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Children Should Be Seen And Not Hurt - by Giselle
This Feb we saw the national awareness children of alcoholics week. The twitter-verse had been buoyant, with all manner of associated information on the subject which seems to have gained speedy momentum from, it would appear, a growing vocal community with experience or knowledge of alcohol dependency.
Perhaps the decision of Action on Addiction to give patronage to the Duchess of Cambridge has helped to throw this subject into the limelight. Suddenly, quotes in blogs and newspapers, charities striving to offer altruistic help to children so cruelly stripped of the right to a normal childhood, have appeared in great number. Thank goodness, at last, this taboo and sad subject is becoming a cause célèbre.
Around 35 years ago, I was one of those children. Although I did not know it then, I was about to be immersed in a canyon of pain which was to prevent the natural evolution of progression in my life. From child to pubescent adolescent, young adult to parent, I was cheated of the right to experience the normal meandering path of discovery associated with childhood. Nothing felt safe, nothing felt assured, all was thrown to the wind like worthless crumbs scattered haphazardly to the birds.
My existence was gradually thrown into turmoil, like a huge cruel punch in the stomach, I was knocked from my feet by a threatening, compulsive and wretched curse. The path of learning, experience and education became virtually hopeless as I struggled to tread water, keep my head up, and catch my breath.
I had no choice in the matter. Where once a child stood, there was suddenly an adult. Where now an adult stands, sadly, sometimes there is a child. My childhood was taken from me and without even realising it, unable to finish growing up, I prematurely became a parent. Childhood had been sapped from me, I stared straight into the responsibilities of becoming an instant adult. Without the luxury of even so much as a backward glance to the toy box, I boarded a none stop train to a place called Adultdom. My child was my alcohol saturated mother, in denial about her addiction.
Parenting came naturally to me from the age of around twelve years old. I developed finely tuned instincts, awareness, capabilities and more than anything, overwhelming compassion. Not long in to my new posting, the grim discovery of my mothers body was underlined by the sad but real feeling of relief as, at last, I had been set free. Or had I. Here began the possibility of a normal life, or so I thought. In reality though, I found myself ricocheting from one experience to another desperately trying to catch up on just learning how to be.
Catapult to around twelve years on, I am thirty-two years of age and the birth of my little girl has just dawned on me. I was again snapped into parent hood, this time of a different variety. A beautiful, needy, small person lay before me, helpless and fragile. This was a small being who needed sustenance, safety and assurance, all of which I could offer in profusion, but how? Did I know how to extend this to the delicate little soul I had created, as it had very definitely not offered to me?
I struggled with so many things, breastfeeding, knowing when to take my daughter out of her Moses basket and put her into her own room, meters down the landing and yet so far away. Knowing when to offer a bottle, how to potty train, how to discipline, etc. How lovely, and so indulgent it would have been to have had the help and guidance of my mother. To make matters worse, just about everyone I knew had Mum on hand to help and offer support. Babysitting, shopping, cooking supper or just being there on the end of the phone. What had I done to deserve such a lonely existence reliant only on myself as judge, jury and practical fixer?
Again, I have found myself ricocheting from one situation to another, somehow, weaving through the unknown, learning as I go, carefully nurturing the development of my child whilst running my business and the home. My girl has flourished into a gorgeous, well mannered, respectful (...well sometimes) twelve year old, tangible evidence that I must have done something right! However, now come a new set of issues, ones which really shake me to my core.
My daughter is now the same age I was when my mother was in a desperate state. She is beautiful, playful, having fun with her friends, immature, childlike, and if I am honest, slightly spoilt. Her well stocked wardrobe bulges with tightly packed hangers providing order for the selection of Jack Wills, Hollister and Super Dry, the staples of any self respecting discerning youngster these days!
The usual array of unread books, hair accessories, make up and wristbands litter every available surface in her room, a sort of organised chaos, and a carpet of dance and tap shoes, yesterday's school uniform, PJ’s and discarded underwear litter the floor! An iPhone, iPad, and iBlackberry, (well I only know how to function with ‘igadgets’) used for tireless text conversations with an abundance of contacts, and to play the latest selection of music downloads from iTunes during multicolor nail painting surgeries, are constantly on charge.
My daughters’ life consists of an endless arrangement of sleepovers, parties, girlie group shopping trips (she knows her way around Bluewater like the back of her hand) and her journey to and from school on the bus is more like forty minutes of the best social club in town both morning and afternoon.
How sublime, how carefree and untroubled. She is after all, far too busy to arrange anything for herself, so the finer details of her life like, where she needs to be and when, buying and packing up the ingredients for her school food tech class, collecting her from piano lessons, dance exams or a late rehearsals, organising clean ironed clothes and checking and helping with homework are taken care of by me. I cherish what I do for her, selflessly seeing to it that all is accomplished and she is fine.
A transitory progression through an enchanted childhood. I wish I had had one.