To my daughter

I was looking on this blog today for a picture of me when I was little, someone has asked for it for something they are doing for their wedding. I found this post in drafts. I decided to publish it. It’s exposing and raw but it’s motherhood. I don’t think anyone reads this blog much anymore anyway and maybe that makes me brave.

So here it is.

If I were to cry like you do every time you defy me, every time you say no to me, every time you won’t do as I ask. If I were to scream at you for not wanting to wear pyjamas, for not having your hair brushed, for not wearing a hat, for not sitting at the table to eat your dinner, would you give up being my daughter?

I am not a natural mother, I am not a very good mother, I pay for my mistakes in the tantrums you have but I do love you unconditionally.

You are so little, you are working out what happens in the world and what happens when you do certain things. I know I am making a litany of mistakes with everything I do and every word I say. I am at the same time too lenient and too harsh. I am inconsistent. I am unpredictable. I get so down sometimes I just sit and cry and you see me and you ask me what’s the matter. Then you hug me and you try to wipe away my tears and I realise what a terrible person I am to expose you to that misery from the person you need to make the world right. I hate myself for it. I am a terrible mother, but I’ve said that already.

I wish I was possessed of the skill I see in other people, other people don’t have the problems with you that I do, you respond to other people. But not to me. I am the person whom you will always defy, you will rebel against me with all your will. But you will cry and scream for me in the night and I will always come because you are my daughter and I love you more than I will ever be able to say.

One day it might be easier, one day I might not feel as if every step I take is wrong, who knows one day you may even say yes when I ask you to wash your hands or if I can brush your hair. Maybe.

One day being a mother might feel natural. I might feel that I am doing it right or at least more right than wrong. One day I might not have to make the compromises I make today by working full time to pay the mortgage. But I am sad because I know then it will be too late, the damage will have been done and you won’t want me with you when you choose your wedding dress. I won’t be your pal I’ll only be your mother who never really understood you.

Of course I hope this will all be different. I have kept my wedding dress safe in case you would like to use it, I have written a blog so you will always know how loved you are and you can share some of my memories of your childhood one day.  Whatever does happen I hope you will always feel safe and happy with me. It would be worth all the tantrums and all the screams if only you will always feel like that.

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Anatomy of depression

She felt it start at the top of her head.  It started to slowly, insidiously take hold.  Like a blanket one might use to put out a small fire.  It cut off the life supply and put out all the lights.  She knew when it was coming.  It started to reach her throat and  constrict her breathing.  It was an evil bloody monster.  It was hateful.  
People talk about black dogs.  That sounds almost tame, almost something you could run away from.  But this blanket, this shroud of inertia, the alternative mind of the chronic depressive was only ever a short distance away.  Waiting for her to call for it.  Because she did call for it.  Only she didn’t know she was doing that.  To her life was pretty normal.  Everything was okay.  But somewhere deep down she needed to retreat to the known corridors of the pain that reached in and grabbed her soul. 
And once it came like that, she couldn’t fight it.  It could be put in abeyance for a time, with company and laughter from friends, with a well behaved child.  But when all that had gone, and the child was tired and testing, testing, testing one, two, three.  She couldn’t fight it any longer. 
It made it’s journey from the top of her head, through her contricted throat, to it’s resting place in her heart.  And there it stayed.  In partnership with the anger that went with it.  The evil twins of the depressive mind. 
She was lost for a time.  She was out of reach and out of all human contact.  Those people who loved her (did they really love her anyway?) were shut out and hurt.  This knowledge brought guilt to the party.  The pain, the anger and the guilt.  What a merry bunch.  All residing in her breaking heart. 
Like a boil that needs lancing it grew and grew until the pressure was so great it threatened to erupt.  She had spent twenty odd years searching for a way to release the pressure, but nothing worked.  She just had to ride the wave, let it do it’s worse and leave her shaking body, tear stained face and broken spirit.  
Her greatest fear was that her children could see it.  They seem to pick up so much; a mood, an atmosphere.  Was she damaging them with this self indulgent illness?   Surely their childhood in glorious ignorance of mental illness was what she should be aiming for.  Surely she could find a way to manage this monster. 
And then it passed.  A day, a week, maybe longer.  But it always passed.  She was grateful for that. 
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The Daily Apology

She’s lost her temper, no warm up, no warning.  The rush of blood hits the surface and whoosh out it comes.  The shout.  It’s loud, it’s frightening for those in the room and it’s completely unacceptable behaviour for a woman old enough to know better.

