Tag Archives: family

I’m not judging.

I love twitter for many reasons, but some days it can be vile, and today was one of those days. People rushing to say ‘I told you so’, so gleeful and smug that they ‘knew’ something wasn’t adding up, that they had quite forgotten this isn’t a game of Cluedo, but actual real life for someone, for a family, for a neighbourhood.

After the shock, the rush of judgement. At this stage I understand that Mikaeel’s mother has been detained by police; she has not been charged or found guilty of anything.  Still they are baying for blood, the lions are pacing, salivating, impatiently awaiting the moment when they will have their victim tossed into their den to be torn from limb to limb, to the accompaniment of roaring crowds.

I don’t know what happened to that poor little boy. But I’m not judging his mother now, and what’s more, I still won’t be standing in judgement if it turns out that he died at her hands.

I might, once, have been inclined to join in with the chorus of incomprehension, of condemnation, of complete and utter conviction that I wouldn’t be able to kill someone whatever the circumstances, and never, ever a child. I think for many years that was my reaction whenever I heard of the occasional sad cases that were paraded across the media.

But then something happened to me. After my third baby, I began to lose the ability to cope, and it didn’t come back in a few weeks, like it did with the bigger two. Instead I just carried on spiralling slowly downwards. Luckily my mum lives nearby and was great at taking the baby off to give me some space and time – which I wisely used to run around manically trying to get on top of all the chores, rather than doing something really sensible, like catching up on sleep. Despite this help, I was exhausted, dealing with constant vomit during the day and constant feeding from a hungry baby during the night – reflux is no joke, let me tell you. And of course keeping a bright brave face for the school run ‘Oh yes, we’re doing great, thanks, yes, busy as ever, yes, gosh, must run, oh coffee would be lovely sometime but I’m just so stacked at the moment’ roughly translated as ‘I can’t smile for much longer, please just let me go home, no I’m not doing coffee with you because that’d mean I have to keep it together for 45 mins and that’s sure as hell something I haven’t done for a while’.

I thought I was just tired and it would all get better when I could just get some sleep. I remember clearly when I realised it wasn’t going to get better, sleep or no sleep. My youngest was 2 by this time. TWO – I can’t believe now, looking back, that this was my normal for so long. I heard on the news about a desperately sad case of a mother killing her child. And, instead of my gut reaction being one of incomprehension, it was something different. It was fear. Fear because right at that moment, I could sort of see the path that this mother had taken. I could see how someone could become so desperate, so unable to cope, so far away from themselves, that they would do the most horrendous thing imaginable. I don’t mean by this that I was ever in danger of doing something awful. But it was terrifying to realise that I could understand someone else’s danger.

I went to the doctor at that point. Well, not quite at that point – it took a crisis about which I am not yet ready to write to finally get me there. But I went, and thank god I have a lovely, sensible GP, and a supportive health visitor, and that massive, comforting NHS safety net which immediately did its stuff. I’m lucky.  My skirmish with the post natal black dog was relatively mild compared to what some people go through, and once it was identified and treated, life did, over time, return to how it was before.

But one thing hasn’t returned to how it was before. And that is this – I cannot bring myself to stand in judgement. I cannot join in with the chorus. I don’t know what happened in Scotland. But I do know how easy it is to deny – and to hide – mental illness. I have caught a glimpse – thankfully, only a glimpse, of what it is like to be so far away from coping, so far away from yourself, that you cannot rationalise anything, anyhow.

I can’t imagine why a mother would kill her child. But I equally can’t imagine that a sane woman would kill her child.

And that is why I’m not judging.



House Project Update – nearly ready for planning!

It’s a while since I have updated on the progress of our House Project…it has been ticking away in the background but I didn’t feel I should inflict on you our endless discussions on whether to keep the slate floor (he won, it stays) or whether we need a new oven (I won, we do).

We’re finally at a stage where we can move on to the next big ‘To Do’ item – getting ready to apply for planning permission! As soon as the final set of plans from our architect Nadim arrive, I’ll be making a start on filling out the several billion forms that will no doubt be required, and, assuming we get the planning permission, or a Lawful Development Certificate, or whatever it is we need, things will start to get real. Probably not in the timescale I had hoped for (starting February, done by September) but at least we will be moving forward.

What’s interesting is that if you’d shown me our final plans right at the beginning of the process, I would have rejected them out of hand. I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the downstairs to be laid out, and it’s fair to say that what we’ve ended up with is quite different in several respects. It’s definitely better, and more suited to our needs as a family, but I wouldn’t have liked it at all first off.

