Tag Archives: school

Kids Can Be Cruel

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

One of the benefits of growing up with siblings is that you have someone to torture, who abuses you right back, in a safe space where you know you are loved.  You learn how to hurt and why you shouldn’t, and you learn how to survive hurt caused by another.

Growing up my baby brother and I were a textbook example.  He was infuriating.  He would mess up my carefully laid out games, clout me with toys, and pretend I’d smacked him just to get me in trouble.  In turn I was a venomous little cow to him.  I would tease him mercilessly about everything from his weight to his stammer, throw his toys out of the window, and kick him as he walked past.  Looking back I’m thoroughly ashamed of the bad behaviour but I also remember how close we were.  How we would play together for hours, have secret sleepovers in each other’s beds, and defend one another passionately against any outsider.

J.J.Barnes, Rose And Mum And More, The Lilly Prospero Series, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit ROakley1

Now, despite living in different countries with completely different lives (he’s a genius scientist working at CERN and living a childfree life of financial security by a vineyard in France, and I’m a mother of three living on an estate attempting to forge a career in the arts) we remain close to this day.

Miss Rose is now growing up with a baby brother, and they have a similar relationship to my brother and I.  Even though Z is just five months younger, they are both the best of friends and the worst of enemies.  Z will kick over her tower of blocks, Rose will snatch toys from his hands.  Rose will shove him away from her Rainbow Dash, Z will throw his Batman at her head.  They regularly declare they aren’t friends and never want to play with the other EVER AGAIN.

They are also best of friends.  Between disputes they will play with one another for hours.  There are currently dinosaurs and My Little Ponies scattered far and wide over the floor whilst they engage in a series of imaginative games that primarily seem to involve tripping up myself and their father, and occasionally screeching ear splitting screams.

They are learning about kids being mean.  They are learning that it isn’t nice, and they are learning how to handle it, and all the time knowing they are loved and they are safe.

Learning about the cruel potential of both yourself and other children is really positive, and it will do them well as they embark on their school careers from September.  But it doesn’t fully arm them against the cruelty of other children, even if it gives them a fairly solid ground to start from.

Miss Rose came out of school this week with blood on her nose.  A little boy had hit her and pushed her down, laughing at her for looking like a boy.  Miss Rose has short hair, sometimes very short though currently it’s at the longest it’s been in years (not quite shoulder length) and doesn’t play with dollies.  She crashes around with footballs and trains, she wears her Spider-Man boots, and she hates clips and ribbons in her hair.  But she also loves tutus, My Little Ponies and nail varnish.  Her lack of restriction to the gendered stereotypes I believe are so damaging is something I have celebrated, and something nobody has given her a negative response to.  Until now.

When she eventually went into details about what happened, her teacher had given me the basics, she seemed embarrassed.  Ashamed.  No matter how much she and Z fight and squabble it hasn’t prepared her for a personal attack about who she is.

The little mermaid next door has Jolene style flaming locks of auburn hair, she is also a sister.  Her mother told me about a little boy’s efforts to taunt her for being “a ginger”.  The little mermaid has a fierce sense of self and, without any hesitation, informed him her hair is red and fabulous.  She was having none of it.  A combination of the sibling dynamic, her mother’s dedication to making her feel good about her uniqueness, and her own personality has made her too tough to crack.  At least when it comes to her looks.  This is something I desperately want to emulate for Miss Rose.

Of course, I can’t protect her from everything.  I can’t stop other children being bullies, I can’t step in the way of every child’s desire to push her (even though if I was able to stalk her around school and throw my body in front of her every time you can guarantee I would be there).  I can’t protect her from life.  Kids can be cruel and she is already being exposed to that, and she has years of enduring school children ahead of her.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, The Lilly Prospero Series, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo Credit Ventus

What I can do is make sure she learns from her sibling dynamic with Z.  Make sure I teach her to celebrate the things about her that make her unique.  And hope that her home life full of security and love, where she is told she is absolutely perfect the way she is, both inside and out, gives her a solid enough foundation to get through what’s ahead.

