Tag Archives: step-family

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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Triggered By My Children

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.

People like to joke about the word “triggered”.  It’s a big laugh about lefty liberals being mentally weak and unable to take criticism, unable to take a joke.  It’s used as a criticism.  To mock people.

It is not a joke.

It is especially not a joke when the person doing the triggering is your own child.  Your child who you love and adore, value over all others, and who even at their most angry has no comprehension of the fireworks bashing around on the inside of your brain when they’re doing something triggering.  They don’t mean to, and even if they did, the can’t comprehend what it is anyway.  And the whole time you’re being mentally broken by the fireworks of panic, you have to maintain at least some degree of composure because there are little human lives depending on you to parent them.

I have, at various points, been triggered by all three of my children in different ways.

It doesn’t happen all the time.  If I’m feeling at my most strong and my most healthy I can ride through most things they throw at me.  But if I’m feeling bogged down by the weight of life already, if I’m already struggling to process a stress or anxiety that is really pushing into me, what they add to that load can be incredibly difficult to carry.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero, Mummy Blogger

Photo credit Counselling

Miss Rose will, when fully enraged (which thankfully is rare) stamp her foot with huge force.  It shakes the floor.  The rage in her beautifully little face, the impact of the foot on the floor,  I feel it.  It hits hard at my chest and catches my breath.  So much of me feels that stamping is a great way for her to externalise her anger without harming anyone or breaking anything.  It’s also a classic child tantrum manoeuvre.  There probably isn’t a child in history who hasn’t stamped at their mother when angry about some perceived injustice.  But I beg her not to do it.  I have, at times of weakness, broken down in tears because of her stamping at me and I cannot tell you how pathetic I feel when that happens.  When I cry it immediately calms her and she comes to me, holds me, and tells me she’s sorry.  The pain of others is something she instinctively needs to fix, and then I feel like an emotional blackmailer and hate myself even more.

Her other move that I struggle with is when she’s being clingy.  I feel her pressing against me where I sit, her arms snaking around me, her fingers pulling at my clothes, her breath wafting against me.  I feel suffocated.  I can’t breathe.  Sometimes it’s fine and I cuddle her back, I know she’s feeling insecure or vulnerable, maybe poorly or sad, and all I want to do is give her the physical comfort she needs.  But sometimes I can’t handle it.  I feel intruded upon, like ownership and control of my body is being taken from me.  I need space.  I have to get away from her.  And how terrible I feel when that happens I cannot express.  Moving away slows my heart rate and usually I am able to come back and give her the cuddle she needs, but in the moment I betray that and I hate myself for it.

In a similar way Baby Boo has triggered me by being so permanently attached to me that I feel out of control of my body.  Violated.  Owned.  I hate it.  I have to put her down, or in the arms of another, and take a break.  When she’s crying and clawing at me I feel my head fog coming and I have to escape.  She’s a tiny baby who knows nothing except her need for comfort from mummy and I run away.  I run away.

My step son triggers me because, in the words of Jonathan McKinney, I cannot show him that I’m the baboon with the biggest, reddest ass.  When he gets angry he will sometimes hit out.  I have taken fists to the face, the arms, the head.  I was kicked in the belly whilst I was pregnant.  I panic.  I cannot handle it.  I’ve been broken to tears and a shaking wreck because the moment those tiny, male fists land on me I just cannot handle it.  I know he’s a little boy not a grown man.  I know I am bigger and stronger.  I know I’m the parent.  But I just break.  I panic.  I am afraid.  The swirling , exploding, fog of fear in my head won’t let me see my own power and strength and instead breaks me into a cowering, woman below the anger of a dominant male.  There are no words for how much I hate myself for that.  I have taken to backing away from him should anger flare up, avoiding the confrontation, and in so doing that I am failing him.  I am failing to parent a child who needs me.  A child I love and am responsible for.

Being triggered is not a joke.  It stops you living your life normally.  When your own child is the one doing the triggering, you take them down with you.

My children aren’t harmed or neglected through this struggle, but they are negatively impacted.  Made to feel that they’re doing something worse than they are, because if I was not being triggered I would be able to handle it so much more successfully and parent them through it.

