Teens and sensibility

My 16 year old daughter has been the silent victim of this family’s experience of lockdown. I use silent victim loosely, as silent she mostly isn’t and victim is not the word you would use to describe someone who, on a daily basis sings her way around life; especially since lockdown was initiated. She has referred to this entire four months as ‘quarantine’, and has obliged without protest.

When I announced the lockdown to the children, her response was one of curiousness,

“are you telling me this is a situation which means I have to sing while washing my hands and I get to stay in doors and do nothing?

I said , “well yes basically.”

Her reply, “Oh my god this is brilliant.”

And indeed it has been brilliant to her. The fact that she has missed her GCSEs, which she has worked so hard for is irrelevant. Even her friends didn’t feature hugely at first. instead the silence that hung over the street she used to nurture the creativity which she has stifled to allow room for revision. Paintings, singing, papier-mâché,sewing,singing, drawing and er …singing all featured heavily. Mer – May; her and her best friends strategy to get through the month of May, allowed expression of her internal catalogue of mermaids , which she had apparently been housing for a rainy day. All 31 of them.

In short she has excelled at locking down.

The difficult bit has been accepting going out. Meeting friends at a distance was accommodated due to the local public fields vastness, making bubbling doable. But shopping in Primark? For underwear. Not such a relishing prospect. Underwear shopping is not high on her list of joys at the best of times but on this occasion it was met with bigger resistance, an eye roll and a sigh and a dose of teenage silence which coming from my daughter is a sign of definite uncertainty.

“It’s one of those situations where it’s best you are there”, I say , “And anyway we need to get you out”.

“Do we?”, she says “I mean do we?? Really???”

“Er yes?” I answer.

I assure her that this will be a quick trip and she has a mask (she loves a mask). “Won’t be a drama”, I assure her.

My daughter is a theatre student, she has her comfort zones and a list of essential places to go. In this new world the Primark undies section is not one of them. It never was to be fair but in an age of uncertainty she prefers to be on the side of er and quite honestly she says – “I don’t want to be you know seen underwear shopping with my Mum??” This I think is fair enough but I seal my persuasive spiel with, “No one will see us – we will be in and out in a flash.”

We walk and arrive in a very non-chalent fashion. We go to the underwear department.

Then she drops her water bottle, minus the lid, on the floor.

I think, ‘ok maybe not in a flash….’

She looks mortified.

“It’s ok”, I say we will tell someone and then we will get to the till.”

We both scan the department ; me for a staff member her for anyone she might know. She goes pink.

I hail a friendly looking chap who asks me where and looks at Sarah who goes pinker. He scurries off and I go to follow.

Well done come on then love – “I can’t I have to wait for the cleaner”, she mumbles.

“Ah”, I say. “Right”.

“Seriously Mum”, and she stifles a giggle. I smile and turn the other way.

People traffic is building Sarah is glowing and few minutes pass in what feels like about half an hour.

Then……in a loud impeccably clear voice the friendly guys voice rings out over the store.

“Can a member of the Sparkle team please attend lingerie there has been a spillage. Can a member of the sparkle team please attend Lingerie?”

People turn to look at lingerie to see what the sparkle team are attending to.

“Are you kidding me”, says Sarah?

“Ah”,I say.

I smile.

She, infected easily by my reactions purses her lips and my smile spreads.

Another ten minutes passes before a member of the sparkle team appears and on the approach also smiles , not as we would like to believe in response to all this but because it is his job to literally sparkle. And so he does and we twinkle away to the tills and make our way smoothly out of the shop 45 minutes after we entered the store.

Feeling palpably relived we walk in silence. “In and out?” my daughter jokes. “I could not have written that,” I remark. At least we have the underwear.”

Perhaps her initial resistance is another characteristic of her generations better intuitive capacity , you know the same capacity which has been urged in us all to ensure that we don’t encourage another spike in cases of Covid-19. Its funny as the young have been cited as a potential reason for the rise in cases across Europe due to their apparent lack of control and a need to see friends. Reflecting today I wonder if i had listened, then perhaps we would not have spent such an unnecessary amount of time in an environment which could be reviewed as an unnecessary risk. Perhaps the response to “Do we?” should have been “well not really”.

It’s possibly, another example of how their generation thinks a bit more clearly. From issues ranging from the Environment and Race to the importance of underwear shopping in a pandemic – I think it’s fair to say , they win hands down.

New beginnings

“They sacrificed instinct to phoney ambition” Kate Tempest , Holy Elixir.

