On Being Held in Mind

I’m talking to you on the phone as I walk up the hill from the station and towards home.  There are plenty of people about even though its past midnight, but I know you won’t rest until you have seen me home.  That’s the thing with you mum, you are able to keep me safe by holding me in mind, being present in spirit and keeping anything bad away.  I remember the first time I flew on a plane when I was 12 and went to Romania on a school trip.  You sat down that morning at the kitchen table and willed that plane to stay in the air, you didn’t move until you were sure it had touched down, I knew you were holding it up.  It was years ago and before we all had mobiles so you never got the message I had landed, you just knew.

I recognise the importance of an attentive parent responding to a child’s needs in infancy as being crucial to the child’s development and that being held in mind is connected to a child’s ability to know that a parent is there for them even when they are not physically present but mum I’m 50!

I’m not complaining really, being held in mind by you has always been wonderful.  It has kept me safe and also given me extra strength along the way.  Any doubts I have experienced in my ability to do something have often been blown away when I remembered you believed I could do it.  Its been this way all my life, from the moment I was born you have believed in me, worried for me and beyond anything else loved me no matter what.  I can’t think of a time in life you haven’t been with me, you have seen me through the best and worst of experiences.  My life lessons have all involved you.  When I have taken the longer path you have walked it with me, however hard you knew I would find the right way in the end.  But on occasion if I’m honest mum, this preoccupation with my safety has driven me a little mad.

I remember when I had my son and you were interviewed for Woman’s Hour on becoming a grandparent.  You told the presenter that by having a baby it made me vulnerable as from that day forward I could be hurt like I had never been hurt before if anything happened to my child.  It makes perfect sense to me, your right our worries about our children are our biggest and most frightening but we also have to let them live.

You often worry about things that are never going to happen, its very unlikely that terrorists will get on the plane I am flying on, a bomb will go off on the tube I’m travelling in or my car will break down and be buried in a blizzard.  That’s not to say I don’t take your advice and carry a blanket in the boot mum, rest assured.

I know you touch my picture every night before you go to sleep and I know you think of me on waking and all through the day.  I know you like to share my worries so that I don’t suffer the stress of them on my own, but doesn’t that just add to your worries.  Now I’m worrying about you worrying about me and it worries me!

I put my key in the door and tell you I’m home safe, I want you to relax now.  I’m a big girl and your the vulnerable one now, let me worry about you, take responsibility and hold you in my thoughts now.

Talking to Myself

‘I’m going to keep on talking to you until you listen, that’s right there is no ignoring me you are going to have to eventually answer back’.   I was talking to you as I wondered the flat, soaking up all the memories that took me back so many years.  I could smell you everywhere, in the linen on the bed, in the clothes laid out neatly over the chair and in the air I breathed in deeply.  ‘Are you listening to me?’ I called out to you as I looked at the photo of us by the bedside.  It was taken many years ago and faded from the sunlight that steamed in through the window, even today.  The smiles were still there, in that black and white photo and reminded again me of the fun we had that day.  We always had fun, whatever the situation at some point we always found the funny side of it.  When you do eventually decide to start talking to me I will ask you if you recall the day in Cambridge. If you remember the day when stupidly I pointed out the Waterstone’s bookshop and told you I thought they would have some very good books in there.  Not many people would have got the madness of that, my connecting visiting a university town with the stock of its bookshop, certainly not the people who gave us strange looks and stepped around us as we sat huddled on the pavement outside the store unable to move through our laughter and tears.

The silence was broken with a crash from the kitchen, what had you done this time.  I walked into the empty room to see a cup on the floor and broken in half.  The cat looking down from the dresser with an indignant look that told me the cup had been in the wrong place.  I picked up the pieces and called out that I was sorry for assuming it was you.  Where are you, the flat is not that big, what are you doing.  I wonder if you are watching me and I just can’t see you, are you smiling.  I finish the washing up, putting your cup where you like it by the polished kettle, I’m sure you wouldn’t have minded me using it.  I look around the room to make sure everything is in its place and the table is clear of crumbs before heading down the hall.   I put on my coat, hanging next to yours in the hallway and linger looking at my reflection in the mirror, I look beyond myself at the room behind me, everything is as it should be, except for you.  As I pick up the key from the tray by the door I try one more time.   ‘I hope you are in more of a talkative mood when I get back’ I call after me ‘please try’.