JJ. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly PRospero Series, Rose And Mum And More,, The Lilly Prospero Series, Mummy Blogger

Photo Credit Greyer Baby

But hitting walls and stamping feet has been a precursor to pain.  Fists to the face have carried genuine weight and power.  Snaking hands and breath on my neck has been followed by violations of my body and self that haunt me.  I wish it were different.

I am not a snowflake.  I am dealing as best as I can with something I can only assume those who joke about triggers have no comprehension of.  And I’m pleased for them.  I wouldn’t wish these triggers on a soul.  I wouldn’t wish panic attacks on anyone.  I wouldn’t wish anyone’s child to be carrying the burden of seeing their mother in that state.

But if you aren’t triggered don’t mock those who are.  Respect what they’re going through.  Because it’s not an easy weight to bare.

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!

 

The Mum In The Corner With Wine

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.

The idea of a children’s birthday party fills me with horror.  The idea of a soft play centre on a busy Saturday makes my teeth hurt.  The idea of socialising with school gate mums who, quite frankly, terrify me is traumatic.

On Saturday we took Miss Rose and Z to a children’s birthday party for a nursery school child at a local soft play centre.

Not only was the traffic horrific but we had to threaten the children repeatedly with not going to the party at all if they didn’t stop being naughty.  Eventually, after some shouting from the boy and some sulking from the girl, we reached an accord, and in slightly irritated tension we arrived.

Inside we were greeted by the smiling mother of the birthday girl, who gratefully accepted the spangly slippers I’d wrapped from Miss Rose and the sparkly headband I’d wrapped from Z, and then the kids vanished into the soft play centre.

“Drink?” asked Jonathan.

Glancing around I observed assorted school gate mums clutching their smoothies and costa coffee cups, chatting amiably as their children screamed maniacally.

“Wine,” I said, for this was one of those soft play centres that is truly the holy grail of children’s birthday parties.  It was attached to a pub.

J.J. Barnes, Rose And Mum And More, Siren Stories, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit SassySanoe

When Z’s mother arrived, she too opted for a glass of wine, and together the three of us huddled in the corner, drinking our booze and eating crisps.

Little girls in flowery dresses and lacy ankle socks with ribbonned braids ran past us with Miss Rose in her jeans, t-shirt and scruffy short mop of hair in tow.  Little boys jumped and crashed with Z roaring”DIE!” at various hanging foam strips as he beat them to death with his fists.  Baby Boo watched everything suspiciously, scrambled over to a foam mounted mirror, and proceeded to snog her reflection.

We sat in the corner, drinking wine, and eating crisps.

When the meal time came Miss Rose announced that she loves carrots but doesn’t like the cooked ones.  Z was fuming that baked bean juice had contaminated his chips and tried to insist his mum or Jonathan sucked his food clean.  They refused.  And drank more.

I had moved on to coca cola, but guzzled it enthusiastically, aiming for a suitable caffeine buzz.

Overall the party was a resounding success.  Tantrums over wanting to be bought toys from the grabber machines, and howling wails of despair at having to leave aside, it went well.  We survived it.  The kids had fun, the birthday girl was happy, the parents I did interact with were pleasant.  Indeed, I managed to get into a conversation with a lost looking father about how one of the four year olds in the world now is the next Mark Zuckerbourg so we should try and be nice to our kids in case it’s them.  No other reason, obvs.

So far I’ve avoided all children’s birthday parties, and I am not keen to repeat the experience.  However, it was doable.  It was survivable.  And it made our children happy, and what really is better than that.

I’m hoping Miss Rose’s birthday requests continue to be going out for curry, however, because that is far more my idea of a good time.

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!

It’s Just Emotions Taking Me Over

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’ve written many times about the striking differences between my eldest daughter and my step son.  Their emotional states are a true example of how different they are, and on a weekend away on the moors it was never so clearly demonstrated.

Miss Rose has mood swings, and her moods are very easily changed.  If you imagine your moods on a scale of 1 to 10, she’ll reside around the 8 mark.  She will be cheerful and happy, excitable and incredibly positive.  She is full of love and enthusiasm.  A real joy.  Then she’ll drop incredibly fast to a 2.  She’ll start to cry, she’ll need to take herself away from the room and have “alone time” to try and cope.  She’ll curl in a ball, hide her face and cry in despair over the tiniest of stimuli.

