Little Millie has had a treacherous week indeed, and it all started when she fell over in the school playground and bumped her nose during lunch break. She’s never injured her face before, and as she walked out of the school gates at home time with her head down I was shocked to see her poor bloodied nose and chin. It’s the most awful thing seeing your children injured and I felt sick for her as she said it was so tender but frustratingly, and yet again like the children’s cold and flu, there was nothing we could do to make it any better, you just have to wait it out and let it heal.
Millie was due to go to a sleepover with her friend at the weekend and had packed her overnight bag and put on her favourite clothes ready to go and play as I rushed around doing a last minute spritz of tidying and cleaning before we were due to leave. However as I was stacking the shoes in the hall I was shocked to see that her leather school shoes had been torn to shreds, so I called her over to ask what had happened. First off she said she didn’t know, then she said she had stepped in mud and whilst picking it off with her finger her shoes had torn and then she finally admitted that she had used a stone to rip them apart because she didn’t like them anymore. What a revelation!
Millie had only had her shoes for one term of school, she’d chose them herself and had never told me or shown signs of their being unsuitable until I stumbled across them by chance in this condition. Clearly a lot of time and effort went into her destroying her shoes and she said she did it because she wanted different ones that were more pretty. I felt angry and betrayed that she felt the need to do it and instantly my mind whirled with ways to reprimand her for what she’d done. In the past I’d have had several people in my ear telling me to lock her toys away, make her sit in a room by herself or to send her straight to bed with no dinner, but I stopped for a second and thought about what I could do to make her actually understand why it was wrong and how she should behave properly, instead of punishing her for what she had already done incorrectly. Being angry at her wouldn’t make the problem go away because two wrongs don’t make a right. I realise society spends a lot of time telling children what not to do and then follows this up by punishing them for things they have done wrong; yet saying sorry to something that is broken doesn’t fix it and isn’t likely to stop it from happening again, the past is already over and prevention is far better than cure. If I told you “Don’t put your hand up if you don’t like Justin Bieber!” I know there would be a moments hesitation as to what was being asked of you. Telling children “don’t do this and don’t do that” is all very well and good, but then surely they must be left thinking “well what is it that I am supposed to do then?” We confuse children with double negatives, both in our instructions and in our actions for dealing with their behaviour. Behaviour which we set. Bad behaviour is nothing more than the absence of good behaviour so in dropping punishment and negativity and by increasing understanding and thoughtfulness we can teach our children by example and remove all confusion and frustration.
Therefore the concept I used to show Millie that her actions over destroying her school shoes were wrong wasn’t to punish her or take away her toys, but to talk to her, ask her why she did it, and make her aware of what she did wrong; I wanted her to see how her actions affected her circumstances and to connect emotion and reality to her shoes by asking her to compare them to an animal that she loves. Now at the tender age of six I realise this may seem a bit much for a child to take onboard but she was perfectly capable of realising what she had done, she drew her own conclusions and cried with happiness over the relief and understanding at the end of it, and it was a beautiful and heartfelt moment to share with her. I asked her to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the shoe by drawing and writing about how it felt when it was being harmed, to then draw herself harming the shoe and to understand her emotions, thoughts and feelings at the time, and finally to draw and write about how we should treat our shoes properly. I gave her the opportunity to dissect every aspect of the matter and reach an epiphany of her own accord that she would never have had if I sat her in silence on a chair or took away her privileges. Children need to understand, they want to understand and they only misbehave because we rarely show them how to behave.
Millie then spent the remainder of the afternoon not out at her friends for a sleepover, but at home with Gabriele and I baking cakes, making craft and playing together and it was lovely. She didn’t stop smiling all day and it was a such a beautiful bonding experience for us all. You can watch a video of Millie learning about her behaviour and shoes here.
Thankfully Gabriele has at last shaken off his poorly cold and snotty nose – hoorah! It lasted just shy of a month and was frustratingly yet another bug doing the rounds at this cold and damp time of year. He is back to his usual cheeky chappy self and has bags of energy and enthusiasm for everything and anything. He is such a little sponge right now and is vastly gathering vocabulary with each day that passes, his most recent additions being “Gabriele” “letterbox” “table” “chair” “cooker” “shoulder” and “eyelash” as you do! I’m teaching him to count to three using his fingers and he knows his way around the house if I ask him to point out objects or find people or pets. He also has his manners firmly underway as he always says “ta” when he hands you a toy to play with or asks for more water in his sippy cup. He also helps me to load and unload the washing machine, plug in the hoover and feed the cat and dog their biscuits and treats. He blows his own nose with a tissue, wipes the coffee table and low surfaces with his wet wipes to mimic my cleaning and says “more” when he’s chewed his food and is ready for another mouthful. As his communication develops and strengthens, I’ve noticed his frustration at not being able to communicate properly is gradually subsiding, as before he would cry and stamp his feet if there was something he wanted but couldn’t put across to me. Now when I ask him what’s wrong he is able to point, speak or gesture towards what it is and claps and grins to confirm with me when I understand. It must be such a relief for him to finally be able to tell me that he is hungry, tired, thirsty or wanting a cuddle instead of me guessing, and he clamps his chubby hands around my face, gives me a squishy wet kiss on the lips and squeaks “Mumma, yayyy!” as a reward. Heaven!