Watching Rose and Z playing together can be both incredibly stressful and absolutely endearing.  They are learning so much about both themselves and how to interact with others, and I am certain it will stand them both in good stead.  We just have to fill in the gaps.  Kids can be cruel, but I hope the way we are raising them will give them the inner strength to handle it.  And if not I’ll throw my body in her way, because I never want to see my little girl with a bloody nose again.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

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#allaboutme

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I was tagged by my lovely fellow blogger @SprinkleOfPixie, who writes Baby Pixie And Me, to write a post with ten facts about me that you may not know!

1) I have a very rare allergy

I’m allergic  to my own blood.  It’s an auto immune condition where my blood becomes an allergen sometimes.  It can make me come out in an itchy rash, vomit or get very ill with very little warning and is one of the contributing factors to the swine flu nearly killing me whilst I was pregnant.

2) I’m vegetarian

I stopped eating meat for short periods throughout my childhood but gave it up for good when I was thirteen.  In the eighteen years since I’ve only ever eaten meat when served it accidentally.  I don’t miss it at all and the idea of eating meat now grosses me out, whereas I used to love meat when I wasn’t veggie.

3) I met my husband when I was 23

We got married when I was 26 and had Miss Rose when I was 27.  He left when I was 28 and my divorce was finalised when I  was 29.

4) I’ve never smoked a cigarette

When I was a teenager I hung out with lots of smokers in grungy rock clubs but never tried.  I also never smoked weed or tried any other drugs.  People always assume that was my history but it never appealed and never has and I hate the smell of it still.

5) I started modelling for a while

I tried it for a while and a few people wanted me to keep going but I was too short for fashion modelling and unwilling to pose nude, plus I wasn’t the right look at all so I wouldn’t have got much work even if I had really tried.  My heart wasn’t in it anyway, I felt pretty shit about myself when I did it and genuinely wish I hadn’t done it.  It was a silly impulsive idea I knew I wasn’t cut out for and used to validate my feelings of being unattractive and worthless.  It broke my already low self esteem into shreds.  I’d never encourage my daughters to explore that as an option.

6) I am a runaway fantasist

Part of me always longs to runaway.  To just take what I need, leave everything else, and disappear.  Start fresh.  When I was single with my daughter after my marriage broke down I even researched places I could take her and disappear to.  Now is the only time in my life that desire hasn’t been a prominent lingering urge to be ignored.  Now it only pops up in times of extreme stress.

7) I’m a terrible singer

I have no ear for music, can’t carry a tune, and really can’t hold a note.  Even if I could hit an actual “note” I wouldn’t hold it.  That said I sing with gusto.  My mum and I sang to Copa Cabana at a karaoke in Spain and it was truly dreadful but very enthusiastic.  Fortunately I was drunk.

8) I have HPV

My cervix has abnormal cells with the HPV virus meaning my likelihood of developing cervical cancer is greatly increased.  Three years ago I had to have a biopsy with suspected cancerous cells but luckily they were clear.  You can develop HPV after just one incident of sex without a condom.  There is now a vaccine they’re offering to teenage girls though many are arguing against it claiming it will encourage unprotected sex.  I, however, definitely want my daughters vaccinated.

9) I hated school

I truly loathed school.  So much so that I couldn’t bare the idea of going to university, even now it baffles me that people love it and get excited by it, and so much that I don’t socialise with the group of friends I had even though they’re all still really close.  We aren’t even facebook friends.  I find reminders of that time too hard to deal with.  When I had to look around Miss Rose’s primary school I felt sick. I still feel incredibly awkward going there even though her teachers are super lovely and the school is really nice. I’m scared I transmit my own phobia to her even though I do everything I can to be calm and enthusiastic.

10) Our second daughter was named within weeks of us meeting

You wouldn’t necessarily think two cynical divorcees would be so daft, but within about 4weeks The Boy and I were referring to our future daughter by name.  Even my mum started doing it within a month or so.  When I got pregnant a year later he was so confident that she was the prophesized little blonde girl named so long ago that he wasn’t interested in discussing potential boy’s names because he knew the baby was our daughter.  Turned out he was right.  We found out the sex, she was a girl.  And he’s with us now and she’s a little blondey as he had predicted she would be, with the name given to her before she had even been conceived.

1. Share 10 things about you the person. Not you the parent, the baker or the business.
2. Name check the person who nominated you.
3. Tag 3- 5 others to share 10 things.
4. Enjoy the tidbits of information we all learn about each other.
5. Voila, job done.

