We lost a friend recently to Sarcoma and she was too young. When people moan and groan about how old they are I think about the people and their families who would have loved to have seen just one more birthday.
We lost a friend recently to Sarcoma and she was too young. When people moan and groan about how old they are I think about the people and their families who would have loved to have seen just one more birthday.
When people think of single parents lots of them will think firstly about how tough it is and it is. You are responsible for all the decisions. There’s no-one to chew things over with. No-one to bear half the brunt of the tantrums and the arguments. On the flip side of that you don’t have to share any of the good stuff.
My oldest and I were on our own on and off for the majority of his first fifteen years. It was me and him against the world. We were a team. We also had a huge amount of fun.
When the film Paranormal Activity first came out my son nagged me to death to be allowed to watch it, he was 7 years old. Apparently all his friends had watched it and they were fine and the only person who had a mean mother was him. I stood my ground in the face of a child with the persistence of a seagull at the seaside. A few years later it was on the TV and it started all over again. Weeks this went on. Weeks of being the only person who was nagged incessantly and without mercy.
It was time for my son to learn a valuable life lesson. The last time he asked me if we could watch it I said yes, he was 10 years old at this point, he puffed out his chest and laughed in the face of this scary film. Like this film was even going to bother him. Pah.
We settled down to watch it. He had been sitting at the end of the sofa but over the twenty minutes the film had been on he had gotten closer and closer to me and was now sitting practically on my lap and a cushion had appeared in front of his face. “I don’t like it. I don’t want to watch anymore” he announced. “Well that’s tough” I said “You nagged to have this film on and now I’m watching it”. Then he asked me to turn it off and I explained that I was watching it and that if he didn’t want to watch it anymore then he could go to bed. He was too scared to go to bed on his own. “Then the only choice you have is to stay down here and watch this with me”. His ideal scenario by this point was that we switch the film off and go to bed together so I could protect him as by this point my brave ten year old son was shitting bricks. I made him watch that film right to end and when he started sobbing I shushed him as I couldn’t hear what the voice on the videotape of the woman being thrown around violently by an invisible entity was saying.
After that he didn’t ask me if could watch any scary films again and I let him sleep in my bed that night. I’m not completely evil. I may have said “did you hear that?” after I’d turned the light off but I stopped messing around when he started crying.
I didn’t say I wasn’t evil I said I wasn’t completely evil.
Warning; this is not light Sunday evening reading. This is dark heavy shit I hope though it gives an insight to who I am. The things that happened when I was growing up shaped my thought patterns and later my own behaviour.
Every day in school the girls would be telling each other how they’d got their periods and how they were all in a bra and they’d graduated from crop tops. It was the summer holidays and I was glad to have a break from lying about having my period. It was about 10 days after my 13th birthday and I came on for the first time ever. I was so excited I was a woman finally. I had my period. I was normal and finally I was one of the girls.
I barged into my mother’s room and jumped up and down on the bed screaming like a loon telling her I had had my period and it was right then I knew something was off but I was so caught up in the euphoria of being normal at last and completely absorbed in myself that I didn’t stop to take a moment. I went off to do my thing, probably to tell my diary what an awesome day this was.
It can’t have been more than an hour later when my father asked me where my mother was. I said that she’d told me she was going down the road for milk. I think we all knew then that something was wrong. She had been gone a bit too long and the shops wouldn’t have been open that early anyway so it didn’t take a detective to figure out shit was going down. I went to her friend’s house to ask if they had seen her and she been there knocking on the door asking to borrow some milk and then had left. My father discovered all her anti depressants had gone and he telephoned the police.
The police were in the house. They wanted to search the house and I was really angry because I thought if she was in the house why would we have rung you but that was my 13 year old perspective not realising they had a job to do. I had to take them to the top of the garden so they could search the shed and again I was really angry because I thought they were wasting time. My mother had disappeared somewhere with a shit load of tablets and they were looking for her in our shed and if she was in the shed we would have found her because we already looked in the shed and she definitely wasn’t there and I knew that she was very short but I definitely wouldn’t have missed her had she been in the shed.
By this time the neighbours knew. The neighbours knew that my crazy mother had disappeared with a shitload of tablets and a couple of pints of milk and had gone off to take an overdose. The helicopter arrived soon after that. The police,the helicopter, my neighbours, my brother’s, my dad and myself searched for my mother. We spent the whole day searching for my mother and the whole time we were searching I prayed. I prayed like I have never prayed before “Please don’t let my mum be dead. Please don’t let my mum be dead. Please bring my mum back to me. Please don’t let my mum be dead”.