Gabriele’s second birthday is just two months away now, and it will be his first birthday he’ll celebrate living with just Millie and I. It seems impossible to think that almost a year ago I had just come out of hospital from my second breast surgery the week before his birthday and the house was filled with family and friends, music and balloons for Gabriele’s special party. Now a year has almost passed already, it feels as though it were in the blink of an eye and I’m thankfully healed, Gabriele has grown so much and is flourishing in every aspect of his little life. On his first birthday he had an awful cold and was sleepy and unwell, I cried when he had to leave to stay with relatives after just a few hours of being home to celebrate, as I was unable to hold him or lift anything as I healed and my ex at the time felt that he’d have been better off staying elsewhere. It broke my heart, it’s a day that we will never get back, to celebrate my baby’s first birthday and have him home for only a few hours is sickening. Never in a million years will I ever let it happen again, and come hell or high water I will let nothing stand in the way of putting my children first.
But this year will be very different, and I’m both excited and incredibly looking forward to his special day. I’ve just finished buying his birthday present online and I’m literally grinning from ear to ear right now in anticipation of seeing his face as he opens it. I’m planning a beautiful birthday cake for him, a special party for loved ones and an afternoon of activities and fun. This will be the first time ever that I can give my child a party and make it all about him; to make decisions and not have others change them or dictate to me what I can and can’t do for my children. Whatever I want for him he will have, I can give my beautiful boy a special day that he’ll remember forever, with everything that I know he truly loves and appreciates most, and it fills me with such hope and happiness to know that I am no longer held back in making these decisions. Never again will I let anybody dictate to me or bully their choices over mine, to silence me or change my path. A mother knows best for her children and I realise now more than ever that bending over backwards just to please other people only leads to trouble and strive for your own family, with no appreciation or thanks and it all ends up being the opposite of what you wanted. I know my own heart, and I know my own mind, so I’m starting this year as I mean to go on, by putting myself and my children first and telling everyone else where to go.
And perhaps for the first time ever I realise the good that being a single parent does for a child, in my case the good that it does for my son and I particularly. The expression of too many cooks spoil the broth is spot on, when too many people try to involve themselves in your business with conflicting opinions in raising children it just leads to arguments and bad feeling. But metaphorically speaking, now that the cooks no longer work together they are all free to make their meals to their own taste. I prefer my children to live in a non-smoking environment, to drink water over squash, to eat homemade food over ready made or packet meals, I tend to them when they call for me, comfort them if they cry at night and I play with them, interact and teach them by setting an example of how I would like them to behave. So when Gabriele is away from me and he is given fizzy drinks, comes home smelling of smoke, is left to cry on his own at bedtime before falling asleep and sits by himself playing with a stack of noisy toys my concerns as the childs mother fall on deaf ears, but at least he is seeing both sides of life. He is raised by two entirely different methods, and who is to say which is better, right or wrong, there is no rule book or instructions on how to bring up children. But he has that rare insight of seeing both sides of the coin and as he grows he will be able to decide for himself which he prefers most and no doubt learn from both. We are all too often just told what to do without knowing the alternative option, but he is seeing both, poles apart and completely conflicting in behaviour. And all that I can hope is that it will make him into a grounded and understanding young man some day. Our life together is filled with love, appreciation and a hands on approach to parenting, so I am happy in my heart and home that I am doing my best by him.
This week I had a photo shoot for a woman’s weekly magazine at home with the children and I, focusing on the beginning of a new year and the troubles and trauma we have all been through with my life-threatening surgeries and becoming a single parent shortly after celebrating Gabriele’s first birthday. It’s purpose is to give hope and encouragement to others who may be struggling, to realise that you can go through such pain and heartache and pick yourself back up a stronger and far better person for it. There were, and no doubt still are, ignorant people around me who had absolutely no idea of what I went through. They saw that I had a new baby, worked out out to achieve my pre-pregnancy weight then had a “boob job” to get bigger breasts and finally “liposuction” to lose even more weight; when in fact the reality of it was far from the truth.
I lived in horrendous pain on a daily basis for many years as my chest collapsed, non-medical grade silicone was actively leaking into me from my faulty PIP implants which were falling away from my body and cutting off my circulation; days, weeks, months or years later the ticking time bomb could have given me cancer or poisoned me alive with the results being fatal. At the age of just twenty five I had my breasts removed, chest tissue scraped out, my implants replaced and a breast reconstruction by a modern technique of fat harvesting and relocation; for which I had to put on half a stone in weight to grow a stock of my own body fat that was removed from my stomach with liposuction before being injected into my chest to rebuild my breasts. And did I complain once? No. Did anybody around me other than my fiance at the time know anything about the severity of my condition? No. And did I do this for vanity or attention? No. It was life saving surgery carried out privately away from the NHS and taxpayers. So if people begrudge me having “cosmetic” surgery and say that I’m selfish and “addicted” to surgery then I have nothing more than pity for them, and I ask you, would you say the same to a cancer patient going through the same horrendous ordeal as I?
I hope that in sharing my story and speaking of what hurt me so much will show others that we are all far stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We are capable of starting over and rebuilding our lives during testing times filled with pain and emotion. No mountain is too high and no river is too wide for us not to succeed in what we set our hearts on in life. And I have begun this year with my head held high, my heart healed and my pain and suffering finally extinguished. I am content in mind, body and soul and stronger than ever. At the age of twenty-six I have so much passion and drive for life, to do the best by my children and make the world a brighter and more positive place for all. I plan on leading a very happy, worthwhile and healthy life, living long into old age and seeing my beautiful children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow and flourish at all that they do; and I do this with my best foot forward, step by step and day by day.