Monday, 28 November 2011

The metaphor of her name may become the metaphor of her life in some way.

What's in a name?

If you are called Sky I imagine it may impact on your image of yourself.  If you were called Crystal you might have a totally different self-image. If you are called Faith would you be different than if you were called Charity? I am guessing, as there are so many visual connections, these noun names inspire more meaning than the difference between being called Anne and Jane. 

X realised that her name has a meaning today. She explained to me that she is like it- though she didn't seem sure how.

I expect that this metaphor will grow throughout her life. I can imagine boyfriends writing love letters about it, friends sending card with pictures of it, her going to places where she decides it has special meaning for her. It was nice to be there when she first understood the metaphor and to tell her once again that it was her tummy mummy who gave it to her. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Take a look at these incredible children: 

 the game developer

And I am thrilled that X has got to two sentences per page in her reading. She can read 'can' and 'man', and -on a good day,even 'cannot'! Given that at 18 months I was told she had a developmental delay of 6 months- a third of her age - I am, if anything, even more amazed by her progress as I am staggered by these children. And today I am going to think about all those children, teenagers and adults who struggle to do up their own shoelaces. When I was adopting I remember saying to the doctor that I didn't think I was up to looking after a child who would never be able to tie their own shoelaces. I had forgotten what tricky little blighters shoelaces are. I had it all wrong back then. I really had no idea what I could cope with or not. That's what makes the list you are given asking you to tick which disabilities you can cope with so  impossible. You have no idea what you can cope with or what a disability might entail. You just hope you rise to whatever parenting challenge you are given. And I think I would find a child who was already a TED speaker a pretty challenging child as well.........

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


She had yams and scrambled egg for tea last night. J, her much-loved childminder, (and one of the happiest woman on the planet) told me proudly that she ate the lot. It was an awful, awful lot. I know because it came out in a technicolour yawn all evening and well into the night. Actually, not technicolour, very pale. Yaaaaaaaa-m she roared into the potty we had by the bed, over and over again. She was so, so good, not a spot spilt anywhere. And it just went on and on. I felt so useless, just rubbing her back and saying good girl over and over again, as if she was a dog. Finally, at about two, she fixed me with steely eyes, over the top of the potty and said: tell her not ever to give me so much again. 

But this morning, just as I (laid low with sleep deprivation and a stinking cold) was thinking of 
wantonly giving up a whole days pay and staying in bed and watching daytime tv X was ready to go again. If she couldn't go school she wanted to be back at J's, hanging around with me just wasn't cutting it So I delivered her back to J, told her not to give her so much of anything X didn't want- but plenty of water- and trudged off to work.

It wouldn't surprise me if it put her off yams for life. Last night they didn't just disagree with her- they violently argued....

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The TNS Digital life site I have been  working on has just gone live!!!!/search?q=%23tnsdl>  

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


So the little girl who is too scared to speak at school tells me that she stood up and told the class all about the fairies she and her cousin made from spoons. But maybe she is making it up - not sure. As a novelist might say, it is an unreliable narrator telling the story. Apparently at least one person in the class asked a question: why did she make them? And she replied: because I wanted to. The debate may take a while to reach Paxman standards but I was impressed with her determination to stand up in front of everyone: she set of to school this morning  waving the fairies like magic wands. I remember the first time I made a presentation as a graduate trainee and how nervous I was. She isn't that shy as it appears I don't think- she just chooses her moments. 

We were watching tv after story time tonight and X piped up: "Oh look, there's the lady who picks up K from nursery." And it was - the well-known presenter who happens to be friends with K's mother. To X it's not important she's on the telly what's important is that she picks up her friend. I'm not surprised X has this attitude as she is used to seeing herself on her mothers computer all the time on You Tube. It is interesting that the availability of seeing oneself in digital glory on You Tube might be actually lessening the impact of fame on tv. I can't help hoping so- it might lessen the lure of mindless Big Brother celebrity status. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Drawing the line -and I'm not talking arty fun. 