Our lives have become steadily intertwined so that even now, I await his determined footsteps thudding down the staircase at 6.00am. I have even moved the kettle to my bedroom to limit the sounds which might be attractive to a three year old at this time. As I write this, his feet circumnavigate mine and he mumbles, peeks and sighs at my pen to stop dancing; as if wishing to resume the dance of reciprocity we left off from last night. Instead , he stops and tells me, “I know you cannot play but can you get my ‘brooming’ car from the table. Of course I can.

Later, on a walk to the car from our home, I join his narration of our surroundings; the smelly lavender house, the house with the lady who takes photographs for important newspapers, the alternative family house, the house with the rainbows, the other house with the rainbows, the house with the lady I met at baby massage, the seashell house and the house with the fellow, ‘red arrow lookout’ man. This guy we met early in lockdown, when looking (funnily enough,) for the red arrows. I , on this occasion (as if there were many) saw them , he it transpired did not. Finally there is the house with, well another rainbow.

On this particular morning we languished along the uneven pavment lining the increasingly busy road which slopes down towards town. My little fella held my hand and in the other directed his bin lorry; across mountains and through ravines, over volcanoes and past monsters, with the ease of a three year old mind. He stopped as we near the corner of the road to which we are heading and looks down. Stooping to get a closer look at the pavement, in his default mode he shouts , “Ohhhhh look Mummy ooooo Snails”.

“Oh yes”, I marvelled and met his amazement, as indeed there were two snails which appear to be moving very slowly toward the very busy downward slope.

“Where are they going?”, he asks passing me his bin lorry. Grasping his hands together he crouches and says, “oh are they a Mummy and a baby snail?”

I squint and it appears indeed that this pair of travellers to the untrained snail eye, are an adult and a child so, “yes” I confirm, this is a Mum snail and her child.

They slide in linear formation , rather concerningly towards the very busy downward slope. True lemming style I silently muse. “Gosh”, I said, “they are going that way.”I point to the road. Picking up my concern – and the snails, he proceeds to place them on the wall of the man who didn’t see the red arrows, garden.

As if considering how they might feel about such upheaval, he places them together and says, “there- now you are next to each other. They will be safe now Mummy.” He promptly takes my free hand and we smile at each other. “Good job chap”, I say and we continue tot he car.

I am pleasantly glowing at the sense of empathy he is demonstrating through this one small act and it occurs to me that this is something which I have been exposed to increasingly throughout the pandemic, alongside the growing realisation within of certain moralistic values unrealised prior to lockdown. There appears to be a growing sense within people, of the importance of being with and helping others. On our street there has been a definite increase in sociability but more than this there is a jarring sense of empathy within me of not just wanting to help others, but needing to. A need which I am more and more certain particularly thoughout these weeks and months, has driven certain episodes throughout my life, although up until now I have directed it away from home. Now though and on this day in particular, there is a sense that this drive if you like, has been speaking to me for some years and has been in the ascendant since my youngest child’s birth, fighting for survival alongside its phoney enemy: the career.

Later, standing alongside the little chap in a field of wheat ( after many months of walking in said fields), I examine, with my new expertise, the grasses to determine which they are. “I think”, I say with some confidence to the little chap, “we have rye grass and sedge”. Yes Sedge Mummy. We smile at each other. He promptly shouts “chase me” and I do so tiredly but knowing its OK because lifes urgency is not really there right now.

Running after him, I become aware that my feelings of late are leading somewhere and whatever the enemy presents in servitude , the instinctual side of life is winning over, subtley but with a reverence only biology can muster.

The evening swings round and I listen back to a speech by Rabbi Sachs on Radio 4s Today programme. He conveys the need to be with someone and to live with others and draw upon them for support, beliefs which are blended with my own earlier realisations. I think starkly about how often we forgo our children as humans, our own children to achieve stability in our finances and careers for a future that is so far off and indeed, might not be. It reminds me of the words of my new Bumble friend (lockdown discovery) who says – “its never worth it.” Teaching our little ones that people are the most important thing, starts by letting them know that they are the most important thing so they can feel first hand the impact that this has on others. Teaching them that they are important- but as long as we can have a career and things as well is the current status quo and no doubt for many it is just about surviving. I get that. I too am David Cameron’s definition of a JAM citizen. But, for both parents to be absent for long periods is becoming more and more difficult to justify for me, particularly when I have spent the last three years exploring the importance of synchrony and regulation of our emotional state with primary relationships. I have struggled to let go – I cannot forgive myself or forget the pain of separation from him. The biological propensity to be with him is far stronger than my desire to be a successful member of SLT in a school.It has been made even stronger through this lockdown , which has demonstrated how very little we need on a daily basis to actually survive and to be content.

