A True Christmas Gift!

Kindness matters and so does perspective. Particularly at this time of year.

I don’t often get news from the day at school, but in the car on the way home today, Tiny Miss H proudly told me that she had a part in the nativity play.

A step up from last year when she was part of the crowd; ‘a villager’, so with excitement she announced proudly that she will be the Donkey.  We celebrated, laughing and happy for her, and thrilled that she was so proud.

Then she said something that made me cry.

“I was a King, but I swapped” she chirped merrily.

I know what you are thinking, most kids would be happy to be King so why did she swap?  Was it ‘taken’ from her for some reason?  Why?  How had this situation occurred?  Had she been duped into swapping by some other wily child?

After a short pause she continued;

“Freddie* was the Donkey and he was crying because he didn’t want to be, so I swapped”.

“Oh Darling that was such a kind thing to do.  I am incredibly proud of you….” I started but she interrupted, almost irritated at my apparent stupidity.  She queried;

“What?  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s what a King would do.”  As though it was the most natural thing on earth.

At that moment my tears started flowing.  I can’t tell you how proud that made me.

“Yes, yes, it is Darling.  It’s exactly what a king would do” I choked through my emotion, thinking ‘it’s certainly what a ‘King’ SHOULD do, but in this day and age, how many people do we actually know who would?”  (I’m very proud to know one!)

Her big sister, Little Miss H and I were explaining how you can be kind and generous without doing yourself a disservice.  We wanted to be sure that Tiny fully understood the generosity of her decision.  Little Miss H admitted she wouldn’t have given up the role.  Both the other Kings are Tiny’s friends and one of whom is her best friend, so to readily step away takes immense selflessness, or we worried, obliviousness.  Does she fully comprehend what she has done?  Does she realise that she can’t swap back?  It’s a one way move that I really don’t think many people would make.

Freddie will have the memories of standing proudly on the stage in a cape and crown, forever.  His parents will have their proud photos of their ‘King’ and will no doubt keep their momento programme with his name against the role ‘King’.  In that moment she built up a little boy whose heart was broken.

We explained how very kind it was, what a true Christmas gift she’d given to Freddie, because most people see ‘the Kings’ as really important roles and to give him hers is very precious.

“But so is the Donkey,” she almost shouted.  “Without the Donkey, Mary wouldn’t have gotten there and Jesus wouldn’t have been borned. So the Donkey is REALLY important!”

I asked why she thought Freddie might have been upset then at being the Donkey and she lightly stated that perhaps he was worried about being hot in the costume.

She’s thoroughly content in her decision.  She wanted Freddie to be happy and he is.  More  importantly to me though, so is she.  I will watch proudly as my Little Donkey with a big heart walks with Mary and Joseph.  And I will enjoy watching the three Kings deliver their Christmas gifts, privately knowing they aren’t nearly as precious as the one my daughter gave today.

Merry Christmas!

[*To protect his anonymity, Freddie is not his real name]

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‘Tis the Season

The anxiety is ramping up.

Little Miss H is leaving her communication book on my pillow each night.

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She’s crying after school each day, she’s not settling at bedtime.  She’s struggling and she’s micromanaging every tiny detail of the upcoming weekend.

You see Mr H and I are going to a party.  Well actually it’s a bit more than that, it’s a black tie ‘do’, I know, super fancy!  It’s being held at a hotel and we are staying overnight.

The logistics and preparation for this have been huge.  We don’t have child care on tap.  We have one family member who we can call on for occasional special events but their work schedule is such that it takes a lot of planning and preparation so we never do anything spontaneous and to be honest the girls wouldn’t manage that anyway.  We don’t have day to day help and we muddle along ourselves.  Mostly we’re cruising, Mr H and I are a great team and largely it’s a well oiled machine.  He carries a lot of extra on top of full time work because of my health and the girls’ needs and things can get a little bit chaotic and sometimes quite frankly it’s a diabolical farce!

But this weekend we have our trusted babysitter, Bee sleeping over.  It’s a first, so understandably the anxiety is building.  The girls have known her for two and half years and absolutely adore her.  She’s like a fun auntie/big sister to them but she’s mature, trustworthy and dependable so I am relaxed.  She young enough to be fun and get down on the floor with them but also old enough that she’s an adult and doesn’t take any nonsense from them.

I’m totally relaxed about it, I have no doubts at all and I KNOW all will be fine.

Little Miss H’s anxiety is breaking me though.  My heart shatters with each tear that rolls down her porcelain cheek.  With each quiver of her lip my ribs contract and squeeze my heart until it hurts.  With each anxious detail she tries to micro manage another stone forms in the pit of my stomach.

This should be a super fun adventure for them.  Instead Little Miss H has the weight of the world on her shoulders, even down to planning the menu and working out how long the pasta takes to cook for her tea.  At her age it never would have crossed my mind, all I would’ve thought was ‘great I can stay up late, eat chocolate and watch TV’!!

Instead my Little Miss at the age of nine needs all the details of every second, both for our itinerary and hers.  What is happening when.  ‘What happens if it’s all different?  Different from how you do it Mummy?’, ‘what happens if she doesn’t wake up when I need her?’, ‘will she let me cuddle her?’, ‘what happens if tea doesn’t taste the same?’, ‘when will you get back?’, ‘where will you be?’, ‘can we what’s app?’ , ‘I don’t want you to go’ and so on.

