Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Failing My Daughter

Mini Cheddar started full-time school in Reception in September.

She's excelled.

We always knew she was bright but, at just 4 years of age, she's already on stage 7 of the Oxford Reading Tree. Her reading, writing and spelling continues to amaze her teacher and she's polite and well-mannered at school. She was even given the Head Teachers award last term and now her name is clearly written in the 'Golden Book' for eternity.

We were all so proud.

So why do we have tears almost every morning?

Cries of "I don't want to go to school!" are a constant sound. It's exhausting me.

She says she's tired or her tummy hurts. This has been going on for weeks and is getting worse. I've had her to the doctors and she even had a day off school last week because of it.

This mornings meltdown was a particularly bad one. There weren't just tears. There was kicking, screaming and barricading the door.

It was immense.

The thing is, once she's in school she's fine. She loves it in fact.

Over the past few weeks I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to get to the bottom of it.

There were talks of two Year 2 boys, who I know had been a little bit pushy with her once previously, being the cause. I spoke to her teacher who said she'd look into it.

As someone who was bullied in Primary school by two older boys myself, my heart ached for my little girl at the thought of what she may be going through.

Apparently, when MC was taken to see their teacher, she thought it was all a big joke and started being silly.

I know that I would never have thought it was a joke when I was being bullied. I actually didn't tell anyone about it for months. Like MC, my mum took me to the doctors as she thought I was ill.

I wasn't.

I just wanted to play with my friends at break time and not be pinned up against the wall and made to play kiss chase or I'd "get a smack!"

My parents argued about my behaviour as they didn't know what was wrong. Eventually it all came out after my poor mum, at her wits end, rang the Head Master when I locked myself in the bathroom one morning and refused to go to school.

Mum still recalls that day and it's etched in my memory too. I never forget hearing Mr. Darlington's voice outside my bathroom door. "Now Heather, are you going to walk with me or am I going to have to carry you?".

I obviously walked.

I remember feeling so small sat in his green Jaguar as we drove to the school to sort the whole mess out.

No. It isn't bullying that is bothering MC. I know this because she eventually admitted to me that it had only happened once.

It isn't illness. It isn't lack of friends. It isn't a lot of things that I've been tearing my hair out over lately.

No, I think the problem may be me.

I think I've failed my daughter.

For the past year I've neglected her feelings. Because she's so bright Matt and I forget she's only 4 most of the time. I see her as a much older girl, capable and content to do her own thing whilst I apply more of my attention to her, now toddler, little brother.

Tiny Ched is my last child. Matt and I said we would only have two children. I feel a little sad that my baby boy is growing up so quickly. There will be no more newborn snuggles in our house. No more newborn smells. No more excitement of those last few days of pregnancy or first few days of new motherhood. I do however know that what awaits us is much fun and laughter watching our two children grow up together. I'm eternally grateful to have two happy, healthy and beautiful children. They have an incredible bond already and dearly love each other.

However, since the passing of Matilda Mae last February I've been a lot more attached to TC. He has also been a lot more attached to me - in fact his separation anxiety hit a peak towards the later months of last year. This, added to the fact that he's our last, has maybe had an impact on MC's behaviour.

I deeply suspect she's attention-seeking in a bid to attract more love and attention from me and I feel guilty as hell for not giving her the attention that she maybe deserves.

Don't get me wrong, I give her attention. Of course I do. She's my first born, my daughter, my gorgeously lovely little girl and I love her and her brother equally. We share hugs and kisses, we play together, we craft and bake things together and Matt and I even have a few days that we go out just the three of us so we can share extra special time with her.

I just can't help but think I could be giving her more. We moved house a few weeks before the Summer break last year. This meant that a chunk of my attention was focused on getting the house straight over the school holidays. Then after this, MC was straight into being at school all day.

At Christmas we spent a lot of time just the four of us and there was a lot of play time. Then January and she's thrust back into school.

Last Wednesday she said she was poorly when she woke up. She did look tired and, after giving her the benefit of the doubt, I rang the school to say she wouldn't be in.

A couple of hours later she came downstairs after going back to sleep.

"I feel better now" she said smiling.

"Well let's get you into school as it's only 9.15am".

She got upset.

"I want to stay home and play with you and my brother".

I first suspected attention-seeking after this comment and it's been on my mind a lot. There have also been a number of tall tales that I know aren't at all true. I know children make up stories but some where a little too wild for my liking, like she was really trying to spark a reaction from me.

Anyway, the meltdown this morning has brought it all to a head. Eventually, after convincing her to go to school today (an agreement only reached by me saying I'd go into class with her), I spoke to her teacher. Like an emotionally exhausted wreck of a mother I got upset. Standing there with my bottom lip wobbling and tears stinging my eyes I felt like even more of a failure.

We agreed to sit down with MC after school today.

The meeting went well. I first sat down alone with her teacher whilst MC played outside the classroom. Her teacher told me that they'd had a chat again during the day. MC had mentioned a couple of things about home which I knew to be untrue so I told this to the teacher. Her teacher said it sounded like she was attention-seeking. I then told her my suspicions and we brought MC back into the room.

We didn't get much more out of MC but she did suddenly mention her bother. She also said "I wish I could stay at home with mummy and TC as I miss them".

