Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Tortoise and the Hare......in honour of my girls

Yesterday was the school sports day. My girls were both to take part in an 80m sprint. Lucy was up first. There were only three children in her heat (herself included) but as the start whistle blew, you couldn’t see Lucy for dust. She was metres ahead of the opposition, crossing the finishing line in record time.

Two summers ago, this ability to sprint so fast earned her the nickname ‘Forrest Gump’ from my mother. She was amazed at how Lucy would just bolt, knees high, arms pumping. Her energy seemed to know no bounds. Indeed, this is still the case today. Probably more so, if I’m honest. She is what I call my little ‘energy bundle’. She is always on the go, rarely sits still, and needs (much to my dismay), very little sleep. Even a case of childhood asthma has failed to slow her down. So siree, she’s unstoppable!

I do sometimes wonder how much of her energy comes from nerves, and how sustainable it is in the long term. She’s always been fairly highly strung. She frets and worries openly. She fusses and pesters. She would try the patience of a Saint. Sadly, to my detriment, I have failed many of Lucy’s patience tests. I feel we are perhaps too alike in many ways. We often clash, both of us having a strong will. She has staying power though, and I can foresee trouble ahead when puberty kicks in. But for now, as a seven year old, she is as open as can be. After one of our clashes, I’ll invariably receive a note or a drawing: ‘Sorry Mummy. I love you’ she writes, to which my heart melts, and all is well again.

She is the most openly affectionate and demonstrative child I have ever known. She will happily give her adoration to anybody who crosses her path. If a person appears in her life and stays around for more than a couple of days, they are rewarded with unlimited supplies of Lucy-love. She knows no inhibitions when it comes to expressing her feelings of affection. It is a joy to behold when a child behaves this way, because in her innocent openness, she commands so much love and affection in return. Everybody loves Lucy. It’s hard not to. I hope she remains as loving and giving as she is now. Although, as she grows, I’m sure that this innocence will diminish, so I guess I should learn to appreciate it whilst it lasts. I should learn to get better at the patience tests, and work on relaxing through the clashes, and extending the periods between them. For even though Lucy drives me nuts with her boundless energy and reluctance to sit still for a moment, I still adore my little Forrest Gump. Watching her win her race yesterday brought a lump to my throat. Like all parents, I was just bursting with pride (and glad I was wearing sunglasses so nobody could see my tears!) For me, there is always that extra little bit of pride though, the sort of pride only a single mum feels when her kids do well. Those of you who do (or have done) the same job as me, will know what I’m referring to.

Alice’s race was second, and just like her character is to Lucy’s, so the race result was reflected. Chalk and cheese. Alice is my little slow burner. She doesn’t like to rush. It’s part of her make-up, and one of the most endearing things about her. At the age of two, Alice was completing jigsaw puzzles made for five year olds. She will happily sit and play alone, and can entertain herself for hours. She much prefers sedentary activity. She’ll never be a live wire like her sister. They really couldn’t be more different in that respect. If there is a choice in the matter, Alice will choose to do as little as possible. She’s a thinker, and incredibly deep. If only I could read her as well as I read Lucy, but sadly I can’t. She’s an enigma. A beautiful, pale-skinned enigma.

But that’s not to say Alice isn’t feisty. Oh boy, don’t cross her! We too have our clashes. She can swing from quiet contemplation to fiery indignation in the blink of an eye. It pains me to say, but sometimes her mood swings catch me unawares, and I react in the worst possible way (by losing my temper) which only adds fuel the fire. That’s another point I should really work on; reading Alice better.

She is nowhere near as predictable as her sister. She has a protective wall around her, which sometimes even I cannot penetrate. She is no less affectionate than Lucy, but she’s a lot more choosy about who she shows her affections to, and when.

She doesn’t like to admit when she’s made a mistake either, and she hates to say sorry. Instead, she chooses other ways to show remorse. Usually, apologies from Alice will come in the form of some small home-made gift. I have a box full of cut out shapes and figures. Some are in the adult form (me), some are clearly children (Alice) and some are not of this world at all. All have little love hearts drawn on them though. That’s her way of showing she cares. Again, it’s heart melting. I can never stay cross with either of them for long.

Watching Alice’s ‘sprint’ yesterday, and comparing it to Lucy’s, put me in mind of the Tortoise and the Hare (but without the moral lesson). Alice came fourth (out of four), but she did it with pride and grace. For her, it really wasn't about the winning, but about the taking part. My tears for her achievement were equal in pride to those for Lucy’s win. She may have her funny little ways, but there is no doubt in my mind that she will be an achiever in the ‘long run’. In this fable, both players are winners.....at least to their Mum.