And so I resign. I resign so for the next year so I can be with him, I can nurture him watch him grow and ensure he is ready for school. I am a single parent to three children. I have very little income and I do not have any assets. I have built up a career and some might say that I should pursue this, that this decision is irresponsible but knowing what I know now and thinking about the future, my childrens future, I think to myself is it such a great sacrifice to live in relative poverty financially for a year in order to give emotional security for a life time to children? I think the answer is unequivocally no.

I feel to do otherwise is essentially being somewhat like the mother snail we witnessed this morning. Leading your child with the absolute best of intention into the business of the world with the goal that you should both get to the other side in one piece. Perhaps with a bit of space to think things through, that journey can be made with a little less risk to well being; by having a bit more time together and waiting for the choice to be taken away from me rather than making a choice which I will never be at one with.

So like those snails my boy and I sit on a wall and observe. As life begins to pick up after lockdown we, are staying at the same pace. We look forward, with the knowledge that we have what we need within us to make it through this year and after that he will have the resilience to cope with what ever he finds on the other side of that busy road.

Got to keep going

How many ways can I keep you entertained,

How do I keep the wolves at bay,

How do I keep the balance

When its tipping left to right,

Back towards a far off month


Where the hope of a new day lies

In a seed of thought, which allows

for just about anything

For Helen

Without you I would not be here. You saved my life when I was 17 years old. 23 years later you have saved me in a different way.

There was something in her voice I knew;

If I could make a bed with words-

Tattoo soft inscriptions around this body and hers

Fill up the duvet case and wrap it around

Sink slowly into my meaning

I would. There lies comfort in

A woman who can understand lyrics

Interpreting, slowly as I read

Not swerving to question

but leaning into my interpretation

Wrapping the words around her

as they slide off my tongue.

The Beginning

In January I stood in my kitchen drying up. I moved to the radio and turned up the news which was reporting on a Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan Province in China. Contemplating this I moved into my office and stood for a few moments inhaling and as I exhaled I distinctly remember whispering to myself , “this is going to be something that will effect us.”

I am sure that I am not the only person who stopped to consider the likelihood of this being a problem here. I am sure many will have had a similar moment in response to these early broadcasts but I am struck how many times, there has been a moment in my life, which stands amongst the thousands of others in a day yet manages to outdo the longevity of them all. A fleeting moment which carves itself into the architecture of my memory and has formed the foundation of the years which followed. Is it intuition – I like to think so but certainly it’s odd how we pick up on words and conversation and they reverberate in our days, long after they are heard.

In the first weeks of lockdown I could not fully grasp what was going on; although I understood and took all the recommended precaustions the actuality of the situation, even as Lockdown commenced, just didn’t seem to register. I existed in a vacuum , desperately trying to get through each day , one task after the next, trying to juggle my work and looking after three children. Days became structured around the time when we could go out for our exercise, which , each day was becoming harder to turn into something novel. I relished the small victories but just getting through until the third week was increasingly more difficult. The days hung over me and each move was framed with tears. I was angry, tired and lonely. Tired of the youngests’ constant activity and angry with the eldests’ constant inactivity.My daughters chattering failed to stove of the need for company and in amongst the silent breakdowns I hung myself out to dry.

The air though was clearer and the call of the crow became a familiar comfort in sound. The wood pigeons followed me from my childhood and became the new day breakers instead of the rattle of diesel engines. Shouting starlings accompanied the lowering light and a flock of seagulls kept the rhythm of the day in check circling to let the evening float in. Their comical cries kept the memories of the beach flowing and with this memory I allowed myself the hope that this would soon all be over.

Months later I declined the invitation from my radio to turn on time instead I left the silence playing , enveloping my day as I created new spaces in the house to accommodate our different needs. The front door wasn’t opened in 3 months, instead it was barricaded with surf boards and a shoe shelf to allow a bit more running space for the little man.

Slowly , incredibly slowly, days grew a structure and within this the tears subsided and new relationships were unearthed. These relationships extended to outside the home and the street became a place where you could walk through and get social nourishment rather than an opportunity to be fuelled with rant and cortisol.

Perspectives changed and despite the physical parameters of life shrinking, the future opened up. Days were fulfilling and nights were a time for sleeping, uninterrupted by the overspill waste, piled up from an unfinished day.

So the prospect of it all starting again doesn’t fill me with the kind of dread that I felt all those months ago. Granted this is still an unknown and it doesn’t fill me with joy but …… and this is a big but, I can do this – we can do this. Let’s use this opportunity wisely like so many of us have done and fill the days as we did before but this time let us really consider how this down time can be used to improve ourselves through our relationships with others and through exploration of old hobbies and new.