I don’t know how long it was after that but we had the telephone call to say that they’d found her picked her up and taken her to hospital. Everything was a bit of a blur. I remember arriving at the hospital and seeing my mother laying on a bed with a long plastic tube hanging out of the side of her mouth with was covered in charcoal and crying. I had two overwhelming feelings at that point, relief, thank god she was alive. My mother had not died. I had not lost my mother that day and the second was overwhelming pain. Why didn’t my mother love me enough to want to stick around and look after me? Why did she hate us so much that she wanted to get away from us?
Nobody took me to one side to tell me that it wasn’t my fault. Noone took me to one side to tell me that my mothers’ suicide attempt was nothing to do with her feelings about me. Nobody talked to me about it at all. We weren’t allowed to talk about it. In fact I was told by lots of different people not to talk to my mother about it. We weren’t allowed to talk to anybody about it. If there was something wrong or if we were worried about something or we had a problem we were told to keep it to ourselves because our mother had enough on her plate. My mother was depressed and they were afraid that if we bothered her with our problems it might tip her over the edge again so anything which meant that when my dad sexually abused me a few months later while my mother was in hospital having been sectioned I had it drummed into me that I couldn’ tell anybody so I kept it to myself.
They say every cloud has got a silver lining and on the bright side he never asked me to shove a dildo up his ass.
My relationship history is like the worlds worst CV. The journey towards my husband was like a 12 step recovery programme. It’s was hard, it was ugly and did I some things I’am ashamed of. I treated people badly and I was treated badly.
The thing about having sociopathic parents is that you grow up having zero self worth. “If my own parents can’t love me then no-one can” became my mantra for life. It was my motto. If I had a family crest that would be the wording in Latin. The picture would probably have been a can of Special Vat and an ashtray. No one protected me and no one made the right choices for me. I was not looked after properly. Right up until my late twenties I didn’t know how to make the right choices for myself and it wasn’t until my late thirties that I realised I was worthy of love and care.
I drowned my childhood sorrows in alcohol at university and tried to cover my trauma with vodka and fags.
I got to University engaged. I clung onto my fiance like a security blanket. Until I found my feet and then he was cast aside. I met my sons dad and he became my best friend. I was able to confide in him absolutely everything. I poured out all my childhood distress faster than bread sales at the first flake of snow. He listened, he sympathised, he was protective.
I was an awful girlfriend. I was a drunk. I was emotionally unstable. Like Britney Spears 2007 shaving her own head level unstable. We lived together for a year and then everything imploded. Even Mystic Meg could’ve predicted that it wasn’t going to work. We were both 21. I was an arse and he was a selfish stoner. We got pregnant and then I found out there was somebody else and I left.
That was it. Didn’t see him again for 3 years. We royally fucked each other over. For all of those 3 years I wanted to stab him in the eyes with a rusty fork for disappearing and not having anything to do with our son. I was angry with the rejection that our son didn’t deserve but I put my big girl pants on and when Thomas was three we got over ourselves and worked it out. One thing I will be eternally proud of though is our friendship now. He has been in Thomas’s life since he was 3 years old and he has been a patient, loving and dedicated father. He’s bailed me out of more financial scrapes than I care to list, he listened to all my romantic woes and been there for me when I’ve been at my lowest ebb. He’s lived through my subsequent relationships disintegrating and he has backed me up on every single thing with our son. He is to this day one of my closest and most valued friends.
Things between us are exactly the way they were always meant to be. If things had worked out with him I wouldn’t have my daughter and I wouldn’t have met the person who I realise I was meant to be with all along. My husband.
How do you deal with the hurt and disappointment that your children have to go. How do you come to terms with their upset and hurt. How do you let go. It’s hard when you realise you can’t stop the world from hurting them but harder when it’s you doing the hurting.
I feel awful today. Two of my children are struggling when they should just be busy being kids. We are turning all their lives upside down trying to do the right thing by one of them knowing it will have an impact on us all. Myself and my husband are big enough and ugly to handle it. We know we are doing the right thing for the right reasons but it’s the kids who also have to cope with the fallout.
My daughter is a nurturer. A motherer. I knew when I told her that I was pregnant with Arthur and she cried because she was so happy that she was going to be an awesome big sister. Really I knew long before that. I knew she was an awesome big sister when she formed the closest bond with her childminders daughters. Very often the childminder would say she didn’t know how she would’ve coped some days without my daughter there. She is naturally loving and caring and she feel things very deeply. Often she can’t articulate what she’s feeling. Today she could. Today she asked me why me and her brothers Dad were such good friends but
why me and her Daddy couldn’t be friends.
How do you explain that to a 9 year old. I don’t want to diss her father to her. I don’t think it’s right. My daughter is entitled to a full and loving relationship with her father and her father’s family totally separate and unaffected by my relationship or previous relationship with him. I don’t agree with people who say “she’ll understand when she’s older”. I don’t want her to. I don’t ever want her to think her father is an idiot or a bad dad or be disappointed by him. So I don’t want her to find out or realise anything when she’s older.