My Little Miss is a bundle of nerves and worries.  We have drawn up a plan.  She has a script.  She has had food cooked by Bee before and it was fine every other time I remind her.  Bee WILL wake up and always cuddles her whenever Little Miss allows it.  The things we know are true are uncertainties and doubts in Little Miss H’s anxious whirlpool of thoughts.

Tiny will be demanding and hard work but ‘fine’ until she’s too tired then she’ll be a tricky customer but Bee has experience of that so at least it won’t come as a surprise!

I need to relax on this night away.  I haven’t had a break for a year and that was one night away locally with my cousin, which was brilliant but not even 24 hours.  Mr H travels with work and whilst I know he is working hard while he is away, it is a break from routine, it is a break from the squawking, the screeching and the screaming, it is a break from the mundanity, the constant demands and the take, take, take.  It is a change of scenery and a chance to miss us and it is a chance to be him and be good at something other than parenting.  Yes, I know it’s not relaxing like a holiday but it is fortifying for the soul and the psyche.

I need a break from the routine, the stress and the demands.  I need to be me, just briefly.  I am Muuuuuuuummmmmmmyyyyyyyyyy, carer, teacher, nurse, chef, pot wash, taxi driver, administrator, advocate, arse wiper, puke cleaner upper, skivvy, maid etc all the time.  Just for one night I need to be ME.

Switching off is nigh on impossible when I know how anxious Little Miss H will be feeling and how avoidable it is and how I am the cause of it.  So, I have to lock that guilt away.  I have to work at having fun and switching off.  Because to be honest I won’t really switch off… I’ll just be masking, pretending and mimicking. The irony is not lost on me. That in itself is exhausting so I’ll come back even more tired and I’ll have the fall out of the change of routine to deal with.  It’ll take a couple of weeks to get back on an even keel but with Christmas coming that won’t be easy.

Do I get an insight into how it is for Little Miss H every day of her life?  Yes, I do.  Is it worth it? Yes, it is, not just for all I will learn about masking and mimicking but for the chance to (pretend to) be ME, just for one night.  The more I practice perhaps in time it’ll get easier and a night away will be the break I so need it to be.

Until then, I can’t wait to wear my posh frock and my glitter shoes, to eat, drink, dance and be merry.

I’ll raise my glass to you all and toast my night of pretending to be ‘me’!

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Girl on the outside

I sit here with tears streaming down my cheeks wondering whether you’ve noticed that the girls were mean to you today.

I suspect you have, as you’ve needed dark quiet since we got home, you were pale and withdrawn.  You went into shutdown.

I could see you desperately trying to be one of them.

I know you don’t know how to join in and I feel like I’ve failed you.

My heart breaks that you’ll never truly relax in social situations, it must be so exhausting for you.

I want to wrap you in my arms and make the world a kinder place.

 

I sit here with tears streaming down my cheeks, the mean girls excluding you ignites a flame of angry sadness within me.

I feel fiercely protective and want to rewind the week. I watch you try and I see their subtle rejection.  It’s sly, almost imperceptible and sophisticated beyond your years.

I pray you don’t notice and don’t feel that searing burn that rejection from a friend brings.  The betrayal, the apparent about turn.

But I see you notice something is off.  Your friend who you normally giggle with is cold shouldered and aloof.  She’s trying to impress an older girl and your sweet naivete isn’t cool enough.

Your confusion is encoded in your eyes and body; a language only I can read.

They are slightly taller and walk at a pace just faster than yours, their step in time, you a few feet away, trailing, rushing trying to keep up.

They whisper about secrets from their sleepover the night before, you know nothing about as you’ve only joined today.

They look to each other before deciding what to do next, your opinion irrelevant in their eyes.  They know you’ll fall in and do what they decide.

Their quiet confidence a stark contrast to your permanent internal questioning.  Their certainty that they belong, you the outsider, the visitor, the spare wheel.

I’m sorry my darling girl.  I feel I’ve failed you.  You don’t know how to join in, you don’t know how to be one of them.

We’ve tried to rehearse and practice but you avoid that sort of help from me just now.

I’m powerless to change the inevitable world you’ll face.

I’ve met them throughout my life too; the mean girls, the subtle exclusion that wields power over the one who doesn’t quite ‘get it’.

I wish I could make it easier, I wish I could make it fun.

Instead I say to you – “do ‘you’, be ‘you’ and be proud of who you are.”

Your intentions are pure, your heart is full and your soul is kind.

You are perfect and in the end you will find your tribe.

It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick but whilst you are waiting, be true to you.

Do what you love, be who you are and perfect the best version of you that you can.

It’s ok not to know what others can do naturally.  They don’t know what you can do excellently.

My promise to you is that I will never tire of trying to get people to be kind and compassionate.

I can’t promise to make people be different, as human nature is beyond my control, but if I can persuade people to behave differently then at least some good will have come from all of this.

In the meantime darling, I know you will continue to want to be friends with these people and I know they will confuse you.  I will try and enlighten that confusion but know I am always here to hug away your sadness or to give you quiet, dark space to decompress.

You are safe and I am the bubble around you that will keep you safe.

To the girls who were mean to my daughter I say;

Being a girl is hard and I know you are sweet inside.

I know you still play and giggle but I see you growing and changing.

You test the waters of growing up, dipping a toe into being a bit older

and playing older games that you make up as you go.

My daughter tried.  She can’t keep up, she’s wired differently.

Please be kind, please accept her as she is and please let her go gently when you inevitably move on.