This is not an easy blog to write.
I’ve recently had a school-related episode that has given me much heartache and pause for thought.
It was one of the other Y2 mums. Her daughter has been running very hot and cold about my daughter for a while. We mums agreed that this was not a big problem, and that we would support the girls in finding their feet. We felt we had a good approach and that it worked.
But then something happened that I cannot unsee or unhear. The mother’s own ambivalence towards my daughter. How she supported her daughter’s ambivalence. And where it has left my daughter. My daughter’s anxiety levels are rocketing. But it is all so subtle. You wouldn’t know it if you don’t know her. How she speaks too fast, too loud, doesn’t listen, bumps into things and people too hard. Dysregulation, my old friend. Multiplied by ten thousand. Normally I see the big tilts coming, but somehow I didn’t this time.
When the mother verbalised her ambivalence – although not using the word – the game was up. This is a mother who I thought ‘got it’. She didn’t. She doesn’t.
To be honest, this is also a story about yet another mother who overreacted, who herself was overwhelmed with life. For good reason. I get that. I’m hurt and truth be told angry – very angry – but I can deal with it. That bit is my problem.
What I am finding much much hard is forgiving myself for not having seen the toxic impact earlier. For letting my daughter continue to go to her friend’s house when she did not feel safe there.
I think I read my daughter well. Especially about when she feels or doesn’t feel safe. How could I have not seen this??
Because I wanted her to fit in. Because she wanted to fit in. Because I listened to all this mother’s trials and tribulations in life. And felt I understood her.
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful things she does
I thought there was a lot of warmth within the chaos of the family. All the siblings and cats and dogs. All the comings and goings. That, deep down, they all liked my daughter. And that is what counted.
Now I feel I sold out. That my daughter is paying the price. I feel that I pawned my daughter out to fit in. Outch.
Trust is so hard to build with our children. So so hard to build, and so easily lost. This trait may be contagious. Because I’m becoming like that too.
Friendships has never been a problem for her older sister. There were bumps in the road for sure. But she always had many friends and was popular at school.
What I can’t shake is the sense of just how toxic ambivalence can be. I feel it physically. It aches and itches. This is ambivalence that feeds straight into a feeling they already know all too well. It’s shaky ground. The latent rejection. And the self-fulfilling prophecy of the fear of rejection. My daughter is now super clingy, needy and super bossy – worried about rejection everywhere. Everything has been ramped up. It’s exhausting.
These days I hate the school gates.
The small talk. Even the kisses. ‘Oh hi!’ ‘How was your summer?’
Next time I see that kind of ambivalence I’m off. Daughter in hand.
I thought I had explained about the subtleties of my daughter’s background (without giving too many details). I thought that mother was interested in learning more about children who had had a difficult start in life; a girl who was from the pool of the most vulnerable citizens in our society. I thought that mother, too, wanted to protect and learn.
Carrie Grant’s blog about on her son’s experience at school rings in my ears.
And this is where you come in. You had the chance to do something really good. You had the chance to teach your children about kindness and difference and to let them know life is not always straightforward for many. Despite this, even in those whose lives are complicated or troubled, there is hope for a better future. And even more importantly community can play a huge part in the healing of a person’s life. Your children’s friendship could have played a key role in our child’s path towards freedom.
Here’s an eloquent woman raising SEN children, lucidly explaining a bigger picture that we all fit into. All of us. I thought I’d done that. I thought this mum could hold my daughter. I thought she understood.
I was wrong.