Treat yourself. – Anna Spargo-Ryan

Treat yourself.

Treat yourself.

Georgia has been on holidays for four weeks, waiting for the adults to find the right place for her. Lily trudges off to school with heavy reluctance, and I take Georgia out for breakfast and we sit and talk like adults: what are you doing today? how are you feeling? what’s new in your world?

On Wednesdays we go to see a nice lady in a tiny room, and I stare straight ahead and talk too fast because I am so claustrophobic I could die, but if I leave then what kind of no-good person am I? Gaz knows all the tricks. When my hands start to shake he grinds his knuckles into the base of my spine and puts his hand under my thigh and he does that until the moment has passed, however briefly. We sit in the tiny room and the psychologist tells us how we should speak to Georgia (which is not, No, you can’t have those boots, stop asking for everything! and more It must be frustrating not to be able to get those boots).

On Thursday we started going to a group therapy session, with other parents who also have kids with behavioural quirks. Obviously I can’t write about any of their particulars, but what I can say is that we pushed a few tables together and ate some assorted cream biscuits, and we introduced ourselves by our children’s names, and then we all looked at the facilitators with the same expression. The same I don’t know what I’m doing, and Please have the answers, and we had a tea break and we laughed a lot and then we went home and looked at our children in their beds and thought, What the fuck.

The thing is that really, I am learning more about myself than anything.

It makes sense, the stuff we need to do for Georgia. Set her up to succeed. Tell her that her feelings are valid. Let her be angry, frustrated, happy, discouraged, quiet, loud, soft, blue. It is easy to get to the end of the day and feel as though she’s been properly supported, for that one day.

But self blame!

The woman in the tiny room has banned me from saying Sorry. Because what I say is, I’m sorry I took one valium while I was pregnant with Georgia, and at the time the ambulance guy said, ‘Are you sure you should take that?’ and I said, ‘It won’t do any harm!’ but it did, and I am so sorry. And then in another session I say, I’m sorry I diluted Michael’s sanity genes, and if I had known then maybe we could have done a kind of selective IVF and screened out the bad ones.

And Gaz digs his knuckles into my spine to bring me back.

The woman in the tiny room tells me every time that I come from a cycle of blame and guilt. That being the oldest child and having to prop up a mother who spent a lot of time shouting and crying (because she had a mother who also cried and shouted) has created a horned demon that sits right in my ribcage. We reenact that scene from Good Will Hunting and she tells me it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault until I am seven years old and the lunches aren’t made and I can’t find my shoes and my heart

and Gaz has his hand under my thigh and I can feel his blood rushing and it soothes me.

The woman in the tiny room doesn’t ever remind me that it’s not my session, that we’re not there to talk about my issues. You are a unit, she says, and so we treat every element of the unit.

What we are really doing is identifying the cycle, so we can pull Georgia out of it. We are finding the emotional triggers and we are changing them.

We are treating me, so I can help Georgia.

  • traceyb65

    April 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm Reply

    yes, yes and yes … I’m about to enter my second round of group counselling for Miss10, where the kids go into a room and play age-approriate games, and we adults (tho mostly Mums) sit in another room and talk about what it all means, and how it relates to our own lives. it’s been over a year since she last attended and i cannot tell you enough how much I need it. good luck! xt

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      April 28, 2014 at 1:24 pm Reply

      Oh, good luck to you too Tracey! Being in a group is really helping me to normalise everything that’s going on. I feel much less like a lonely old freak who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

  • Michael McDonagh

    April 28, 2014 at 7:49 am Reply

    I think when all is said and done, the only thing we ever do for our kids that’s worth a damn is letting them see how hard we’re trying to get it right. It doesn’t even matter that we’re getting it wrong most of the time, as long as they’re constantly seeing that.

    Yours are definitely seeing that.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      April 28, 2014 at 1:24 pm Reply

      Thanks Michael, that’s exactly what I hope for. Really nice of you to say.

  • Dee Madigan

    April 28, 2014 at 3:50 pm Reply

    I know I keep saying this but your writing is exquisite. And never fails to make me cry.

  • Bronnie - Maid In Australia

    May 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm Reply

    Yeah, I get it. Getting help for my kids helps me too – and helps us all understand each other better. It’s a learning curve for sure. x

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      May 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm Reply

      Thanks Bronnie, that’s exactly it. I learn so much about myself when I look at my parenting, and vice versa.

  • Helen K

    May 7, 2014 at 7:57 pm Reply

    Oh Anna, you express so beautifully the cycle of parents who parent because of their parents and THEIR parents – I so identify (as would my mother, if she read this, and her mother, if she was still alive, and – you get the picture). Know that you are not the only one who feels this way, you are not the only parent who ‘can’t get it right’ (particularly as you are getting it right by what you are doing, but you know what I mean)- and also keep reminding yourself that,there is no such thing as a perfect parent (I have to – even when I keep falling into the trap of thinking there is. And counselling is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      May 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm Reply

      Thanks so much Helen. I don’t know where I would be without counselling! Last night we talked about what sorts of emotions existed in our houses when we were kids, and then about how that manifests in our houses for our own kids. It was a real eye-opener. There is so much more to “getting it right” than just looking at what you’re doing at a given moment, isn’t there? I figure that at least if I care enough to try to learn more about it, I’m probably not totally failing all ways.

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