But it’s hard to control.  No.  It’s uncontrollable.  She’ll try counting to ten, she must try taking deep breaths.  Must try remembering everything is OK.  Her world is a Good Place.  But somehow it doesn’t seem to work.  The anger just errupts. 
Who said the drugs don’t work they just make you worse?  Maybe Richard Ashcroft was wise after all and not just up his own arse on his own self importance as an ‘artist’.  Maybe they didn’t work, but their withdrawal seems violent and disorientating. 
Is that was causes these irrational outbursts?  Is that what sends her running in tears to the next room, just for a few minutes, just to breathe? Maybe.  It’s an easy enough excuse.  And something she knew would happen.  But somehow no matter how much provocation is involved shouting at a child just feels so wrong.  Shouting at an adult who loves her just feels wrong (afterwards, it feels bloody wonderful at the time – a drug all of it’s own).  
How broken was she to take these drugs? Did she think she was so malfunctioning that an artificial block on a chemical in her brain was the answer?  
It was for a time.  For a very long time actually.  But somehow there’s something primal about truly feeling again.  Just being really cross.  Being really happy. Being really sad. 
So the daily apology is due.  To the other adult in the house.  The one who doesn’t deserve her wrath.  All he does is try to love her, try to keep them all functioning.  It’s not his fault that sometimes the way he does it makes her want to hit her head hard against the wall. 
“I’m sorry.  I couldn’t stop it.  You don’t deserve it, none of you.  I’m not myself at the moment.  That’s all.  Please don’t be upset.  I love you so much.  I’m sorry.” 
And that’s it.  The daily apology.  It’ll get used again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.  But maybe soon she won’t need it.  She can consign it to the past.  She will remember it with a wry smile because she no longer needs it.  
She looks forward to that day. 
Inspired, as ever, by Josie’s Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak.  I chose the prompt: She
Categories: Anger, depression, Writing Workshop | 2 Comments


A hat slightly obscuring your face, lying like a sun-goddess on your clicky bed.  I sat next to you, making daisy chains, playing with my imaginary friends – they were real to me of course.  My sisters were off exploring in the woods, building a camp or dam in the stream.  You wanted me to stay with you, I was too little.

You were always brown, always healthy looking, always beautiful.  I sat on the clicky bed next to you, just looking, I think I did that alot.  You said “Holly darling, will you draw me a lovely picture?”  Of course I would, I’d do just about anything you asked me.  A cunning diversion technique so you could continue sun-bathing.  I see that now of course. 

The sun started to go down then and we were all called in for supper, my sisters from whatever adventure they’d had, me from my own little world.  We pestered you to let us eat our supper in the field beyond our garden.  Don’t know why, I just know my sisters wanted to, so of course I did too.  They were my big sisters.  They always had good ideas. 

You let us.  We sat on a tree trunk fallen in some ancient storm and ate chicken & ham pies. 

Later when the midges started biting and the dew was falling we ran around outside in our pyjamas.  I was called in first of course.  Being the youngest.  I don’t recall if I resisted or not, but I expect not.  You were my mummy, bedtime meant cuddles and stories and precious time with you. 

In my mind it was eternal summer at our cottage in Sussex.  You were always sunbathing, I was always playing, my sisters were always exploring.   Mostly we all played together, but sometimes I’d just be with you.  The best place to be.

I go back there sometimes, in my mind.  The happiest days of my life.

Inspired by Josie’s workshop, the prompt was ‘Summer’.

Categories: Mother, Summer, Writing Workshop | 9 Comments


Lines on my face show the night’s white noise
The grey in my hair shows my age
The defeated shadows in my eyes are your cries
And this poem I write is my stage

Between you you plot to test my resolve
You speak in words I don’t hear
Your innocence belies your crafty plan
Come evening you fill me with fear

Your laughter can lift my very soul
But when your cries ring out in the night
My heart sinks to my feet as I get myself up
And I pray I’ll get sleep before light

To my two beautiful daughters, who I swear can talk to each other despite being only 1 and 2 years old.