Pride doesn’t even come close to describing how I feel about them.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A musical kairos

I have always been a lover of music. From being a small child and marvelling at my Dads expansive record collection (if not at his taste!) right through until my ex bought an Ipod when they first came on the market, I like to turn it up, and lose myself in it.

Many of my own poems have been inspired by the music I listen to. There is meaning in everything, and invariably we can relate lyrics to our own lives. As Elton John put it; 'Sad songs say so much'.

We all have our favourites, which we can relate to a particular period, or moment of our lives. For me,Chasing Cars became an anthem for me and my children in 2008. It signified everything I felt about our situation; facing the world together, just the four of us. Oh how I listened to that song, over and over, tears flowing freely.

I spent a great deal of time in 2008 listening to music. Lying down and letting the words wash over me. Wallowing in the pain, letting out the tears, and getting angry,or inspired.....depending upon the tune.

I still do it today, although with less of the 'wallowing', I hasten to add!

But there was this moment, back in the summer of 2008, which I can only describe as my musical 'kairos' or 'moment of truth'. It was a song I'd heard many times before, yet before that moment in time, it had never held such significance.

Life was in turmoil, the Divorce was in full swing, and I had recently discovered some incredibly painful and unpleasant truths about the person I thought I had known, but,it turned out, was only just beginning to. I was in an emotionally charged place, and perhaps more vulnerable than ever before in my life.

A dear friend took me to Zurich to see a stadium gig. It was a massive piece of musical theatre, performed by an Artist I have always admired for her tenacity and originality.
The show was electric, full of energy and completely spell binding.

Then, came this moment, when she sang this particular song, and it was like the world melted away, and she was singing just to me. A light switched on, and every single word of the song rang true. I stood there, enthralled, and suddenly, I was hit with with the resolve I'd been so desperately searching for all those months.

I've played the song many more times since, and every word still rings true. It's about realising you've been kidding yourself about somebody. It's about recognising the lies and deceit, and taking that final step away, to save your own soul.

Life is full of these defining moments. They come from nowhere, they would seem innocuous under any other circumstances. Yet they are so important to us in that split second, almost as though they are messages from above.

You've got to love the Universe!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Can't we just get another one, Mummy?

My kids don't really want for anything.
We don't have great wealth, but they most certainly don't go without a thing. They are well fed, well clothed, and they are surrounded by toys and gadgets galore....much more than I ever had as a kid.

But we live in a 'throw-away-and-replace' society, so the kids tend to have this notion that anything can be replaced, at the drop of a hat.

During my marriage, this was certainly true, so I guess the kids learned certain behaviours from a very early age. If something got broken, their father would immediately replace it. If they lost something, it was also replaced. Easy come, easy go.
A DVD player, here, a computer there....it was all just 'disposable' and therefore (to the kids) valueless.

Since becoming a single mum, I find I'm trying to introduce certain values which had not been imposed in the past. They work for their pocket money, they do chores around the house, and I try my best to get them to respect their belongings and be grateful they have so much (although this part is still inordinately challenging!)

The older two understand that money is something which has to be earned, and that it cannot be taken from other people willy nilly. I've taught them that to take something and then not pay for it, is theft. And I've taught them that theft is a crime. It is wrong.

Sometimes things get lost or broken through no fault of the kids though. So I've been quick to reassure them, that in cases where nobody is to blame, if we work hard enough, we can replace the missing important items over time.

But kids have such impressionable minds, and they cannot always distinguish between the physical and the emotional.

So it stands to reason, in their minds, that if Mummy can work at replacing things they lost 'accidentally', then Mummy can also provide them with something else they 'lost'....a Daddy.

Now, this is where it gets tricky. I can do many things, but I cannot provide them with this one important 'item'.

'But Mummy, you like so-and-so, don't you? He's a man.'

'Yes, sweetheart, he is, and I like him, this is true.'

'So why can't you just marry him then, and he can be our Daddy?'

'Because it doesn't work like that I'm afraid. It needs to be special love for that to work.'

'But why not Mummy?'

'It's complicated sweetheart, it's just not possible at the moment.'

And these are the questions I'm fielding all the time these days. They don't care WHO he is, they just want SOMEBODY.