I’ll nominate @MrsBaker, @OurRachBlogs, and @Life_Of_Tont

xxx

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Attention

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

We all want attention.  I don’t write blog posts and books because I want to be ignored.  I don’t post photographs to Instagram because I don’t want them seen.  I don’t engage on Twitter because I want my opinion to be secret.  I want attention from my friends, my family, and the world at large.  I want attention.

As an adult this generally isn’t seen as a bad thing.  For my blogs and books it’s wanting recognition for my work.  For photos it’s just sharing my life with those who are in it.  I live a very isolated life in many ways.  I spend more time in my house than anyone else and I rarely socialise.  Social media interactions give me the attention I crave and nobody comes to any harm.

Children, however, do not have that outlet.  And children, especially Miss Rose, crave attention above all other things.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Pezibear

I spend a lot of time alone with my daughters, and a lot of that time is spent working.  If I’m not doing housework I’m working on my computer.  I’m updating websites, I’m writing books, I’m posting blogs.  I’m publicizing, creating and editing.  I have more work to do than can be limited to the three hours she’s at nursery in the afternoons, and so a lot of time my attention has to be taken from her.

Of course, I could sacrifice my career and focus my attention on her far more, and honestly I sometimes feel like I should.  She will be small for such a very short amount of time and I have the rest of my life in which to work.  But now is the time.  I am on a moving train I have worked my entire life to climb on, my books are coming out now, my blog is being read now, this is the time.  If I walk away I will be sacrificing everything I’ve worked for and what message is that to send to her?  I’ll be unhappy because I’ll have lost my dream, she’ll be taught that a woman shouldn’t work.

Miss Rose craves attention and I have to remind myself that if she’s being good, she needs the attention otherwise she’ll start misbehaving to get it.

“Mummy can you play jigsaws with me?” she’ll ask as she sits quietly at my feet playing with puzzles and causing no chaos.

“I’m just updating this, darling, I can’t right now.”

“Mummy would you like a pizza?” she’ll ask me as she plays with her toy food, going shopping by herself and building picnics for her My Little Ponies.

“That’s lovely sweetheart, just set it down next to me and I’ll eat it in a minute.”

She’s being so good, so lovely, and I’m using that time to work without problems because she’s looking after herself.

But you know the moment she starts knocking things down, or having a strop, my attention is straight on her.  If she throws something, I’m there.  If she stamps her foot and shouts, I’m there.

If she hurts herself, I’m there.

“She’s just doing it for attention,” I’ll be told about various things.  “Ignore her.”

And in some instances I completely agreeing that ignoring is the best policy.  Trying to incite attention through negative behaviour I think should be ignored or it feeds the beast.  It teaches her that if she is bad, she gets the attention she craves, and that is a step onto a completely unhealthy spiral that I don’t want to push her down.

But that has to mean good behaviour is rewarded WITH attention or she’s just abandoned to loneliness whilst surrounded by family.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Mummy Blog, Parenting Blog

Photo Credit Skitter Photos

She needs attention.  She deserves attention.  Attention isn’t a bad thing.  Getting attention from those who love you gives you feeling of satisfaction and peace, the knowledge that you’re valid and wanted and appreciated, that your presence brings happiness and you matter.  Attention means you’re important.  And there is nowhere in the world you should feel more important than in your own home with your own family.  And she really is important.

So now I have to make sure I find the balance.

I will not begrudge her attention.  If she’s singing and dancing for me I don’t care if it’s just for attention, she deserves that attention.  Why shouldn’t she have it?  If she offers me a pizza I will take it and I will fake eat it with enthusiasm.  I don’t care if I’m in the middle of something seriously important, it takes 30 seconds and it matters to her.  She doesn’t have important work stuff that matters, she has her games that matter.  And it probably matters on an equal level in her brain to my work does in my own.  I should respect that.

But I also need to ensure I give myself the time I need to work or I’ll never have the success I crave so desperately.  I’ll never achieve what I’ve worked so hard to achieve.

This is a balancing act that is filled with potential pain and frustration on all sides and I’m on a tightrope that I keep slipping on.  But does anybody ever really get this perfectly right?  Does anybody ever give their children the exact right amount of attention that they’re happy but not spoiled, and they feel important but learn to occupy themselves?  Does any working parent ever feel they have a work/family balance at exactly the right place where they’re successful and fulfilled in business but not at some expense to their family?