I don’t want to appear pretentious because what I say is the result of having little but finding out how happy I am with that. Tapping into the spiritual side of being and seeing how rich we all already are , if only our minds were cultivated to think that way. This isn’t about money or access to lots of people or having your own home. What we can do for ourselves and each other is class free, race free, and gender free. We just have to learn to look at things a bit differently – like the guy in Groundhog Day, take what you have and do something with it instead of searching for something more outside of what is available right now. At least then you can find a bit of satisfaction at the end of the day.!


My ears are drawn to the outside which has been quiet of late. A dampened down version of life has been going on and this morning I hear more cars than usual. It signals we are reacting to the news that we might begin to live a bit more freely. For me though this life has been the version of free which I have needed since my youngest child did his version of arriving into this world . Perhaps many have felt the same. A dose of the kind of medicine we are not prescribed by our society.

On one of the final drives home from work pre-Covid 19, I recall cogitating the very same issue; exhausted and aching for some time with my son , I spent the entire week contemplating whether I should take a different job which demands less of his time because I want to be with him. I don’t even work full time.

As I mulled this over on the drive, I met with a thought of a different yet relevant question – was Meghan and Harrys decision to focus on their own lives and especially their sons selfish? Should we care? Should we question the decision that they have made? Perhaps it is out of envy for the fact that they get to make such a decision and that they have support to do so. Perhaps it is due to the fact that they can say, “look I want to put my family first and do you know something? I’m going to do just that”. Perhaps, it is frustration, that Meghan has made a choice to be a Mum and that she is able to devote herself to that role. After all it is the most important role of all. I guess the salience of their predicatment is made brighter to me by my own current dilemma. As a training Educational Psychotherapist with Caspari Foundation, I’m swimming in ideas, strategies and knowledge of the first few years of life , the significance of those first years and this knowledge has fed my growing anxiety towards what should be my only responsibility.

And so my question is why do we sacrifice motherhood and am I wrong for doing it?

Searching for the answer in my mind, I realise is a fruitless endeavour as I will always come up with the same answer- I need to work- what else can I do? I need to show that … well, I don’t know what I need to show, to prove I can do something , that I am someone. Despite being something and someone.

If I weren’t single then perhaps the guilt would not burn so brightly.

Guilt and the feeling that I still hold since the day I left him at Nursery: separation anxiety. When the readiness to be parted has not quite been achieved and our own magical mechanism , designed to prevent us from parting before its too early, has been ignored. My desire to stay at home was censored; spoken allowed it met with tousle and I felt belittled by a society which sees no real value in its origin. It is designed to stop us from decaying from the start, from preventing us from reaching what we can be, by allowing us to function as effective adults with the ability to relate and be related to.

So in answer to your question , should I feel guilty? Yes I should. Should I be at home. Yes I should.

But do i do anything about it?


Unfortunately we live in a society that just doesn’t see the value in how important it is to be a mother.


When the past is still present, then the present passes us by.

If I could have felt my pregnancy how I feel it now. It was as if my mind could not meet with my body. The pregnancy accelerated as I struggled to be part of it. The eyes did not focus and what I saw was milky white as if I was frozen inside; my mind paralysed to the reality of my situation. I felt it odd , considering it was my third pregnancy, but it may as well have been my first. I treated it as if it were a given; I think I was treated as if my experience would be easy. I wasn’t just a Mum but a Mum of two older children and so I had accumulated experience mapping half my life time.Then came labour.

The tightening of the insides and the analgesia of the pause made the pregnancy hang on. Teetering on the precipice, as precious life made renewed efforts to grasp his mother.

The false self lost its hold and I cried; I mourned our failed relationship, howled at the rejection and humiliation experienced and was still receiving in the midst of the chaos.

So now single working and struggling with life I find comfort in hope and realise that it has been hope that has been the real sustenance of my life.

Only now can i relax and really think about what I am. I am a Mum I am a Mother.  



Thinking is an art. The kind of thinking where we think, let thoughts wash over us , evolve and evoke. Our experience is often the result of predetermined action and so to lose that habitual planned existence feels as though we are wasting our time. Perhaps letting go of planned time we could meet unplanned contentment.

I am a teacher who has worked with disadvantaged young people to support their well – being for the past 15 years.As a teenager I dreamed of becoming an journalist and having my work published but at 19 I started a family . When the now biggest had both started school I fell into youth work and subsequently teaching and welfare support. I use the past tense as during the lockdown I made the decision to leave my job and take a year out to care for my youngest child.

Here is a space I have created to let go and find something different.. Conversation about motherhood, work and life in general. About constraints and limitations we impose and the beauty of being in touch with human nature.

It is a space where I go back to childhood when nature was woven into days spent with the freedom experienced in 1980s Britain, through adolescence, to its consequence.

Memoirs, essays and poetry bring to life what has gone highlight the now and exploring who, rather than what I have become.