Categories: poem, Sleep problems | 3 Comments

My manifesto

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The Recurring Dream

She arrives looking smart, same age, same hair, same person.  I’m surprised at this.  I thought she’d gone forever.  She’s guarded, distant.  I’m sad. 
“Why did you leave us?”
“I had to”
“But why?”
“You can’t come back.  John’s* remarried, he has children.  We don’t need you now, you’ll have nowhere to live. “
“I know, how is he?”
“He’s really happy.  He has a lovely family”
She doesn’t seem to want to hug me, tell me it’s all going to be okay and that she’s back.  Because she doesn’t really seem to want to stay. 
Besides, how would she fit in now.   It’s been far too long.  Our lives rebuilt, we all moved on.  She lives in our past. 
She looks sad now.  She says goodbye. 
“Goodbye Mummy” I say. 
This dream creeps up on me every couple of years.  Always the same.  The sense that she’s just too late.  She left us and she shouldn’t have.  But to come back now when everyone is different can’t work anymore.  Her husband, my stepfather, has moved on.  
I don’t know why I have it.  She loved us more than anything and certainly wouldn’t have left if she could have prevented it.  But she died.  
She had breast cancer.  I miss her everyday.
Categories: Dream, Grief, Mother | 1 Comment

Why we had to move

I trudged up the high street trying to simultaneously speak on the phone, eat an apple and push the Titanic.  I was sleep deprived, fat, looking 10 years older and wondering when I started to loathe London so much. 

I got home, manouvred the Titanic down the steps and just got the front wheel over the door step when it locked and the Toddler almost went flying into the hall.  Once in the house I engaged in the try-to-get-the-kids-out-of-the-pram-whilst-not-banging-my legs-on-the-table dance.  But I got it wrong and had 2 large blue bruises on my shins to show for it.

The food spilled out of the carrier under the pram, the stair gate swung back and got me in the eye, the Toddler emptied the basket of toys in the living room that spilled into the hall, the baby cried for milk.

I sat down and cried.  Then realised that was not good in front of the girls, so I got up and started to navigate my way through red and yellow plastic crap, tomatoes that had escaped their packaging and a few apples that were gently bruising their way across the stone kitchen floor.

As every other day, I sorted it.  The toddler got to play, the baby got her milk.  I managed to make their lunch, empty the dishwasher, hang up the washing in the dining room/play room/laundry room/ random piles of paper room.  Then the toddler came in and pulled it all down.

That could have the time or maybe it was the time I came home with the Titanic (that had a flat tyre), and saw a notice tied to the lampost that read:

“Blue buggy stolen from front garden.  Do not leave anything outside your house”

Then on the other side of the road the street sign had been modified to read “London Borough of Crime”.

Or it could have been the time I couldn’t actually get downstairs whilst carrying baby and toddler because of sheer weight of traffic in the hall.  It took some nifty moves to navigate the black binliners with old baby clothes, the Titanic, his sports bags, 3 pairs of trainers, 2 pairs of wellies and God only knows what else.

Or maybe it was just a combination of everything.  Our house was TOO SMALL.  London had become oppresive to me.  The clutter was making me anxious.  The mundanity of our routine had started to suffocate me.

I’m a Gemini, I need change.  I need new things, but mostly I need space to breath.  I also need to see green and know that I’m only a short journey from real countryside.  A park just doesn’t cut me it for me.  I am a country girl at heart.

We talked that night.  I told him we had to move.  Had to.  We couldn’t put it off because the house was looking a bit shabby, the market had plumbed new depths.  We just had to do it.  For all our sanity.

So we did.  It took some time, some committment and some furious rows.  But we did it. 

It was one of the best things I have ever done.  Now I can breath, my girls can play in the garden.  I can leave the pram outside without fear of it being nicked.  We can visit lots of different things that are all so near us.

I love it.  The moment we decided to move, was the moment we started a new chapter in our family’s life.

For Josie’s Writing Workshop.  Prompt number 2: Tell me about a time when you had a moment of realisation and knew that something HAD to change

Categories: Countryside, Moving house, Writing Workshop | 9 Comments