It was a challenging morning with X displaying to the entire congregation that I have no authority over her whatsoever. I took her out of the service twice to give her talking to but it didn't modify her behaviour and she wrestled with me at the altar. It was all rather undignified. I got so angry that I told X she wouldn't be allowed to go to a party later. This was stupid as I was pleased she had been invited. I didn't know whether to follow through with the punishment or not.  It was a mess. 

I tend to shirk taking authority but I also don't want my child to be disrespectful. I find the balance hard.  This is also confused by the fact that X is highly opinionated and disrespectful with me but is so unconfident  at school and in new situations that she rarely speaks and I am constantly told she needs more confidence. Maybe her teachers would feet differently had they seen the way X demanded my communion wafer at the altar and created a riot when I wouldn't give it to her. 

My issue was voiced the other day by her friend K's father who said, in his soft Trinidadian accent: "I want him to understand the boundaries but I don't want to stunt his spirit." However,  screaming at the altar was the boundary for me. I had to draw a line.

I spoke to my mother and sister about my behaviour- and X's. I moaned to my mother that it is harder as a single parent as she feels she has a more equal relationship with me than other children as she gets involved in choosing more with me: what tv we watch, eat, and the like. "Yes, well, lets just say we all got a bit worried when you insisted she have an opinion over which new car you bought and she was only two," said my mother in a soft yet important way that indicated this had been discussed quite a bit. But then my mother has only to whisper and all her children sit up straight, even though we are all now over fifty. 

I talked to my sister. Our conversation was naturally informed by our own upbringing: "I  totally know why you don't want to be authoritarian," she said, "but every time I've held back from taking control with my children it has come back and bitten me in the bottom later."

Hmmm, talking of biting, I had an email from the Ex this week reminding me of Big Biting Incident in which X bit the-soon-to be--Ex in church which led to him acting like a modern-day version of Mr Murdstone and our relationship unravelling as fast as the hem on a Primark dress. But-just for the record- I still feel that once a child has said sorry and clearly means it then that should be The End of the matter. 

While I'd been talking to my mother and sister  X had been having a quiet poo and a little think: "If I'm not allowed to go to the party does that mean I can have the present for myself?" she asked, eye firmly fixed on the main chance. Oh, and by the way, she now wants to be called Tinkerbell- Angelina, which doesn't strike me as a name for a shy retiring wall-flower. 

Did Tinkerbell-Angelina learn any lessons today? Not sure. All I can say is that I tried my absolute best to exert quiet authority and insist on respect and it was exhausting. It is so much easier to be yelled at or just do a bit of pointless yelling. But Tinky-Angie taught me a lesson the other day when she told me that she thought K's father was the best daddy she knew. I asked why. "Because he tells him off when he's naughty." This little fairy seems to be asking for some stronger discipline, it seems to me. Out of the fairy-horses mouth, with bells on. 

Just so I never forget
like the rest of the world she likes to sing Adele in the car. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

It's never too late to adopt.

We are on the BAAF blog- check it out  here.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Many congratulations to the winners- anything that publicises the fact that there are still 65, 000 children in care is fantastic.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Thanatophobia and everlasting darkness at diwali, the festival of lights.

I suffer from thanatophobia and have done so all my life. In my teens it kept me awake most nights. I feel very ashamed of this phobia. I live my life in total awe of those who manage to get on with life while not screaming internally: "don't panic, don't panic," like Jonesy in Dad's Army. The idea that I won't be there, there will be no me one day is a tragedy I just cannot get beyond.  I realise this means I have a towering ego, especially as I do so little to deserve an immortal place in the world, but I have tried every day of my life to stop taking it all so seriously  and have never succeeded. I think it is totally amazing that we don't all cluster in a huddle at work and cry together about it. But, believe me, it is tedious to live ones life as a series of last moments. 