Is it even possible?

My daughters matter to me more than anything or anyone in the entire world, but my career comes a close second and I cannot pretend that it isn’t important.  I cannot pretend that my happiness is intrinsically intertwined with my career.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I love my daughters but I love myself too.

So onward I forge.  Attention should be given to my children, they need it and they deserve it.  But attention needs to go to myself and my work too, because I need and deserve that.

I just hope they know they’re loved.  I hope they know they matter.  I hope it’s worth it.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Is She Kind?

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

We had our first parent’s evening this week.  Our first experience of sitting down with a teacher to hear our children’s crimes and accomplishments.

I remember being the kid at one of those.  Standing awkwardly and nervously, watching as my teachers recounted the fact I have terrible spelling but a creative mind, can’t sing for toffee but can follow a beat, and might possibly be better at mathematics if I stopped hiding under my desk and quaking every time the word “fractions” was mentioned.

But being the adult whilst my daughter watched on?  That was weird.  And I was definitely more nervous than she was.  She thought it was a great lark being at school after hours, gallivanting around the playground and showing me the ride on cars, shrieking “Mummy!  Daddy!  Watch me!” as she crashed into the fence.

I wasn’t nervous because I was expecting a lecture from her teacher, I know she’s a good girl (for the most part) and I know she’s bright, but I don’t know what she’s like in class.  My only experience is peeling her from my leg whilst she howls, and forcing her into the arms of the waiting teaching assistant whilst I hurry away trying not to sob.  What is she like when she finally calms down?  Who is she when she’s in a crowd of her peers, when she’s expected to follow instructions, when there’s no parent around.

Turns out she’s fine.  Probably a better version of who she is when she’s at home by the sounds of it.  Not naughty, bright as a button, willing to learn, and loves taking part.  Obviously I was beaming my head off.

But before we left I had to ask.  Is she kind?

The academic stuff I wasn’t particularly worried about, not at this age.  I know it will matter as she grows, but right now as long as she’s happy in school that’s more important.  I didn’t want to put stress of learning on her little three year old brain, that can come later.  But being kind?  That matters now.  That matters always.

It’s something I’ve tried to instill in her, respect for kindness.  An enthusiasm to help others, concern for how people feel, desire to bring about happiness in other’s lives, and willingness to share and take turns.  We talk about it at home, encourage it at all times, and she’s a very generous and loving little person.  However, she also is dramatic and stroppy, and gets into raging fights with her step brother.

Which Rose was she at school? I cant imagine her being a bully or a cruel person, she’s too loving, but what if I was wrong?  What if I had been viewing her through rose tinted (!!) glasses and she was only nice to certain people, but put in a crowd of peers prone to unleashing an unpleasant streak.  If she was smart but unkind I would have lost my beaming smile.  If she was smart but didn’t bring joy to others, or didn’t care how other people feel.  If she was struggling a bit with numbers or colours then you can just practice, and accept that people have strengths in different areas.  If she’s cruel or uncaring?  Is that just a personality thing?  Is that something you can’t work on?

Her teacher looked a little surprised at the question but then smiled warmly and said definitely.  That she’s lovely to the other children, shares beautifully which many struggle with, and is never mean.  She’s a very kind little girl.

At that revelation I nearly burst into tears.  I was so proud, so happy.  So relieved that my mothering, which I sometimes fear is a little shoddy when I’m having a low day, had produced someone like my little girl.

Of course, today when she thought it was hysterical to try and stick her lollipop in my hair and to my face whist cackling maniacally, I wasn’t so full of smiles.  But other than that we’re doing pretty well, I’d say.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and The Boy (Jonathan McKinney) and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

The Curse Of Autumn

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

There is a chill in the air now.  It’s crisp and fresh.  The sticky wetness of summer has been blasted away by thunder storms and wind, and Autumn is here.  My boots are out, the tights are in full swing, and the baby is well and truly rocking a splendid array of hats.

Autumn is my favourite season.  I always love the arrival of a new season, and I actually love all the seasons for their unique properties.  But Autumn just clinches it for me.  Spring doesn’t bring a sudden blast of warm to wipe away the cold of Winter.  Autumn wipes away the stickiness of Summer in a blast.

