Grace will be six on the 2nd of January 2013, and what an eventful six years its been! She has always been the ray of sunshine in my life since she came along. It’s come to pass that it is true what many quipped to me when she was born – ‘make the most of it, before you know it she’ll be grown-up and gone’! It always brings to mind the scene in ‘Mamma Mia’ where Meryl Streep sings ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’. Makes me cry every time.
So, what has happened in the last almost six years? Grace and I had to leave the family home when she was just three months old. I won’t go into too much detail as I can’t, but suffice to say that I wanted to bring my daughter up in a loving environment, of which this certainly wasn’t. I also sought the amazing support and help of the Surrey branch of Women’s Aid (I’ll save them for a blog for another time).
We moved in with my Mum. To her, I am eternally grateful. She provided a roof over our heads and numerous types of support including emotional and financial. We stayed with her for the first two years of Grace’s life. My Mum has brought up seven of her own children, all of whom are polite, hard-working, respectable people (yes, you can include me in that!). She has five Grandchildren and is also a qualified NNEB Nanny. So what better example to set Grace?
When Grace was three months into her third year, we moved into a place of our own. To give me a break – and to help me with my study of breach of contract law in order to represent myself in court – she attended nursery two days a week. Something which I feel did her the power of good. Being an only child (thus far!), she needed the interaction with other children and not be stuck in the house with me all day. She also saw her father every Tuesday and a night and a day at the weekend by this point. Due to this, I feel it has helped form her into a child who is not too nervous about going to school or meeting new people.
In February last year, when Grace had just turned four, I met Ross. At first we were both apprehensive about the fact that I had a child. Him because he didn’t want to get involved with her before he knew how it was going to pan out with me, and for me the same reason from Grace’s perspective. After three months, we gradually introduced Ross to Grace. Initially in the company of a mutual friend. Then when he started to stay over, it was on the spare bed in the lounge. And when it did change to him sleeping in my room, we discussed it with her first.
At the end of March this year we moved in with Ross. Since then we have a great groove going on as a family. Ross’ family values are the same as mine and I am really pleased that we are both singing from the same song sheet. We both encourage, correct, support her and love her. She is the happiest she has ever been.
So what sort of child is she turning out to be? In the early years I never talked ‘babytalk’ to her. I always spoke to her as if she was a grown-up. I believe that this is why her vocabulary is so very strong. She comes out with words that I would not believe she knew and always uses them in the right context. She once called me ‘baggy britches’ when she was two! Goodness only knows where that one came from! I encouraged manners from a very early age. Repeating the word ‘ta’ to her after presenting her with something and reinforcing her when she started to use it. She had clean – not dry – nappies from around fifteen months. I think this is because I always explained to her when she was going to the toilet. I started the full potty training for being dry when we moved into our own place and, aside from a few accidents, she took to it very quickly.
Ross and I continue to set an example to her in our working ethic. We try to show her that piking is just not an option. That she will reap what she sows and the more she trys, the further she will get. We have a neighbour whose seven-year-old child was suspended after only three days at junior school (Grace does not go to the same school as him). His Mother has not supported the school through punishing his behaviour. She has basically let him treat it as an extended school holiday, and during the school day he is outside playing on his trampoline! She blames the school of course. Grace will not play with him because she saw him hit his Mum. I am pleased she feels this way!
Three months into Grace starting school, I distinctly remember us walking through the gates one morning and her telling me that she had been put in time out. I asked her what she had done. She didn’t want to tell me but said that she had hurt someone. I advised her that we would discuss it further after school. I approached the teacher and it turned out that she had bit another child. I was shocked. This wasn’t like her. So, that evening I sat her down and Ross disappeared into the kitchen (we were still at my flat). I was complimentary toward the fact that she had voluntarily told me that she had been put in time out. I told her that I knew what she had done and I wasn’t going to tell her off as the school had already dealt with it. I wanted to know why she had done it. She explained that she got very cross and frustrated. I told her that this was not a reason to hurt someone and asked her how she would feel if someone did it to her. I always try to make sure that she thinks about her actions and how they affect others. Again, I reinforced the fact that I was pleased with her for telling me. To punish her, I told her that I was going to take away seven stars from her chart. She was mortified and had to hide her eyes as I did it!
Grace has an amazing sense of humour. She knows when to be sarcastic and banters with Ross frequently. They have a great double act and she understands the comedy set-ups that Ross provides for her. When she was around eighteen months old, my Mum and I were sitting having a latte in a coffee shop. She pointed at our cups and said ‘tea’ to which my Mum responded ‘no Grace, coffee’. She started coughing! Of course, she wouldn’t have understood the humour in that back then, but she does now!
Of course, everyones child/son/daughter is the best in the world. And to me, mine is no different!