I didn’t know how to explain adult feelings and mature complicated relationships to my crying 9 year old who just wants everyone to be friends. So instead I told her I loved her very much and that her father loved her very much and that we didn’t need to be friends to be able to do that.
And then I felt like shit for the rest of the day.
I think it’s time to tell you a bit more about my Dad. Apart from his penchant for a dildo up his bot (each to their own) there was far more to him than that.
When I was a kid he used to tell me about how he and his friends used to have cow pat throwing fights and how the cow pats depending on their freshness would crack and spread when they landed covering the target in cow shit. His mum used to take him to school and he’d run straight back out of the school gates and beat her home.
Despite his sophisticated childhood hobbies and his patchy schooling he fancied himself an intellectual.
My favourite thing he ever did was when I was in Primary school. We had a postal system in the school for Christmas cards and you could send cards to your friends in different classes by posting them in the wooden postbox on the classroom wall. It was the end of the school day. The postbox in our classroom was just out of my reach so on tiptoes with one hand I grabbed the box and used it to pull myself up and pop my cards in the box with the other hand. Unfortunately for me the box came off in my hand. Back in the 80’s teachers were still sneakily caning and rapping knuckles with wooden rulers. They were still mean. On seeing the box in my hand my class teacher marched over and grabbed me tightly by ear. Marched me down the corridor to where my father was waiting to collect me and informed him that his vandal daughter had wrenched the postbox off the wall and demanded he come to the classroom and fix it. In that moment he became my hero, my champion, he replied “on yer bike love that’s what your caretakers for” took my hand and we walked out.
I will never forget that day and how much I loved him for putting that horrible woman in her place. Unfortunately he doesn’t remain my hero to this day. Dildo or no dildo.
How many people do you reckon say they aren’t going to treat their kids the way their parents treated them. Granted my parents are a peculiarity but I honestly can’t imagine treating my kids the way my parents treated me. I can’t help but wonder though, if despite my best efforts my son is going to say the same thing about my parenting style. I discovered today that the optical illusion where you see the same picture inside a picture inside a picture is called the Droste Effect. I wonder if there is a parenting equivalent where we perpetuate cycles of behaviour. There probably is and it’s probably got a sociological name but I’m a visual person so I like the Droste Effect to describe it.
When I was chatting to my older brother earlier we were comparing our experiences of our parents. We had exactly the same mother and father but our experiences of who they were and how they behaved couldn’t be more different.
For example, my mother regularly used to tell me what a tyrant and deviant my father was and the sorts of things he did that were the reason she was so depressed. When I was 15 or 16, I can’t even remember the context of the conversation only that my mother was in tears as usual, but she announced (as further evidence of my father’s reign of misery over her) that my father liked her to push a dildo up his bum.
Let that just sink in for a minute. I was a teenager. That was my father.
What exactly was I supposed to do with that information?
I marched straight into my younger brother’s bedroom and said “if I’ve got to be traumatised by this shit then you have too, dad likes mum to shove a dildo up his arse” to which he let out a long “eeeewwwwwwwwwwwwww” and we never discussed it again.
I can hand on heart say I have never shared this level of intimate information with any of my children. For which they should thank me.
This is probably the hardest blog post I’ll write.
The reason I’m doing this blog is because I want to write. I have always wanted to be a writer. I have always loved books. I have read books that have literally changed my life and the books I read as a child and then a young adult shaped my world and the way I viewed the world. To be able to write a book and send it into the world and have someone read it and be moved by it would be the ultimate accomplishment. To be able to write something that touches someone’s heart and makes an impact on them even if it is only one person, that would be enough.
So that brings me back to this.
I have read a lot about writing over the years and the one thing that really stuck with me was that you have to write what you know. What I know is my childhood and my life. Then the difficult bit. How honest to be. How far to put myself out there. I have wanted to write about my childhood for nearly 20 years but have always been too afraid.
I’m going to be forty this year. If ever there was a time to be brave its now surely?
Our parenting style is heavily influenced by the way we are brought up. We either swear to do it completely differently to the way our parents did it or we want to be the parents for our children that ours were for us. I’m in the first camp. My parents were so messed up. I couldn’t think of two less suitable people to put in charge of children. Like asking two toddlers to organise a school trip. Reader, that may sound harsh but read on.
When I was nine years old I read a book called “It’s Not the End of the World” by Judy Blume. The book was about a young girls parents who were getting divorced. I didn’t really understand what divorce was just that it was a terrible thing and the girl in the book clearly did think it was the end of the world. Sometime later my mummy asked me to go shopping with her into the city. I was still nine years old, the same age my daughter is now. This was the day that changed my whole life. My mummy sat me down on a bench in the shopping precinct, burst into tears and asked me if was okay if she left my Daddy. I was terrified. The girl in the books world had ended when her parents split up. I loved my Mummy and my Daddy. I didn’t want to have to choose who to live with. I was frightened. I burst into tears and told my Mummy that I didn’t want my parents to split up.
