Mum Again

Help, I'm having a(nother) baby!

Hi, it’s me

So I decided late last night that I was going to start a new blog. I even wrote the first post, but as I went to save it (I write all my posts in Word prior to publishing), Microsoft decided to crash and refuse to recover the document. So here I am, 12 hours later, trying to write a second introductory post to a blog that I never really saw myself writing.

I am using the title “Mum Again”, because I am about to become a mum… again, quite straight forward right? I am already a mum, but as far as I can remember, being the mum of a baby differs very much to that of parenting someone who is closer to ten than they are to just having been born.

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Bullying, the Aftermath and an Anxious 8 Year Old

I hate Mondays. I never used to, in fact I always quite liked them, saw them as more of a fresh start than the start of another long week. A reason to be positive. It has been a few years since I felt that way. Less than two weeks ago my daughter went back to school after her school holiday. There has been exactly 8 days of school since then, of which she has missed 2 and ½.

Aimee thrives at school academically speaking. She has just started her 4th year of primary school and she has yet to meet an academic hurdle that she couldn’t (easily) conquer. Socially speaking things are quite different.

When Aimee turned 5 she couldn’t wait to start school, in fact she was quite desperate for school to start. There was a little bit of nerves, but who doesn’t experience a bit of nerves when they first start something new? By the time the Christmas holidays came around, my daughter’s personality had completely changed. It started with one of the children in her class. My daughter is a very literal person, and she is also and always has been very concerned with doing what’s right and not getting into trouble, sometimes a bit too much so. This child would continually tell my daughter that if she didn’t do what the child wanted her to they would tell the teachers something to get Aimee into trouble. Essentially one five-year-old found a way to blackmail another five-year-old and decided to take advantage of it, severely damaging my child in the process.

The situation was dealt with by the teacher, the child’s father was spoken to and in time the situation did improve, and said child started to leave my daughter alone. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. Not only had this child exposed a weakness in my daughter that other children could exploit (and still try to do now), but Aimee became terrified of going to school. The remainder of that school year was exhausting, not only for Aimee, but for me. Every morning I had to fight to get her to go to school, every morning there was no more than a 50 percent chance that she would get as far as the school, or stay at the school if we got there. Aimee was absolutely terrified about getting bullied, getting picked on and eventually she even became concerned about bullies getting physical.

In the second to last week of her first year in primary school I picked Aimee up from school like normal, and upon asking her how her day went I was informed that a child a couple of years her senior had not only had the audacity to put their hands on her, they had put their hands on her neck, and then applied pressure to the point where it was hurting. She was terrified, and so was I. Then I got angry, extremely angry, and I don’t really think I have stopped being angry since.

I was angry that I had to hear about something so serious from a young child that had only turned six a few months previously. I then became even more angry as I learned that the reason why I found this out from my daughter was that the adult my daughter had gone to when the incident had occurred in the playground had deemed the situation not to be serious enough to get to the bottom of, and in fact just told the children to stay away from each other.

My daughter no longer goes in with the other children at the start of the school day, she hasn’t since a couple of months after starting primary 2. Her anxiety is so severe that for her to have any chance at attending school she needs to go in ten minutes early so she can get settled in the classroom before the rest of the class comes in. She doesn’t sit around tables in groups of 4-6 students like the rest of her class, she sits at a desk at the front of the class with her best friend, next to the teacher. She cannot concentrate with too many people around her, she cannot stand to sit with many of the boys because they’re noisy and she is terrified that they will get her into trouble. She struggles to participate in PE as the loud noises sets off her anxiety, at one point she was completely unable to take part. At home, she is unable to take any form of criticism, and if she does something wrong (often accidentally) she is terrified of telling me because she thinks she will get into trouble. My 8-year-old is scared to tell me, her mum, that she spilled a glass of water because she “thinks I am going to get her into trouble.” Imagine how painful that is, as a parent, knowing your daughter has been that damaged by her peers, that let down by the adults around her, that she struggles to tell her mum that she spilled some water, despite being reassured time and time again.

