructive path? How can I guide her without leading? How can I teach her that the views of others are not worth a lack of self respect? She sees the changes I have made but like a missile on a preset route, she continues on her way.

The one thing that (almost completely) giving up alcohol has done, is forced me to really scrutinise why I drank. In the last few months, flashbacks of memories long suppressed, jump in my view as I turn the corner on my way home. A sharp intake of breath and panic as I see a scenario play out before me and I quickly swot it aside so that I don’t crash. Encounters I can never, ever take back.

I think back to being 16, living in a student flat share and drinking at some ridiculous time in the day because one of my college mates had witnessed shocking behaviour the night before and laid into me about it. I remained on my own in the flat, polishing off half a litre bottle of vodka, cider, wine.. anything that remained. I took about 14, apparently harmless, tablets and I passed out for nearly 2 days. I woke up in my own urine, fading in and out of consciousness. I wish that sort of story was a one off but it isn’t. There are so many painful and heart-rending, not to mention fucking stupid, situations that I put myself into. Situations I refused to believe were bad at the time. That I argued were ‘my choice’. And now, like a proper pissed off lioness, I prowl the maze of my daughter’s mind, trying to do what I know cannot be done.

Alcohol has not been good for me. If I think back, I can attribute pretty much every stupid thing I have done, down to alcohol and a lack of self esteem. A false sense of bravado. Fun at times maybe.. but also so full of danger, for me and others I have been with. I can’t and don’t want to stop anyone from drinking, unless they have that tiny little inkling… that they too can link alcohol to a large percentage of errors in their lives. If that’s the case.. comment below. The more people that admit there is an issue, the stronger we can be.

To stop myself from going completely insane, I am practising mindfulness meditation using this book. in the hope that I can create enough space between my thoughts and my actions. I’m basically hoping that a sense of serenity will pervade our house (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) and that in time, I will no longer need feet because I will simply glide…….. yeah.. wish me luck on that one 🙂