They didn’t split up, then.
Every day that followed that day at the shopping precinct and everything that happened therafther was my fault. When my mother became so depressed that she attempted suicide that was my fault “because you didn’t let me leave your father when I wanted to”. Anything that didn’t go right was my fault because I did not give her permission that day to end her marriage . I made a decision that I was not emotionally or mentally mature enough or prepared for. It’s not for children to worry about adult matters.
I understand mental health, I’ve had mental health issues but there is a difference between illness and responsibility. I have been ill in the past. Mental illness and relinquishing all responsibility for your behaviour are different. Don’t misunderstand me, if you don’t have capacity to make your own decisions I’m not condemning you.
What my 39 year-old self is able to rationalise is that this wasn’t personal. This and other things that happened was the behaviour of someone who was a damaged child who happened to grow up and have children of their own.
I can’t take it personally. I won’t take it personally. Not anymore. There it is. It’s out there.
I started writing my story about fifteen years ago and I showed it to a friend, her response “it’s a bit bleak”. It crippled my confidence and I stopped writing. She was right though, it was bleak but all these years later I’ve come to realise that some stories are just bleak. Some times stories just are awful and there is no twist or one liner that comes at the end to save everyone from awkwardness, that satisfies everyone and makes everyone feel okay.
Most of the time when I’m sharing one of the many awful things that have happened to me I’m able to use my dark humour to make sure everyone is able to laugh at the end. It’s not because I think it’s funny or because I’m okay with what happened to me. Mostly it’s to make sure everyone is okay with what they heard and a bit less uncomfortable. Mostly because I’m afraid of judgement. Bring perceived as weak or as a victim.
Uncomfortable things happen all the time. I think trying to be comfortable all the time is a big mistake. Comfortable means you don’t try and change anything, you don’t take action against injustice. Comfortable means you don’t develop as a person. You get stuck. I think we need to face it down. To look uncomfortable in the eye and say “I feel you”.
Don’t get me wrong my sense of humour has been my most used weapon and defence in my mental and emotional arsenal. I’m a huge believer in laughter is the best medicine and all that. My sense of humour has powered me through many a dark day. What I am going to do now though is tell my story honestly and unapologetically. Parts of it will make for deeply uncomfortable reading but its my story and to try and cover it with a nice sheen would be dishonest and misleading. To quote the fabulous Albin Mougette “I am What I am”
Bringing up kids on your own is like trying to herd cats whilst wearing a blindfold after someone has spun you around a few times.
One of the hardest things about being a single mum to a boy in adolescence was the stage where he was bigger than me physically and began to try and dominate me. Not physically dominate but wanting to have the last word and tell me how it was going to be. It was a tough time for both of us from about 14 onwards. He was a boy (not yet a man, im singing Britney in my head) pushing the boundaries as all kids do and trying to be the man of the house. Kids take the piss, but only if you let them. There was a constant power struggle and it was absolutely exhausting. I couldn’t physically dominate him. Long gone were the days I could catch him to give him a swift slap. I thought, this is the crossroads. This is the bit where I either do battle every day to maintain my position or I give in.
I’ve always the thought that it was important to let kids be kids and if you let them be adults before they’re ready that’s when it can all go tits up. If I let him ride rough shod all over me I’ve lost it. I’ve lost him, I’ve lost his respect and I’ve lost any chance of keeping him on the straight and narrow when he needs it the most. So we duelled. Daily. He had to know that I was in charge and it was safe for him to be the kid.
This also meant I had come up with new punishments. They reach an age where they aren’t afraid you of so you have to make them afraid of the sanction. Parenting on your own means you always have to think on your feet and become more ingenious and creative.
Obviously any parent these days will know that he who pays the WiFi bill is King. Revoking internet rights was my go to punishment for a long time. My son however, is to arguing what an ultra runner is to marathons. He has stamina, energy and a determination to continue a row to the death if needs be. I would end up going from threatening to turn off the WiFi for a day, to two days to a week to a month in the space of five sentences, he would counter with “I don’t even care” to which I would scream “FINE, TWO MONTHS THEN!!!” and the row would end with us sweating and red faced like two ancient gladiators.
However he got so used to not having WiFi and as with any overused punishment it began to lose its effect. Forced to be creative and also not one willing to concede a fight, I battled on.
I breastfed all my kids and the one threat that served me well for many years was “you do that again and I’m going to tell all your friends that you used to suck my tits”