Then there’s the times she hits 10 or 0.  She will shoot to a 10 and be absolutely manic.  She can hardly hear you.  She’s excited to the extreme, visibly shaking.  The drop to a 0 is horrible.  She’s broken.  She cries, she screams, she can hardly breathe.  She has been sick because the crying has been so extreme.  She thrashes around.  She’s had full on panic attacks.  It breaks my heart, and it’s incredibly hard to cope with.

Then Z is the opposite.  He’s a constant 5.  Occasionally he’ll get excited and rise to a 7.  Occasionally he’ll get sad and drop to a three.  But mostly he bobs along about a 5.  The only time he truly wavers is when he gets angry, and that can overwhelm him, but as long as nothing triggers that in him he’s just a standard 5.

Last weekend we went away for a weekend on the moors.  Miss Rose was homesick.  Z wasn’t bothered, he’ll go wherever he needs to go.  Miss Rose desperately missed her nanny.  Z missed his mum but no more than the other times he goes without her.  Meal times were different and Miss Rose needs her meals, Z prefers to go without food.  Nights were late and Miss Rose gets incredibly tired, whereas Z will just carry on regardless until he’s told to go to bed.  Miss Rose was desperate to please and felt social pressure to perform, Z is unbothered by what people want of him and is just himself regardless of circumstances.

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

Photo credit Pezibear

Miss Rose’s emotional state is massively impacted by all of those things.  Z’s is not.  Z wasn’t being forced to eat anything he didn’t want so didn’t get upset.  Nobody took his toys so he didn’t get upset.  Nobody tried to touch him, hug him, pick him up, so he didn’t get upset.  All the triggers that might bring about a mood fluctuation or anger didn’t happen.  Miss Rose was on the edge of an emotional breakdown all weekend.

Not only was Miss Rose struggling with her emotions, often curling in a ball and sobbing, needing cuddles and reassurances, often becoming so emotional she just had to be carried away to calm down in a quiet space, but she was extra tired so she was even more clumsy than her already clumsy self.  She fell off the sofa, she fell off the chair, she fell off the toilet.  She slipped in the shower, she ran into the wall, she cracked her head on a worktop.  She fell in the garden, she broke her thumb nail on the wall.

Life for Z will always be easier in so many ways.  His emotional calm means he’ll never hit the lows Miss Rose hits.  He never gets tired enough to lose control of his physical abilities.  Life will be easier in so many ways because he’ll just handle everything that’s thrown at him with his usual unflappable way.   Notices where he is, who else is there, what’s going on, and just ambles on, whereas it all impacts Miss Rose in huge, huge ways.

But Z will never hit the highs either.  Because even though Miss Rose’s highs can reach almost intolerable levels of high, they’re still high and she feels amazing.  She feels joy like nobody else.  Z is known as “hard to impress” whereas anything you present Rose with she thinks is the most amazing thing in the world.  She is the most brilliant person to give gifts to.  Her grandma often brings her a Starburst (her favourite sweets) and she recently commented how every time she presents them to her, her face absolutely lights up, her mouth is wide and her eyes are sparkling, like they’re the most wonderful thing in the world she never gets to see, even though it’s practically every time she sees Grandma, which is practically every day.

I understand how hard Miss Rose will find life sometimes.  I understand because that’s how I find life.  That’s how my mum finds life, that’s how my aunty finds life, and that’s how my grandfather found life.  Life is full of joy and wonder, but also full of emotional pain.

JJ. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly PRospero Series, Rose And Mum And More,, The Lilly Prospero Series, Mummy Blogger

Photo Credit Greyer Baby

All I can do for Rose is try and teach her ways to manage it.  I am still learning but I’m getting there.  When I feel the low coming I know I need to funnel that energy into something that course corrects me.  I rearrange furniture because it gives me a sense of control and takes all the energy and focus off the dark cloud that is forming.  When I feel the highs I am able to write and I write well.  I will write chapters and chapters of my books because I have this energy soaring through me that I can apply in ways that are helpful.

The hard times come when I am unable to manage it.  As much as I can teach these coping mechanisms to Rose they won’t help on these weekends away when you’re taken away from the things you’ve learned to use to cope.  And sometimes no matter how hard you try to funnel that energy there’s nothing that helps anyway and you just have to ride the wave feeling ridiculously amazing with no outlet, or desperately low with no support.  And I can’t save her from that.  It’s who she is.