Aimee has been getting stomach aches since the bullying first started, they were part of the issue when it came to attending school. These pains go through bouts of being so extreme that Aimee can’t sleep, or if she does fall asleep she has woken up in the night screaming in pain. She has suffered exhausting, she was so pale at one point that she looked seriously ill. All of these stem from the anxiety caused by bullying and the aftermath. As it stands, Aimee is on medicine for stomach migraines, which seem to have started to make the pain mostly bearable. Unfortunately, she has also started to develop head aches and the worry is that she is now developing migraines, as these run in my family and are generally caused by stress. My daughter faces the possibility of chronic illness, all because of bullying.

For the most part Aimee no longer dreads going to school. She wants to go to school, more than anything she wants to learn. She does still get nervous, and starting again after a holiday is always harder, the longer she has been away, the more concerned she gets about returning. On the outside she doesn’t feel anxious about attending school, but her body hasn’t caught up yet. Those 2 and a ½ days of school she has missed so far this term have been because of debilitating stomach pains. Last Tuesday I had to pick her up at lunch time because she was in too much pain to carry on, when I got there her face was grey and she was in absolute agony. It will take a while, but hopefully after a few more weeks the pains will settle back down with the help of the medicine Aimee is on, and she will go back to being able to cope with it enough that she can go to school.  That’s as far as my hope takes me at the moment, not to a point where she is pain free, not to a point where she is completely better, but to a point where she can cope with it and it doesn’t stop her attending school and learning, something she loves more than almost anything.

The biggest issue throughout of this has been a complete disregard from both the school and other adults regarding bullying. I have asked, begged and threatened the school to speak to parents about bullying, to encourage parents, all parents, to speak to their children about bullying. I’ve made the point at several occasions, to several members of staff that the school should issue parents with a letter about the topic. I realise that they cannot force parents to deal with bullying, but it would have been so easy to have made such a small effort. It has been “under consideration” for three years. I have told the school that some members of staff need to get better at listening to children. They need to stop punishing victims of bullying, and instead punish the bullies. Apparently, the school doesn’t like the term “punish.” Do you know what I don’t like? My daughter being told that she is the problem when someone is throwing stones at her and her friend. Because when you tell a child that is being picked on that they should just stay away from the person that is picking on them, that is what you are doing. You are telling the victim that they are the problem, and they’re not.

The blame however doesn’t completely lie with the school, it also lies with the parents and carers. When you have children, you undertake a commitment to raise those children to the very best of your abilities, to love them, feed them, clothe them and take care of them, but also to ensure that they are decent human beings. I have had to listen to a grandparent talk badly about my child in the playground because I refused to let their grandchild get away with mistreating her. I have seen parents on social media share messages along the lines of “bullying in schools is no worse than it was when I was growing up, kids now at days are just too sensitive.” You are the problem. Every time you make your child’s behaviour the fault of someone else, you tell them that said behaviour is acceptable. Every time you refuse to believe a teacher when they tell you your child is doing something wrong, you are telling your child that the authority figures that look after your child for over six hours a day, five days a week, have no authority. Every time you make a sly comment about a work mate at the dinner table, every time you make fun of someone’s looks on the TV you are teaching your children that behaviour. You exist to raise your children to be better versions of you, being a parent is not just a privilege, it is a responsibility, one that some parents take far too lightly.

It has taken over two hours for Aimee to go to sleep tonight. The longer she lies in bed, the more her sub conscious takes over, the more her stomach starts to hurt, the higher the risk that she will not attend school tomorrow. Talk to your children, teach them how to treat others, with kindness and compassion, not with vicious words, blackmailing and violence. All children do not have to be friends, they do not even have to get on, after all, we adults do not. However, it is not OK that children are scared to go to school because someone might pick on them, It is not ok that children are being physically assaulted because someone doesn’t like their back pack, or the fact that they wear classes or are better at school than they are. Children do not have to like each other, but they should respect each other enough to treat each other decently.

