Children & Young People

Raise Them Up Right

Just a quick note to say how amazed I’ve been by Rebecca Woolf’s (Girl’s Gone Child) words lately. I’m in a stage of really reading, listening and hearing what people are saying.

// This hit me deep. I’ve been there, (a boy with his younger sisters) and I didn’t handle it with the confidence she has. Maybe next time, I will.

“But she’s so cute I wanted to carry her!”

“It isn’t up to you. She wants to walk. Listen to HER words, not YOUR wants.”

go read.. Raising Respectful Sons

// Also, this one; about how our children don’t have to be liked all the time.

Because my fear of being disliked had turned me into someone who had given absolutely everything away… You want my sandwich? Here. You want my bracelet? Here.  You want my body? Okay… 

go read… The Unbearable Likeness of Being



Be Sex Positive

Sex education and discussion is something very close to my heart, and without going into my personal story- I’ll leave it there.

I recently became a member of an organisation called Brook that I’ve been following for a while now, on twitter etc. (Unfortunately, they don’t have many opportunities to interact with them this far north, but I’m always hopeful). They spread a message of positive sex education- something that I think is so important. They believe in the greatness of young people, and respecting them. That they can make their own choices, and navigate a path for themselves- but that they do need access and support and honest discussion. This goes beyond ‘always use a condom kids’ (which is all I got at school it seems), to discussion of relationships, enjoyment, consent, abortion, emotions & feelings.

Just look at this latest blog post from their CEO Simon Blake ; Harder no, Different yes.

Proud to be one small part of their great work.

Sex is so often a secret thing, and in a young persons brain things can get so confused with no trusted adult to discuss it with. Sometimes very important personal things get only discussed with other equally confused young people, and or not discussed at all but instead secret-ed away- increasing their feelings of isolation.

Some myths I remember;

‘it’s just body parts connecting, it’s not a big deal’

‘if you’re drunk it’s your own fault what happens next’

‘if you have anal sex you’re still a virgin’ (the whole concept of virgin is one for another day..)

‘if you’ve tried bases 1, 2, and 3 you gotta have sex next’

‘If it hurts that’s just what happens’

‘You can’t stop doing it if you’ve done it with them before’

There was never any discussion of it being fun or pleasant.

When I began university, two years older than most of my class mates, it terrified me to hear stories of near-rape situations- which they laughed off (though of course I don’t these were their real feelings). Some of them didn’t believe that there was anyone kind enough to consider their feelings, that ultimately all men just want sex and you have to go ahead with it for cuddles and affection. They didn’t value themselves, because they had never met anyone who treated them right. Makes my heart twist just to think about it.

I like to think I played a part in empowering those around me, to demand respect and to keep themselves safe- regardless of other people’s opinions.


5 Things I Really Dislike; Kid Edition

Some thoughts from the past fortnight, whilst out and about. 

  1. Milk bottles of juice propped up on blankets straight into baby’s mouth 
  2. Condescension; ‘ooooh because you’re soooo sweeet you can choose your own’ 
  3. Denying feelings; ‘you’re ok’ ‘it’s not hot’ ‘it’s not scary’ ‘it doesn’t hurt’ ‘it’s only a scratch’ 
  4. Little girls in high heels; as their actual shoes, not dressing up. 
  5. Smacking. 

discipline without shame

juice bottle teeth

the happiest kids don’t have to smile 

p.s. couldn’t bring myself to say hate :) 

Doubt, again.

Just writing this on my phone in our living room.

Boyfriend is away this weekend so I’ve had a thoughtful day, with 2 more days to go.
I’m watching a programme called ‘wanted: a family of my own’ about adopting, and therefore also fostering. I know it’s an idealised tv version of the truth. But. The doubts are back.
Should I be doing this course? I know I don’t want to do much nursing work once qualified but I also do enjoy the course, and I’m learning so much useful stuff. But. I just know that adoption and/or fostering is in my future, as well as children of my own if we can.
There was a tick box exercise where they had to say yes or no to certain problems and conditions and they’re (potential adopters) sitting there saying no and I’m saying yes and maybe. I’m thinking through my answers for the panel when they go there. I’m wondering what it would be like to go to one of the adoption activity days they go to. I’m thinking how there are so many little boys not placed purely on gender- and I’d love a little boy. I’m thinking about what age groups I’d consider.
These thoughts come in waves- sometimes I can’t stop thinking about it and sometimes I put it aside for a while.
This is coupled with the fact that although he is supportive of any choices, Boyfriend doubts I’ll want to go right the way through this course. That if his business is highly successful still by this time next year say, will I still want to keep writing pointless essays when we can have a family of our own- one of the few reasons I’m staying on, to learn more for them.
Sometimes I think of this, and my nannying experience, as a parenting internship.
I just know that I have no real idea what being a foster carer, or adoptive parent is like but then no one finds out if you’re suitable to be a birth mother either. There’s no test. I can do all the research I want but I’ll never truly know until it’s happening, and then I’ll learn on the job. I know it will some days feel impossible and some days feel the best and most important thing I’ve ever done. Or both, every minute.
I of course wish to parent alongside Boyfriend, but these feelings have been present from before he was in my life, and I don’t want to speak for his feelings. All I know is that he’d like a biological child first if we can, which is something I can happily agree to!
So hard to know. I guess I’ll put it aside for a little longer. But I don’t know what I’m waiting for.