Our children are so remarkably different it really does strike you.  Their emotional states both bring advantages and disadvantages, depending on what’s happening in their lives at the time.  All we can do is work with them, help them understand themselves, and hope to steer them into lives that are as full of joy as possible.

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!

No I Won’t Cover Up

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 am a breast feeder.  I fed my first daughter for nearly 11 months and I’m currently feeding my second daughter who is nearly 8 months.  I have always breastfed on demand, as and when required.  Whether I’m in a restaurant, a shop or the theatre I’ve simply fed my baby because she’s hungry and needs feeding.

Generally my feeding so publicly and without shame has been met with positivity or, for the most part, not been noticed.  Until now.

There is a misconception amongst those who argue vehemently against public feeding that breastfeeding involves some dramatic wafting of a bare breast with milk spraying.  In reality, in my own case and the case of breast feeders I have been around, it would be easy not to know the baby is having a feed at all.  You can’t see anything as there’s a baby head in the way.  It simply looks like a cuddle.  There’s no wafting breasts or spraying nipples because the breast is behind a baby and the nipple and milk are both in their mouth.  On any Saturday night you’ll see more exposed breast flesh for fashion than you’ll see from a breastfeeding mother.

J.J. Barnes, Rose And Mum And More, Breastfeeding, Blog, Feminist, Mummy Blogger

Photo credit Avina Voicu

This weekend we went on a big family reunion to a remote area on the moors outside Buxton.  There were aunts and cousins, grandparents and grandchildren.  On Sunday we headed en masse to a local pub for a traditional Sunday lunch.

The Knight’s Table in Quarnford, Buxton, has an isolated charm.  The wind whipped and the rain fell, but we hurried inside and it was warm and cosy.  Targeted at families, offering children’s meals and with over the top medieval themed décor, it seemed the perfect location.

I was sniffy about the word “Damsels” being on the ladies toilets whilst the men got to be knights, but I put it aside as it was just part of a theme.

With nearly 30 people in our party we took over the majority of the restaurant area.  Those of us with children stationed ourselves at a back table behind a wooden partition, it seemed sensible given the likelihood of strange noises from tablets and games. and I took a seat in a high backed booth style bench with good back support for feeding.  The rest of the family filled the subsequent tables.

In due course Baby Boo required feeding so, as usual, I cradled her in my lap, slipped a boob out of my nursing dress and latched her on, then continued chatting.

“You need to cover up,” cut through a voice.  I looked up in surprise and saw the woman who had previously seated us.

I looked down at myself in confusion, had I accidentally exposed myself?  No.

I looked back at her and she pointed a finger at Boo.

“There are other people here,” she said crossly.  “You’ll need to cover that up.”

Incredulously I said, “No!”

I was furious.

Besides the fact I was tucked in a corner and surrounded by family, besides the fact I am legally entitled to breastfeed in public without harassment or discrimination, besides the fact that even businesses as well respected as Claridges have publicly apologised and admitted fault for similar incidents, I was furious because I was embarrassed.  I was humiliated. I lost my appetite, gathered up my children, and we left.

As defiantly as I refused to give in to her unacceptable demand, I felt ashamed.  As strong as I felt for continuing to feed, I felt weakened. I felt betrayed.  This woman had seen me doing something legal, normal, natural, which her establishment is required by law to respect my right to do, and instead of behaving appropriately had turned her back on both the law and the history of women’s rights.

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

Photo credit Bohed

One look on TripAdvisor confirmed I am not alone in this experience and other nursing mothers have been similarly harassed in The Knight’s Table.

I chose not to make a scene out of embarrassment and the desire not to negatively impact the experience of an extended family I am only just get to know, but part of me wishes I had.  Part of me wishes I had challenged her on it.  Alerted the matriarch of the family who, she later assured me on learning about the incident, would have defended me passionately.

I should have fought at the time,  but I am choosing to fight now.  No woman should be made to feel that way.  Had I been alone or a first time mother the experience could easily have put me off breastfeeding for life.  I’m a defiant, proud feminist with an established history of feeding and a loyal family at my side and it still made me feel crap.  Other circumstances could have been far harder and nobody has the right to that power.

I didn’t fight immediately but one thing I can assure you is that I am no damsel.  I can fight the dragon myself, and I beg of any other nursing mothers who find themselves in The Knight’s Table to brace yourself, then proudly fight that dragon too.

We will not be bullied, intimidated or shamed.  We are not damsels.  We will fight.