I guess this is one of the toughest aspects of being a single parent. You can provide your child with all the love and attention in the world, but when one parent withdraws completely, it's not easy to explain why, and it's impossible to just 'replace' this person with a similar model!

Instead, you try to fill the gap as best you can, and hope that one day, as they mature, they'll understand the whys and wherefores.

I believe mine will, over time. They will hopefully grow to understand that sometimes bad things happen for good reasons, and that some things are just impossible to replace. Indeed, sometimes it's just better not to even try.

There are things we can live without, and some things we just can't.

The last two years have shown us what we can live without.

What we can't live without, exists in abundance in this house anyway......and that can never be stolen, lost or broken.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


This one is about my middle daughter, the subject of my last blog....

The softest hair
The pinkest skin
Her beauty shines
From deep within
Her smile lights up
The darkest day
A love so pure
To guide the way
And when she sings
Her gentle voice
Lifts up my heart
Makes me rejoice
And Oh!
Such fiery temperament
The quickest flash
Then sweet lament
Her mind so open
An empty page
Absorbing life
Quick to engage
My Rose
She has eccentric style
Unique, yet wholly
Her character
With years so few
Displays her strength
And shines straight through
A gentle heart
A giving soul
The softest touch
She makes me whole
Little Rosebud
Enchanting child
With smile so bright
My heart beguiled
I'll never tire
Of her sweet kiss
The cutest lips
Innocent bliss

Her hand in mine
Through love, she grows
A blooming flower
Enchanting Rose

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Selective Mutism.....its not through choice!

As the parent of a child who suffers from selective mutism, I have had to learn a great deal about this condition over the last year or so.

My daughter has been through a lot of upheaval in her short life. We moved six times inside five years. It was stressful for me to cope with, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for the kids.

The final two moves saw them removed from the ‘family’ home into temporary accommodation, then subsequently, into an affordable apartment which we could finally call our own.

In the middle of this, the girls began to attend the local Kindergarten. They had attended a Kindergarten previously, but one which was bi-lingual. At this Kindergarten, my daughter spoke, but only in English.

She would speak German at home, to her sister and sometimes to me, but not in Kindergarten with the other children.

Following the break up of the family and the subsequent moves, she was now not only required to start a brand new Kindergarten, with unknown children and unfamiliar surroundings, but this Kindergarten was also an exclusively Swiss one, and therefore one-hundred percent German speaking.

So when she didn’t speak in the beginning. None of us thought it unusual. She’d need time to adjust, we decided. It was a lot for a four year old to cope with.

The months passed, and she remained silent. Happy, but silent.

She would come home and enthuse to me about how much fun she was having in Kindergarten. She chattered to me non-stop about any subject she could think of. She played happily with our English speaking friends kids, and never had any communication issues whatsoever….even in a social environment. She played with our neighbours’ children and gradually her grasp of the Swiss German language became more and more solid. She took part in the Kindergarten nativity play….as a (non-speaking) sheep, and I almost burst with pride as I watched her ‘perform’!

More time passed, and still not a sound came from her lips…….. in Kindergarten.

Still, the teachers and I saw no cause for concern. She would happily attend, and by now was integrated into the class. Her piers had accepted her as she was. They loved my silent little girl, and as kids always do, they found alternative ways to communicate with her.

During the summer holidays we would regularly visit our local Lakeside Beach complex. Here she would play happily (and noisily) with the other children in our group. So it barely registered when one of her little Kindergarten friends came along to join in, that she would suddenly fall silent again. They would invariably trot off together, hand in hand, to play in the sand. It seemed all was normal.

The new term began. The second year of Kindergarten, and the year in which she would be assessed regarding her readiness to attend school.

Just before half term, they called me in to talk to them. By now, they were getting worried.

“We cannot assess her if she doesn’t speak.” They explained.

“She seems happy enough, and she’s very popular with the other children, but we are concerned she’s not progressing and this is because of her (lack of) communication.”

“What would you like me to do?” I asked.

“She has no problems communicating at home, it’s really only in this environment that she won’t speak. Plus when she is with her other Kindergarten friends. It’s almost as though she has built a brick wall and cannot overcome her fears.”

I felt devastated. I wanted my little girl to be happy. I didn’t want her to lack the confidence to speak. I blamed myself, thinking, almost inevitably, that this was something to do with the Divorce and the subsequent disappearance of her Father from her life.

We agreed that she would be psychiatrically assessed, after which we would decide on the best course of action.

Before we went for our appointment at the hospital, I spent a morning with her in Kindergarten, in the hopes that my presence may encourage her to talk.