Respecting Children

I’m currently writing an essay for my child nursing course about communication and relationship building with children and their families. I hit a bit of a lull, so I was googling to find some more articles. I typed in ‘lack of respect for children’. Immediately it became obvious every single result was the opposite of what I’d intended.’Children lack respect for their parents’ ‘a lack of respect is a big issue with children nowadays’ ‘need a rant- my daughter won’t respect me’ were just a few of the 125,000,000 results. It hurt, to see that. It seems very few people respect children, and all too many are demanding it from them instead. I already knew it, but to see it displayed so visually. Jolts you out your comfort zone, of thoughtful kind-to-kids blogs such as Janet Lansbury and Girls Gone Child

The Upstairs

We live below a family; two boys and their mum. We all moved in at the about the same time, back in June. We heard nothing from them over the entire summer, and it wasn’t until September that we started hearing them, at night in particular. It was every night for about a week; shouting, jumping, running and screaming until 10, 11 at night.
I love the sound of children, but I don’t like this. They always sound so upset, and their mum is always shouting. We’ve been meaning to write a note to them, but every time we say we’re going to do it we don’t because we don’t hear them for a few nights. It’s obvious the mum doesn’t have ‘control’ over them; or she just don’t have a good relationship with them so I’m completely aware that a note, however gentle or harsh, is going to be futile. I can’t fix their problems.
One evening last week I heard the sound of a child crying uncontrollably, sounding both angry and upset. It was clear he was out in the hallway, where they keep their shoes. I instinctively went halfway up to their floor. His brother came out asking ‘what happened?’ and at the same time the little brother saw me and bolted back inside (separate note- who knows what their mum has been telling them about us!). The elder boy fixed something that was blocking the door and said that he’d be ok. I could tell that wasn’t true as I could hear him crying and shouting ‘I hate you!’. Things got quieter, but I then realised they had gone down the stairs passed the flat and were making their way back up- whispering past our door. Very strange.
I wish I could help.
They’ve actually been away somewhere for the past 3 days- which happens quite a lot. If they went away regularly we’d probably be able to handle this, but it’s all so random. 

My Work

Since the last week of June, I’ve been looking after the 9 year old boy on his own. His sisters remain in school until next Friday. By the end, that will be 4 weeks. Four weeks of hanging out with me, from 9 till 3, on his own. He doesn’t have any friends from his new private school that he wants to see- and his old friends are still at school all day.

This wouldn’t be an issue, if he was like his sisters- who love to spend time with me. Or like most other kids I know (outside of my volunteering). The problem is his negative attitude. If I suggest anything at all- it gets a firm ‘no’ in response. It doesn’t matter whether I’m offering a trip to the skatepark, a game of football outside, baking, drawing, creating or watching videos on (Which are all things he’s enjoyed in the past). The only things that get a yes are; lunch, battleships (only twice so far though), or anything with a screen. I therefore let him initiate his own activities, but this means that either he plays on the iPad for hours (something I’m not permitted to allow) or he is alone in his room for hours- then the rage builds up along with the boredom and the demands for a screen return.

Recently his parents have wiped the iPad of all the games and instituted a points system- the reward of which will be a game of his choice reinstalled. The trouble is that that kind of reward is too long-term for him I think. He also cannot control his anger and temperament in order to not lose points. Plain anger/upset would be ok but it’s destructive, violent, rude anger- for which I am supposed to dock points.

I am also supposed to ‘make’ him do piano practice, and maths worksheets each day. I can’t get this child to do a pleasant activity, or leave the house to get his sisters, let alone maths and piano! I have previously spent over an hour getting him to play the piano, and 20 minutes to leave the house as he refused to go. I’m ashamed to say I had to pick up his shoes, pull him over the threshold and lock the door behind me. It makes me feel like a bad person.

This kid needs someone bigger and better than me. Someone with a degree in child psychology. He needs help managing his anger, and expressing his emotions. He frequently has feelings of self-loathing, saying ‘I’m the worst, I’m so bad at that, I can’t do that’. He has perfection issues- his work must be neat and tidy at all times, and if he cannot do something it’s thrown to the ground and kicked, whilst he screams and shouts. The same response if something is denied to him. It is effectively a tantrum but on a different scale due to his age.

I recognise some of these feelings from my own childhood (such as loving your siblings so much that you squeeze them till they cry out) but these feelings are much more negative. He is also strong. He doesn’t like me, or want to be with me. I cannot hold him, help him through these feelings because I would be hit or kicked with his full capacity. He doesn’t often touch me voluntarily so I have to treat him with the same respect.

It’s hard. I don’t know how he came to be like this. Is it something his parents have done to him? They too have anger management issues, are physically violent, and are frequently inconsiderate and dismissive towards their children (but sometimes they are nice) Or is it genetics- he is adopted so we don’t know what his birth parents are like. Or is it brain wiring before he was moved at the age of 6 months- but that doesn’t seem long enough for long-term damage of this nature to set it. I don’t think the parents see the full extent of this child’s issues, and that he needs help.

I find myself dreading each day, and wishing away the remaining time I’m working for this family- the opposite of what I want to be doing which is savouring each moment. My time with the girls is now cut short- some days I don’t even see them if a parent finishes before they finish school for the day. I am beginning to miss them already- as our time together is now marred by their brothers behaviour, bringing out their worst natures.

I’ve written before about my work here

P.S. We have had some good times but just.. not many. These have included; pretending he’s falling off a cliff while I give a running commentary (twice), pretending to be normans/germans/etc and knocking on the front door to steal gold/murder people (twice), playing battleships/draughts  (3 games). That’s it, and it’s been 2.5 weeks!

To lighten things up; have a look at the world of a fantastic Irish children’s storybook writer