This is one of the reasons that I’m really glad we set aside some money to do some work with an architect at the beginning of the process. We did have some debate about this – since we’d already had a consultation through Shelter’s Architect in the House scheme, which had confirmed that our basic ideas were viable, the Husband was of the opinion that we could probably go straight into getting quotes from builders. I think we’re both glad that we didn’t do that now.

Apart from anything else, the design process has been fun for all of us. The kids loved the 3D walkthroughs on the computer (though I still haven’t got the hang of walking through without ending up on the ceiling). Having plans to talk about and pore over, without the time pressure of a builder eager to get the job signed off and started, has meant that we’ve really got to grips with what we want from the project. It’s been a creative and satisfying process – each new set of drawings has identified different issues, which have been ironed out as we go along. There have been some surprises – I did not realise how strongly I felt about having a woodburner until I was told I couldn’t have one with the layout I’d set my heart on; I’d thought that a downstairs toilet was a high priority but when it came to the crunch we sacrificed it for a more spacious living area. And the final iteration was a surprise to all of us – in the words of Nadim, our architect ‘The idea for this didn’t come to me until I’d started drawing’.

That’s what we would have missed out on had we gone straight to the builder stage. We’d have got what we thought we wanted, without being challenged by another set of eyes looking at our ideas; without gently having the flaws in my oh so perfect plans pointed out; without getting the chance to mentally live with and play with different iterations.

I’m a bit sad that this process has come to an end actually – I suspect the next bits won’t be anywhere near as much fun!



On how our Christmas starts

Christmas has officially started!

It always starts the same way for me – I have a massive tidy up and sorting session, during which I siphon off unloved toys. In secret of course – I’ve been caught doing this before and from the wailing and gnashing of teeth you would have thought I was actually chopping up and eating the cat rather than simply taking something which hadn’t been played with for about three years to the local charity shop.  Anyway, I took a day off work today to do it while they are in school/nursery and managed to get the everything done AND slip in a cheeky afternoon nap! Result!

So, the house is tidy, the piles of junk toys have diminished in size and been put into their respective toy boxes, and we are all ready to put up the tree tomorrow night*. The kids always get to be in charge of this bit, much to my sister-in-law’s horror. While her tree is a perfectly planned and exquisitely decorated example of good taste, ours – hmmm. Hand made decorations brought home from nursery /school over the  years  vie with tinsel of all the (clashing) colours of the rainbow, and it all ends half way up because that’s as high as they can reach. But you know what? I like it like that. Plenty of time for perfect trees when they’ve all grown up.

Hot on the heels of the house-tidy and Christmas tree chaos comes the arrival of our friends and their kids  for the Brecon Mountain Railway Santa Special. We only get to see these friends twice a year so it’s always so lovely to spend time with them, and because we’ve been doing the same thing for so many years now it’s always such an easy weekend with everything falling into place. The routine never varies – a late Friday night arrival, followed by a manic early start on Saturday when the kids all wake up realising their friends have arrived and are in sleeping bags on the floor next to them. One of the adults throws cereal and the remote control in their general direction while the grownups catch up over tea and toast, until the excitement reaches fever pitch, whereupon the Mothers among us share a nod and a wink and a ‘just nipping to the Co-op for some, er, supplies’ before buggering off for a lovely long coffee and catch up somewhere where there is no mobile phone signal.  Ooops.

By the time we get back, the Dads will usually have sorted lunch and some more friends and kids will be arriving ready for the convoy up the A470 to Pant station and the trip to see Santa. It’s a much more peaceful journey on the way to see the old bugger than it is on the way back, due to the fact that those LOVELY people at the railway always see fit to put something like a mouth organ in the goody bags – have you ever been on a packed steam train full of hyperactive mouth organ blowing kids? No? Really? You should try it. It’s great.

But it’s all ok because once we get back home, the kids are pyjama’d up, the DVDs and sweeties come out, and they are bribed ummm persuaded, yes persuaded, to take up residence around the TV so the grownups can stuff their faces with curry, catch up on old and new gossip, and generally squeeze the last six months into one evening, before collapsing into bed safe in the knowledge that our respective offspring will be up and demanding food and entertainment at some ridiculous hour of the morning. Whereupon brunch will be cooked and eaten, we’ll wave our friends off until we see them in the Summer, and our Christmas will be well and truly under way. Hurrah!

This is how our Christmas starts. What about yours?

*and here’s the tree!