I'm now convinced that this, along with how much attention I've shown TC over the last year, has all contributed to her behaviour.

It's hard being a parent.

There's no manual for the first-born and there sure as hell isn't a manual for the second.

You can read countless books, webpages and take advice from well-meaning people but, at the end of the day, most of the time you just have to wing it and hope you're doing your best.

I know I'm not a bad mother (even though I've felt completely inept all day) but I really do think I've been failing my daughter.

Now I'm busy making plans and my mind is whirring on how to make this right again.

Next week it's half term and I have to put things right. Tonight I've already started to ignore any of her bad behaviour (not that there's been any, really) and praise her when she's least expecting it. It resulted in her asking me to bath her tonight (it's usually daddy's job) and then her wanting me to stay with her and stroke her hair whilst we read her story.

I know she wants more of my attention.

I can feel it.

Next week I want to plan a week of fun and attention just for her. I want to try and reset the balance. I want to shut off my iPhone and I want to give her my undivided attention. I know that's not going to be easy with TC around but I know I have to do something. My daughter has suffered because of me.


As a mother it's one of the worst feelings you can feel. Feeling like you've been failing them.

I know now what I must do.

Here's to next week and undoing the failings.

Here's to being a better mother.

Here's to, I hope, a happier daughter.

That's the most important thing of all.


Susanne Remic said...

Oh Heather it makes me so sad to know you are feeling like this. I truly truly do not believe you have failed her. BUT I do believe you will make this right again. Parenting really is the hardest thing ever, and we all wing it all the time. You are an amazing mum who always puts them both first and you don't deserve the hard time you give yourself
x x x xx

Lauren_W said...

Oh Heather this broke my heart. I'm so sorry and I'm not quite sure what to say.
I certainly don't think you've failed her. It's bloody hard having two children. I think any way we look at it we will feel we're failing one of them. We went through this last year, when we realised we never really did anything for Harry. He was made to slot into the family, I never gave him one on one time, and I still don't, not proper quality fun time like I do with one on one time with Charles.
I don't want to sound patronising at all, but quality time can be fixed. Like you said, sitting with her whilst she goes to sleep. I do this sometimes with Charles. I'll delay my dinner so I can go and sit with him for a while. I know he really likes that time, even if its just 10 minutes.
Can you have quality time at the weekend? Not every weekend of course, but once a month? Going for cake, to the cinema or something similar?
Massive hugs for you. You are an amazing mum. I hope things improve soon xxx

Lisa said...

I agree with Susanne, you have not failed her at all. Our children test us over and over and this is one of those times. You will adapt, you will learn and you get through it. Lots of love xxx

Helpful Mum said...

You absolutely haven't failed her. You are a wonderful mother. I went through something similar when T was about 6 months old and B realised I was spending my days at home with her while he was at the childminders. He was a complete nightmare for about two months and then once I started university and T was with him he was fine. It's perfectly reasonable for her to want to stay at home and spend time with you, especially when she knows you are home with TC. This first year of school is so full on, so much change and adapting. It's tough, but she will be fine, and you will be too. (hugs) x

Ramblings Of A Suburban Mummy said...

Starting school is hard, especially when they have a younger sibling at home. You aren't failing her! You will find ways to give her the time that will make the difference and she will learn that time spent at home isn't always a good thing. I still think at this stage they are still finding school very overwhelming and it is really hard to get that balance right when you have more than one child. But you will figure it out, you are a fab mum xx

Sarah said...

Oh heather you haven't failed her at all. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world. You're right we all wing it most of the time and just hope and pray that we get it right. I'm sure you will manage to have your quality time and MC will be ok. I've only known you a short time and I already know that you're a brilliant mum doing the very best you can for your children xxxxxxxx

Jill Pryor said...

Heather, this really touched a chord, I had a similar experience with my daughter but for different reasons. There is no manual, it doesn't get easier, each stage of their precious lives has it's new challenges, but at the end of the day, all you can do is love them and do your best and from reading your posts, it sounds like this is exactly what you are doing. Fingers crossed half term is all that you need it to be, Jill x

PhotoPuddle said...

No, no, no. I won't have you saying you failed your daughter because it's just not true. You are a great mum. You identified a problem and you are going to work on fixing it. Failing her would be working out what was wrong and not bothering to do anything about it. If you were a rubbish mum she wouldn't want to be at home with you would she? And you wouldn't have this problem. And I think you will enjoy having some quality mummy daughter time. It's half term here right now and I am loving having my little girl home with me and I know she's enjoying it too.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

No you have not failed her, you are an amazing loving mum who is trying to find out why her daughter is having meltdowns. Not punishing her,not just making her go to school, but getting to the cause of the problem, and now you're going to fix it. That makes you a brilliant mum xx

menain said...

I couldn't agree with other comments more - you haven't failed her. You are doing the best you can in difficult circumstances and you'll keep trying to do better. That is all any of us can do. There are so many things in this post that really touched me as they're similar to our life right now - we have identical "achieves highly at school, happy once she's there, meltdown every morning - ours usually revolves around brushing hair despite many attempts to make process calmer/easier (I have chased my daughter around the garden once), a mention of someone at school being mean, younger sibling at home, recent (big) move" - it's a cocktail and we are drinking it too! Every good wish- thinking of you lots!


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