She was so happy when I told her I’d be coming with her! Her little face beamed with pride and all the way there she chattered about her classmates and what they would be doing today. Then, as soon as we set foot into the grounds of the school, she fell silent. She nodded and smiled, but not one sound came out.

It was heartbreaking for me to watch, because this wasn’t the little girl I knew. I was shocked. And felt so desperately sorry for her.

At one point she was allowed to take me upstairs to show me the ‘Barbie Corner’, where they are allowed to play house in their ‘free’ time.

It was just the two of us now, so I was convinced I would be able to get her to speak to me. I picked up a doll.

“She’s lovely!” I said. “What’s her name?”

She just looked at me, her eyes pleading.

“Can you whisper it?”

She tried. She tried so hard. I was willing her on, but she was physically not capable of uttering a sound, not even to me.

It was only then that I realised how truly difficult this was for her, and this was not a choice she was making by herself.

I felt dismayed to see her like this. I wanted to help her but there was nothing I could do.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that the little girl before me was not sad, uncomfortable or tense in the Kindergarten setting. She was relaxed and enjoying being there. She just couldn't speak!

As we left to set off home for lunch, she began to whisper very quietly. The further we got from the school playground, the louder her voice became, until we were eventually out onto the street and my little girl was chattering away like anything. I couldn't shut her up all the way home!

The psychiatrist was very clear. My daughter has no learning difficulties whatsoever (if anything, she is overly bright). She is one of many children who suffer from this unusual disorder. The exact cause cannot be pin pointed. It is widely thought that low self esteem plays a part. One psychologist suggested it can happen to children who are bi-lingual. There are no definite determinants of the cause. It could be a number of things combined.

And now here we are, nine months later, and she's getting ready to take her first steps into the Swiss education system. The Teachers, Psychiatrists, Speech Therapist and myself are all confident that she will thrive in school. We're just not sure if she'll speak......yet!

We'll keep working on it though. We gently encourage but we don't push it. We let her express herself in a way in which she feels comfortable. We don't talk about the fact that she doesn't talk, at least not for now.

Here's hoping her confidence will grow over time, and with it her ability to overcome her fears. Until then, lots and lots of love, encouragement, and understanding are required.

For more information, go here

Thursday, June 3, 2010


You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience...Stanislaw Lec

This is certainly true for me. I've never been known for my patience to be honest. As a little girl, I used to drive my parents mad with constant questions about 'how long until my Birthday?' or 'When will we get there?'
My own daughter is the exactly the same with me now, so I understand what my parents had to endure.

I'm not much better as an adult, to be honest. I'm always really eager to get things done. Some say this is a good trait and can have positive results. After all, from the moment I put pen to paper for the book - to today - has been a mere eight months. I guess once I got the idea to do it, I just wanted to move things along as quickly as possible.

Now the whole project is coming together, and I find myself sitting here filled with nervous anticipation. Only eight weeks to go, and the book will be released!

I don't know why I'm so impatient. There is still much to do. A feature article to be compiled, then accepted by the press. The cover design for the book, and not to mention the final tweaking and 'brushing up' of the website. There are publicity photos to be taken, media to plan....and a hell of a lot to learn about PR as well!

I'm learning by doing here, I might add!

Dr David Holmes, Forensic Psychologist and contributor to Web of Lies - My life with a Narcissist, is about to release his own book. It's called Abnormal,Clinical and Forensic Psychology. It's an educational tool, which identifies and analyses various personality disorders, including those described in my book. As he said himself in the comment he wrote for Web of Lies;

I have always emphasised the importance of real life case histories to the true understanding of dangerously disordered individuals. Being able to see their behaviour and thinking played out in the context of daily life enables untrained individuals to become slowly aware of the uneasy seam between their reality and our own.

Dr Holmes wrote the text book, I wrote a 'real life case history', and now they are both about to be published.

Perfect timing, I would say.

My hopes for this book are threefold:

Firstly: To bring the subject of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and it's related disorders, to a wider audience, and to help overcome the stigma which surrounds both the afflicted and the affected.

Secondly: To give a voice to a person whom I believe was seriously wronged in her life, then slandered upon her death. She can no longer speak for herself, so I am doing that for her now.

And finally: To (hopefully) inspire those who have found themselves in a simliar situation to the one I was in. There are millions of us, the world over. And we all need some reassurance, that whatever it was which happened, it was NOT our fault, and it CAN be put right...with strength, and a little patience.

Roll on August 1st.