When Autumn arrives it seems to be all of a sudden.  It sort of blurs into Winter as the rain gradually gets rainier, the wind gradually get windier, and the dark gradually gets… darkier?  The same with Spring into Summer, it just slowly transitions.  Spring and Autumn arrive with a pop, but Autumn.  Autumn.

I love the coziness of Autumn.  Right now the curtains are closed, the scent of vanilla candles is wafting through the air, and my nice soft pyjamas are on.  The big kids are tucked up under their duvets and the baby is fast asleep in a fleecy onesie.  The cat has moved inside after her Summer nights of feline fiestas.  Everything is blankets and fluff when you’re inside, crisp crunchiness when you’re outside.

But I didn’t always feel this way.  When I was little I wanted Summer to last forever.  Summer was freedom.  It was escape.  It was me climbing trees, watching movies, walking dogs, reading books, playing with dolls, and writing comic books.  It was time on my own when I needed it, playing with friends should I want it.  It was no school.  Autumn meant the return of school.  Autumn meant the freedom was over.  How I loathed Autumn.

Over the Summer Miss Rose was super excited for the start of school.  She missed the other kids, she missed learning, and she missed her teachers.

Now?

Now I fear she will dread the arrival of Autumn.

I dreaded the start of school.  I was so happy not having to socialise every damn day with people I didn’t like and who didn’t like me, and had to be nice to people who I had to pretend to like.  I was happy not having to learn about things I just didn’t like or understand, and I was happy not feeling stupid.  I hated school.

Rose used to love school.

Today she ran.  As I went to leave she screamed and cried and begged me not to go, she clung to me but I pushed her towards the classroom and, feeling like the most cruel and horrible woman in the world, I went to leave.  She broke free.  She ran.

I had the baby strapped to my chest but, luckily for me, The Boy’s ex wife was with me at the time and she shoved her keys to me and chased after Rose.  I screamed for her to stop, trying not to rock Baby B about too much, and Rose made it nearly to the gate onto the street before she was caught.  Sobbing in K’s arms she was brought back and, after a tearful goodbye, handed to Miss Kirsty who gave her a cuddle and carried her inside.

At pick up she came out looking sorry for herself, gave me a cuddle and told me she was sorry she ran away.  Miss Kirsty told me she’d done really well in her phonics and had been very good, but Rose just seemed thrilled to be leaving.

The beauty of Autumn was lost to me for most of my life.  Well into adulthood I despised it, a feeling of heavy, grey, dank misery falling over me until the realisation that I wasn’t going to school anymore properly set in.  Hopefully I can help Rose embrace it and the key is to make her happier at school.

The key to happiness at school?

I don’t know… I was miserable at school… what would have been my salvation?

If she’s anything like me, which in so many ways she is, she will quickly master fake happiness and fake calm.  Because it makes it easier.  You can find stuff to enjoy more easily, and find people are more welcoming to those with a smile.

But real happiness at school?  Who knows.  Maybe Autumn will feel like a curse to her for the next twenty years too.  But I will try.  I will try.

And I will keep loving my cosy pyjamas, fluffy tights, candles and closed curtains.

If you have any thoughts I would love to hear from you.  All my contact information is available on www.jjbarnes.co.uk and I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so get in touch!  You will also find links on there to my podcasts and also the novels I have written, so check them out.  Thanks!

Nobody Plays With Me

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

In so many ways I am incredibly similar to my daughter.  I understand her emotional responses to things, I understand her need for physical affection, and I understand what things upset her or make her angry.  Her reactions to things rarely surprise me because they make sense to me.  Two peas in a pod.  Apart from one thing that I really struggle with.

Miss Rose is an incredibly social creature.  She longs for company, for friends.  She wants to go to all the birthday parties, she wants to go to sleepovers.  She would totally adore being one of the “popular kids” but, unfortunately for her, she’s as much of a nerd as I always was she that’s unlikely to happen for her.

She’s been struggling with school fear recently.  Crying on drop off quite often, begging me not to take her before we even leave.  Whilst I was cooking her lunch today she started.  She cried and cried and cried.  She curled up in a ball on the floor and sobbed.

When I finally got her to calm down and talk to me she sobbed that “nobody plays with me.”