I sometimes think that I got into the habit of flagellating myself about death as a means of whipping myself into some kind of action to create something lasting.  I seem to remember the phobia starting just before I got to my teens- about nine- when I discovered that Michelangelo spent years painting the Sistine Chapel. Around then I decided my life would be wasted if I didn't at least try to create something before I died. Dying without an everlasting achievement became a Really Bad Idea. But thanatophobia has been a total failure in terms of propelling me into creativity. There I have been, hanging on a thread a spittle in the jaws of death for the last forty years or so, and the best I have come up with is a couple of hair and cosmetic commercials. And one would have thought that if I was so scared of dying I would take better care of myself. 

Having a child has changed the phobia. To start with it made it considerably more real. I now have a genuine fear of dying that is laced with guilt. I took X away from potentially younger parents. To become close to one old person and then that person die would be Very Bad for her. In an attempt to absolve this guilt I rewrite my will about once a year, I have life insurance to make sure she will have plenty of money, should I die, and I harrange my close friends and family on a regular basis about how I would like her to be looked after in an 'emergency'. I have a feeling that adopting a child, even when in a pair, makes this attitude more common. We are taught to consider wills and what will happen to our adoptive children, should we die, before we have even got them.  I admit it, I am slightly obsessive about 'emergency' situations. with long notes to schools, minders and close friends about where, who and how X would be best off in the immediate days after I am knocked down by a bus. 

On the other hand, for the first time since a teenager, the fear has modified. I now enjoy every single day just for little things. I can almost live with the fact that I won't leave behind an act of greatness as she will still be in the world. It no longer bothers me there won't be a me one day as there will be a her. I am not sure why this makes up for it as it isn't as if she is 'a part of me', there being no genetic link. It is not logical at all, but - hey- why break the habit of a lifetime? My first boyfriend said it was impossible to quarrel with me: he just couldn't follow the logic of the argument. 

I've been thinking about all this because of what happened on saturday. The day started serenely making goulish halloween lanterns with X's half sister and her mother. The evening was set to be the very opposite of dark-death phobia. We went to a diwali party: a party for the 'festival of lights'. The house was lit from top to toe with shimmering candles, the women were in colourful saris, we were all given Indian stoles to wear. There was fragrant Indian food, a lavish firework display. I was with people I adore. All was full of golden light. I sat eating supper next to a lady a little older than me who I didn't know. She was clearly intelligent, a spinster who had no family, I guessed - rightly-  a friend of the host. We spoke a little about our host, who had made a big decision a couple of years ago, to move from Notting Hill to North London to live with my Indian friend. I mused how sometimes big life decisions can sometimes actually be good. "That's interesting," said the lady, "as I made a big life decision today. I signed the papers for Dignitas. I should be off before Christmas."

Forgetting death for a moment, there are some moments in life that one hopes one will cope with as they are the mark of who you are. The real me. There is a moment in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant's sister meets the famous actress played by Julia Roberts and she says she knows this is a moment when she should be cool and she is so, so going to fail and then she gets so overexcited about meeting the star that she forgets to leave when she shows her the way to the loo.

And there was me, in a life-defining moment like this thinking about Notting Hill. Anyway, I hope I didn't fail this moment. I tried not to. I shut out the thoughts squealing in my inner ear and tried to ask logical questions one after another and to actually talk to the lady, as I think this is what she wanted. Se was frighteningly clever and confident, having been a senior producer of famous BBC programmes for her career. She poo-poo-ed religion and therapy so maybe just talking to a stranger, even one as stupid as me, was better than nothing. I lived with her the moments she found the lump in her breast, the problems with her siblings going with her to die. I tried not to run away until I thought I might be sick or faint, especially when she coughed. 

I spent the rest of the weekend alternately feeling overwhelmed with fear and sorrow for this brave lady and then wondering why she chose me to share her news. I  felt the stench of death upon me. I was glad that X kept me busy with ordinary little day-to -day things.