I leave the light on for you as I close the door and head off down the street.  The evening is drawing in and the children look like they are heading home.  I pull my coat closer and hope that the medium on the church platform will have more luck with you tonight.

A Wallop for Christmas

Christmas, and I was happily meandering through the lanes in Brighton. I was relaxed and soaking up the festive atmosphere, until that was I heard a loud yell from behind. As I turned I saw a woman with what I can only describe as a look of absolute rage upon her face, appearing as if she might explode like a bomb at any moment. Her hair was wild and framed a face that was red and swollen, and eyes that appeared to be almost popping from the sockets, almost sitting on her cheekbones. She grabbed the arm of the young girl with her and propelled her forward and in front of her into the crowd, like you might throw something very heavy. ‘You just wait until I get you home my girl’ she growled at the child as she pushed past me. They were walking very quickly, almost running with the young girl looking up at what I assumed was her mother with a pleading and frightened look on her face. The woman had terrified me, breaking into my day with what felt like a slap around the head with a negativity and anger that radiated from her very presence. I could do nothing but watch as I saw them turn the corner that led away from the main drag. I knew the girl was in for it, didn’t know what she had done but recognised that her mother was out of control and was very likely to lash out at the child or anyone that interfered. I guessed she would, as she had said wait until she got home.

What would the child learn from a good beating, that her mother was bigger and stronger, that you use your size to instill fear into those who are weaker. Would she grow up believing that to raise children would mean raising your hand or even your fist. I wondered when it would stop, when the spirit was beaten from the child or when the child was big enough to hit back.

I don’t and won’t ever agree with hitting children and can’t find any excuse for it, however many radio shows I listen to or articles I read that try and persuade me otherwise. I find it unbelievable how many intelligent people see no wrong with smacking as a punishment or to instill discipline. That so many informed and well-respected people still say ‘it never did me any harm’ is absolutely beyond me. Common sense and basic intelligence surely tell us that to hurt another human being because we don’t agree with their actions is wrong. That a child might learn not to repeat behaviour because they fear being hit still does not teach the child the behaviour is wrong and why, it teaches the child fear. When we can find no other way to deal with our children’s behaviour than hitting out we have lost control ourselves, it teaches our children that it is okay to lash out when things don’t go the way they would like. I know there are a lot more resources in the parenting toolbox.

I wondered what good would these beliefs do me now as I looked at the corner the mother and child had turned. Would she listen to reason if I chased after her or would I by interfering make the situation worse for the child. I know that other people had noticed, you couldn’t not, but the moment had passed and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas shoppers resumed as if the incident had never happened.

I gathered myself and started to run towards the corner they had turned into. As I turned I caught sight of them in the distance and called out ‘wait’ continuing as I shouted, to run towards them. The mother stopped and turned, her body rigid and I felt ready to attack. I do not know how I did it but I plastered a smile across my face, laughing as I caught up. ‘I’m so pleased I caught you’ I said as we stood face to face, me smiling and her looking absolutely livid. ‘You dropped this’ I said as I held out a five-pound note, ‘I saw it fall from your coat pocket as you passed me’. I saw a change in her expression, confusion, as she knew she hadn’t dropped it and definite suspicion of my motives. ‘I nearly didn’t chase you’ I said ‘ I thought it was my lucky day, finding a fiver’. Adding ‘but then I thought about it being Christmas and being a mother myself, I felt you wouldn’t want to loose a fiver you could use for your children’. There was silence for a few moments, I could see her mind turning, could she have had five pounds in her pocket she had forgotten about. She took it from my hand with a quiet ‘thanks’ and glanced at the young girl standing with her. ‘I bet you’re pleased your mum hasn’t lost her money’ I said to the child with a big smile ‘what with all the treats she will probably be buying for you’. The girl smiled looking from me to her mother and I saw a different look between them. It seemed and I hope that the anger had subsided, I had interrupted it and replaced it with a gift, and the mothers face had softened. ‘ Well have a lovely Christmas’ I said as I walked back to the main street without the money I had put in my pocket earlier for a coffee.

I carried on my walk thinking about the incident, had I done the right thing. It certainly wouldn’t have taught the woman anything but then I don’t think she would have listened to reason at that time. I hope I reframed things for them and their day got better.