Now, I had a lot of guilt for that.  I’d been working most of the morning.  She’d played with blocks, toy animals, and on the Ipad whilst I worked on my laptop, then in the bath had a marvellous time pouring conditioner all over her My Little Pony toys to give them the salon experience whilst I put laundry away.  Her grandpa came to visit and she played blocks with him whilst I fed the baby, then she asked me to do some more playing with her and I’d had to cook dinner.  She gets left alone to play a lot.  A lot a lot.  I’m either doing housework, feeding the baby, or working on my computer a lot of the time and, to her credit, she’s really good at playing with stuff on her own as long as I’m still interacting with her whilst she plays.

I said to her I knew I’d been working a lot and I’m sorry, but I promised I’d play with her after school but she had to have her lunch now.

“But nobody plays with me at school EITHER!” she howled.

“I’m sure they do, sweety!” I said anxiously.

“No they don’t!  NOBODY LIKES ME!”

She was broken.  Completely in pieces.  Her little face crumpled up and red, tears breaking from her huge grey eyes and splashing down her t-shirt.

The thing is, I know that’s not true.  I’ve heard little voices pipe up “Hi Rose!” when we are waiting to go in.  I’ve seen her racing up and down the ramp with energetic class mates with delight.  She’s been given birthday party invitations.  She’s not disliked.  Quite the opposite, she’s liked!  She’s a bloody lovely kid too so I get it.

But she is desperate for love.  Desperate for friendship.  So much so that she will give you anything you want, do anything for you, if you’re nice to her.

It’s not that she isn’t like or that nobody plays with her, it’s that not every body wants to play with her all the time.  Some kids are mean, and I know that.  She’s come home with wounds because kids have kicked her or pinched her or pushed her over.  She’s come home crying because people have been cruel.  But she also finds it incredibly painful just to be told someone doesn’t want to play with her right now.  They’ve not been cruel or violent, they just don’t want to include her at that moment.

She has been rejected.

Because she will open her arms to anybody who is willing to play with her, will accept anybody being nice even if they’ve only moments before been cruel, when the same isn’t offered to her it confuses her.  It hurts her.

I’m a total loner by nature.  I remember a girl in my class in school in reception year, so I would have been just one year older than Rose, threatening me with “Well you’re not invited to my birthday party anymore!” over some dispute to do with a doll’s house.

I remember the feeling in my head so clearly.  “Phew!  Why would I want to go to your birthday party?”

But I knew the appropriate reaction.  It was a popular threat and reduced many a child to tears.  So I said whined a bit and said I was sorry.  But I didn’t care.  I was actually relieved.  I don’t remember if I ever went to Joanne’s birthday party or not, but that vivid memory of relief that I wouldn’t be invited is there.

Rose?  Rose’s sobs would have been real.

I can’t force the other kids to always include her, embrace her welcome her into their games and activities.  I can’t change who she is.

What I can do is teach her that it’s okay to not always be included and it doesn’t reflect negatively on who she is as a person, and just be a constant reminder that she is good and lovely and has done nothing wrong.  I can also work tirelessly on reminding her that if someone is cruel to you then you do not have to welcome them back into your life because they’ve suddenly been nice.  That being treated badly is an actual bad thing, and seeking the approval and acceptance of the bully by doing anything they want if they are nice to you is not healthy.

And I can keep reassuring her that people do like her.  People do want to play with her.  When I don’t it’s not because I don’t love her or like her or enjoy her, it’s because some days I’ve got other stuff that I have to do.  When other people don’t want to play with her it’s not because she’s a bad person it’s just because not everybody wants her time constantly.  And that’s okay.

When I picked her up from school she was chipper.  She’d been pinched in the neck by a boy in class and was highly aggrieved by the situation, but was cheerfully recounting it between playing car games with me as we drove.  When we came home she had snacks and we made a birthday card for her teacher which involved a lot of glitter glue and chaos.

She was fine.  She’ll be fine.  I just need to learn to understand just how desperately she desires social interaction and try to teach her to manage that desire.  And she needs to learn that she is valuable and lovable for herself, and not seek that affirmation from others because not everybody will give it to her on demand.

What do you think?  Do you have any thoughts or ideas about how to deal with it?  I’d love to hear from you!  You can find links to my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, as well as links to my novels, my podcasts and our Patreon page.

Advanced, Or Not?