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!

Nanny The Weekend Dad

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.

Grandparents can be incredibly important and special people in the lives of children.  They love you as much as your parents do, but they don’t have to do all the telling off and rule making.  Their cuddles are just as good and they come with sweets before dinner.

That said, for my two bigs, my daughter Miss Rose and my step son Z, their grandmothers have become something even more than a traditional grandparent role.

Since he was 7 months old Z has spent weekdays with his grandma as both his parents work full time.  She did his naps, his meals, his bath times.  She took him to playgroups and taught him to ride a bike.  Whilst she would never replace his parents in his heart, she very much became a third parental figure in his life.  Not a grandma for naughty treats and visits, but a consistent and depended on parent figure to do disciplining and raising as well.

In Z’s life, where he is bumped from his mother’s home to his father’s home to his grandmother’s home, it is a positive.  Knowing he sees every home he spends time in as a place here a parent he depends on is, it gives him security everywhere and doesn’t leave him pining for something that is missing.

For Miss Rose her relationship with her nanny, my mother, is something different again.  Last night is struck us exactly what it is.

As Miss Rose sat on the stairs, clutching a photograph of her nanny to her chest, and sobbing huge tears of sadness, we realised something.

Nanny is her weekend dad.

When her biological father left, my mum stepped in to become something he had taken with him.  Whilst I was on the verge of a mental breakdown, struggling not only with the collapse of my marriage, the vanishing of my husband and the sudden thrust into single parenthood, but also existing mental health issues, my mum became her dad.  When I needed help my mum was it.  When I was struggling to pay for things, my mum paid.  When I needed a break my mum cared for her.  When I needed to make a parenting decision, it was my mum I made it with.

In Miss Rose’s world, where her real father disappeared, my mother stepped in.  Where my mother stepped in she became daddy number 2.  She didn’t fill the void left by her father, but she came close.

Photo Credit Hannah Pirnie

Photo Credit Hannah Pirnie

My mum was depended on in a way more than a grandmother for visits.  Much like Z and his grandma, nanny became one of Miss Rose’s parents.

Then I met The Boy.

When The Boy came into her life he didn’t take the daddy role immediately.  He was a stranger and my mother was already there.  Indeed, he’s spoken about how he often felt he had to be conscious of not treading on her parenting toes with Rose, far more than he felt it about mine.  He couldn’t overstep his mark because my mum was the protective parent, and he was the newbie.

However, over time The Boy became Daddy.  He is now depended on as much as any biological father would be.  He does the fun, the games, the discipline and the worry.  He loves her, cares for her, raises her.  It’s he who steps in when I need help.  It’s he who I discuss my parenting concerns with.  He is daddy.

But that means my mother and I had to break up.  My mum had to stop being the father figure to allow The Boy to take that job.  My mum became the weekend dad.

When her biological father used to visit, sporadically though it was, Miss Rose would immediately have a breakdown as soon as he left.  She would scream and cry and tantrum, she would break her heart and take out her frustration and confusion about his leaving on me.  Now when my mother leaves it’s the same deal.

Nanny does everything a weekend dad does, both good and bad.  Nanny spoils her, taking her for trips and buying her ice cream.  Nanny helps financially paying for things she needs.  Nanny comforts her, gives her someone to depend on.  It’s Nanny she cries for when Mummy and Daddy have thwarted her.  Nanny loves her fiercely, is loyal to a fault, and puts Rose’s needs in the forefront of her mind like any good parent would.  But sometimes Nanny promises to show up and has to cancel.  Nanny makes decisions that I, as the mother, have to over rule and become the bad guy in.  Nanny disagrees with parenting choices I make and has to be shot down because I’m the one who would deal with the consequences.  Nanny comes and goes.

Nanny and I broke up as parents of Rose, and it’s Rose who’s living with the consequences.  Nothing about her grandmothering would be out of place in a regular grandmother, but in the light of her stepping in as a daddy role, it leaves Miss Rose grieving for the absent father who is still in her life;my mother.  She is left with an open wound from her biological father, and now a constant scratching from her second father.

Her third father and I promise her we love her, promise her we’re here for her, and give her the consistency and stability she needs and craves.  She is better for us being together and, over time, my mother will morph from daddy number two into just a grandmother.  Over time she’ll be able to wave goodbye to my mum with a smile and a cuddle, and not break into little pieces because her heart is being ripped out by the absence.  She is only four years old and my mother was who she depended on second only to me for a huge portion of her life and it’s still very fresh.  Over time it will ease.