I am exhausted from the sleepless nights and stress caused by my daughter’s anxiety, I am completely drained by the effort that has gone into trying to rebuild her confidence and self-worth, and I am petrified that at any given moment something might happen that will set her back again. Towards the end of last term, she had another encounter with the child that attempted to strangle her in in her first year of school. This time my daughter wouldn’t put up with yet another violent outburst from them and so she grabbed their hands and pushed them off her, telling them to leave her alone. I was so incredibly proud of her for doing that, because she managed to stand up for herself. She never had an issue standing up for a friend, or anyone that needed it, but she would never stand up for herself. Knowing she did that, it finally gave me hope that she would get past this. However, it is a long road, and one that she should never have had to down in the first place.

Please, as one parent to another, speak to your children about bullying. Teach them how to be better if they do something wrong, and if they fall victim to a bully do not dismiss them, and do not let the perpetrators get away with it. In this day and age children find more and more ways to be cruel to each other, children whose biggest issue should be a Pokémon they cannot catch end up attempting and tragically succeeding in committing suicide because of bullying.

When surveying young people age 12-20 in 2016 Ditch the Label found that 1,5million young people (50%) had been bullied within the last year, 145 800 of which had been bullied EVERY DAY. 14% of young people admitted to bullying somebody, 12% admitted to doing it every day. 44% of young people who have been bullied experience depression, 41% experience social anxiety. 33% of those bullied have suicidal thoughts. That means 1 in 3 people that have been bullied think about killing themselves. That one person out of three could be your child. That person that makes someone else consider suicide could be your child. I have been terrified that Aimee at one point would turn around to me and tell me that she doesn’t want to live. The only thing that scares me more is her feeling that way, and not telling me.

Please, speak to your children.


Gender Equality, the POV of a Mum

holding hands

It might be a cliché, but becoming a mum is the single most important thing that has happened to me. Nothing has changed me or shaped me as much as the responsibility, love and just absolute fear that comes with being a parent. Because it is scary, and do not let anyone else ever tell you differently. It is an absolutely terrifying feeling to live in the knowledge that you are in a position whereby it is your responsibility to not just get your children through the day somewhat clean, fed and alive, but actually raise them into being decent human beings.

When I had my daughter, once I got past the initial utter terror that is, what was initially reinforced in my mind was just how important it would be for my daughter that I raised her to know that she could do anything. You are treated differently in life dependent on whether or not you have a vagina and I very much doubt that I have any female friends or acquaintances that has not at one point or another been treated differently because they are female. It might have been something just dumb and ignorant like being accused of being on your period because you were upset or angry about something or it might have been something life altering like not getting the promotion you wanted because you have ovaries and might at some point reproduce. The sad part is that we as parents will often start the trend of treating our children differently based on gender.

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I Couldn’t Breastfeed… and That’s OK

It felt like throughout my pregnancy, whenever I walked through any room in a hospital or at the GP Surgery the only thing I noticed was the constant bombardment of “Breast is Best” posters plastered over every wall. It didn’t stop there, it was mentioned in every e-mail, every newsletter, anything I had signed up to in regards to my pregnancy seemed to be screaming at me that my baby should be breastfed, and I really better had just accept it.

I wanted to breastfeed. In fact, I started out with the very best intentions to do so. I had even purchased a breast pump, because in my previous pregnancy my daughter refused to latch on, and so I spent months expressing my breast milk so that she could have the “best possible start”. If my son was to be as difficult as she had been, I wanted to be prepared for the eventuality that I would have to express in order to feed my baby yet again. What I couldn’t prepare for was the fact that my milk just didn’t come in, and I had to make the extremely difficult decision to give up and give my baby formula.

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