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Children all excel in different areas.  Some take longer to accomplish things than others, and some are strikingly advanced, others are pretty average in everything.  And I think most, like Miss Rose, are a mix of all three.

Today Miss Rose spent some time with the health visitor.  She was weighed and measured, 33lb and 105cm, and she had some conversation with her.  It was very relaxed, she was watched playing and chatting, and she was asked questions in a very casual way.  Just about what she likes doing, what food she likes to eat, and the people in her life.  A strop was witnessed, a negotiation about what she could do outside was observed, and how she interacted with her baby sister.

The conclusion?  In vocabulary, reasoning and imagination, Miss Rose is advanced.  Very advanced.  The word “incredible” was used more than once.  When I expressed the challenges of giving her enough stimulation and challenges during the school break, it was met with a laugh and the assurance that I couldn’t possibly do that because she needs more than I could give her.  This was both reassuring and seriously annoying.  Just because I’m right and not just being lazy doesn’t mean the challenge isn’t still present daily!  When complaining about the way she tests every boundary you set up for her, and challenges every rule, I was told emphatically that she does it to the extent she does because her brain is processing so much and she wants to understand her environment.  Again, nice to know… but doesn’t stop the fact I lose my mind dealing with the constant testing!

However, that’s not the real subject of my thoughts on this.

Miss Rose is advanced.  It’s not been a surprise to anyone.  Indeed, the comments I’ve had after updating my Facebook friends about this have all been that they could have told me that themselves.  But being advanced in certain areas brings with it huge challenges in others.

Because Miss Rose is tall for her age, walked and talked early, and has a far bigger vocabulary than other children her age, she is always assumed to be older.  And she is not advanced in so many other areas.

She is not advanced in her emotions.  Sure she has great empathy, and she is great to chat to, but she’s still just a three year old.  When she tantrums she is most definitely a three year old.  She stamps and shouts and rages.  But she looks older than she is and people judge her to just be a badly behaved child not a normal little kid doing what normal little kids do.

She is not advanced with numbers.  Her step brother Z is most definitely advanced with his numbers.  He is five months younger but recognises all of the numbers, can count consistently higher without error, and knows how to put two numbers together to make a new number.  Miss Rose, bless her, tries.  And fails.  She misses numbers out, puts them in the wrong order, and confuses numbers for other numbers.

She is not advanced with drawing.  I see pictures my friend’s children of the same age have drawn, some absolutely incredible and some normal child creations, and Miss Rose is most definitely not advanced.  Usually she just scribbles and draws wobbly lines.  She’s starting to make basic face shapes but nothing remarkable.  She loves art, don’t get me wrong, and wants to paint and craft every day.  But she’s not advanced.

We have known for a long time that she has a fast brain.  She reacts incredibly quickly to things, both in good and bad ways.  She knows when she’s unsupervised and will take advantage immediately for mischief, but she will also see if you’re feeling sad and rush to comfort you, or see that you’ve finished your drink and seek to replenish it immediately.  We also know the challenges that brings in raising her, she is EXHAUSTING.

But what I need to remember not to get ahead of her.  I need to not get too excited by her brain.  I don’t want to be a pushy parent, a stage mum.  I’m not getting her extra classes or making her study all day to enhance the areas she’s clever in.  And I don’t want to put pressure on her to perform.  She is advanced now, but she might not always be.  She could level out and be average, or she could discover strengths in areas she loves that are unexpected.  I don’t want to squash her down with efforts to boost her up.

I also don’t want her siblings to feel negatively compared beside her.  As I said, her brother Z is far more advanced in numbers than she is, and could well be advanced in other comparable areas too.  But currently little Baby B is just a baby so advanced in nothing except foot size.  I hate the idea of Miss Rose growing up feeling superior to her, and Baby B feeling inferior.  I don’t want B to feel less special or less important.  I don’t want her to feel she has to “live up” to her sister.  All she has to live up to is herself.

Miss Rose is an awesome, if completely draining, little human and I’m so proud of her.  She’s funny and kind and loving and wonderful.  And stroppy and demanding and exhausting.  And I love her.  And  I will continue to brag about her, continue to be amazed by her.  But I will also continue not to be blind to her.  To celebrate her strengths whilst being aware of her weaknesses.

And I shall regularly end the day with a big glass of wine and a happy dance that it’s bedtime and I can finally get some peace.