Photo credit PeziBear

Photo credit PeziBear

But until then we have to try to understand what she’s going through.  When she reacted like this to her biological father’s absence, when he expressed his opinions on her raising and we disagreed, it was a given.  We understood it, we expected it.  We hadn’t fully taken into account that it is the same emotions raging through Miss Rose where my mum is concerned and it’s something we need to respect.

I am so very grateful to my mum for being so essential in Rose’s life and caring for her as much as she does, she is and always has been an incredible parent, to both me and Miss Rose.  I am so grateful that The Boy has stepped in to become the father she truly needs and deserves.  And together we are all muddling through trying to raise a little girl to be happy, and dealing with the complexities of a patchwork family that so many of us are facing in our own unique ways.

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!

Mortality On My Mind

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.

For the last year I’ve been ill.  Not constantly, but more so than at any other point in my life.

I think it started with the swine flu whilst I was pregnant and I’ve just never fully got back to normality.  If there is a bug going round I’m guaranteed to get it and get it harder than anyone else, even harder than the kids who brought it home from nursery in the first place.  I’m currently on antibiotics for tonsillitis and this morning started a new wave of sickness.

It’s got to the point where the response is “Oh you’re ill again?” and “What is it this time?”

I’ve never been that person before.  I’ve always been pretty healthy.  I’ve had bugs, the occasional cold, but for the most part I’ve bobbed along without too much to worry about.  Yet suddenly I’m that girl.  I’m the sick one.  I’m the one with the “that time I nearly died” story that reduces people to tears when we tell it.

I don’t know why.  Is it possible the swine flu beat my immune system up so badly that I haven’t fully recovered, that the pregnancy was so straining on my body that I didn’t have the energy to properly build myself back up again?  Is it possible that it’s simply that all my body’s strength has gone into growing and then feeding my baby, who is a huge and healthy girl, so there’s nothing left for me?  Is it simply that I’m deteriorating with age?  Is that possible at 31?  I eat a healthy diet, loaded with vegetables, I’m not overweight, I’m fairly fit and I get a moderately reasonable amount of exercise, yet I’m the sick one.

The constant run of illness has brought with it a real sense of awareness about my own mortality.  It’s niggling at me.  I look at my little girls, at my family, and I know I could leave them.  Then what would happen?

Jonathan would keep Baby B, obviously, and he’d raise he well with the help of grandparents and friends who would be guaranteed to step in and help.  But what of Miss Rose?

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

Last night I had a nightmare, I’m having a little run of bad dreams at night recently (just to make sure my nights are stressful as well as my days I guess) and I dreamed that her biological father showed up and tried to take her.  That I screamed for Jonathan to take her away whilst I fended him off, and he attacked him, declaring he had no right to take his daughter away.

Because he doesn’t.  He’s not her father, not legally anyway.  In every sense but biology he is, but he has no rights to her.  If I die legally she would go to her biological father and Jonathan would have no access to her.  In theory neither would her grandparents.  She could be removed entirely from the life she knows, the people she depends on, and be sent to a stranger.  A stranger I do not trust.  A stranger who doesn’t love her.  Who hasn’t seen her in over a year, and even then it was at best sporadically and at worst damaging.

I feel absolutely sick about it.

The idea of leaving my children at all terrifies me.  They need me.  But B?  She’d be in the best possible position.  Her biological, loving and devoted father would be there for her every day, her grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends would surround her with the love and support she’d need.

But Rose?

Rose could be lost.  Alone.

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

Photo Credit Ventus

I don’t think I’m dying, I’m not so melodramatic, but it’s definitely made me more aware that it could happen.  That day when they thought I might not make it a year ago is very, very real.  It’s something I don’t think any of us have moved on from yet.  It haunts me, and by the way Jonathan speaks about it, I think it’s pretty clear it haunts him too.

I need to know that if I did die my girl will be kept here, with her family.  That she would be raised and cared for and loved by equally devoted and loving people that Baby B gets.  That she’d never be sent to someone who doesn’t love her.  That she would be loved, completely and truly, with utter devotion, like I love her.

What can I do?  Please.  Help me keep my little girl safe.

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!