Category Archives: Popular Stories

ADHD, Parenting, Ritalin and the Do-Gooder Brigade


To All It May Concern,

I don’t need your mumbo jumbo.

Last night I received another call from another innocent do-gooder who wanted to tell me how to bring up my ADHD son.

So I decided this morning, I’ll make it official. Put my statement out there into the world.

On behalf of myself, my son, my husband, my other three children and all of the other mothers in my position:

I am not interested. I do not care. So sod off.

And in particular, I am completely turned off by what your neighbour (who has not once met my son), the old woman you met in the chemist (she definitely doesn’t know me), or your mother-in-law’s dead cat has to say on the matter.

  • A blockage in his neck? – Nonsense
  • He’s allergic to something – tried and tested
  • Mineral/vitamin/oil supplements – got the t-shirt
  • He just needs more affection – I am the official cuddle monster, but thanks for the insult
  • Just to make it quite clear I have absolutely no faith in your astrology, numerology, natural remedies, table tennis theory, or back to nature camps
  • And yes, for your information I absolutely do discipline my son, let him watch only a little TV, don’t allow him to play aggressive computer games (he’s rarely on the computer), do send him out to play and have tried to help him through sport.

In the early days of diagnosis, I did indeed try alternative therapies. Concerned about the effects of strong medicine on my son. I consulted different doctors and begged for help.

After much waiting, talking, reading, educating myself and trying and testing, my husband and I decided to try our son on Ritalin.

My son’s life changed.

Our lives changed.

Completely.

He now hits his head on things (tables/walls etc) as an occasional instance, rather than on a daily basis.

He has not landed in hospital due to an impulsive injury since he started taking the tablets.

He no longer disrupts the class constantly: wandering around, climbing out of windows, sitting under the desk or in the waste paper bin, or fighting.

His concentration is still poor, but his writing is more legible, he can read a book and eat a meal at the table.

He has had no more tics. That is, his body doesn’t jerk, his shoulder doesn’t bounce up and hit him in the face and he doesn’t suddenly jump up at the dinner table then look confused, because he doesn’t know why he’s standing up.

He can sit next to a classmate in school and have friends.

It is also true to say that we have to be extra careful when the medication wears off. He’s still somewhat impulsive and is certainly challenging to bring up.

But the difference is undeniable. Incredible. Amazing. And I am truly thankful.

So Dear Do-gooder, why the fuck, would you call me and tell me Ritalin is a drug, and I should instead try him on X, Y or Z?

Huh?

Advertisements

It’s all gymslips and muscle men


Yesterday I went to the gym. Now normally the only real exercise I do is running to the sweetie cupboard. Tearing into the packet. And frequently lifting chocolate blocks into my mouth.

Admittedly I do sometimes stretch my face muscles with a technique known as cramming.

But now hubby has been having back problems and we’ve decided that there is no better way to while away the mornings than with a sweat-a-thon at the local gym. Well, at least somebody decided. It may have been a doctor.

Yesterday was check-in day. We had the chance to do a test drive and also be tested.

Michael, our trainer is nice. He has, what can only be described as a really good sense of humour. Throwing fitness figures about and comparing me to a 75-year-old woman. Joking with me about how to sit on a bike. Hysterical.

Then he teased my husband that with a bit of work, he could soon have the body of a 25-year-old.

I daydreamed for a moment, then thought:

Fuck! What have a 25-year-old and a 75-year-old got in common?

My ADHD son and me


We had a fight.

I mean a full on shout your head off fight.

One of those fights where the words come screaming out of your mouth with no momentary lapse for thought or reasoning. Those words, which can never again be unspoken. But can only beg to be forgiven.

Yep. One of those types of fights.

My ten-year old ADHD son and me.

The trigger was small.

Just an everyday action from a boy who acts from his impulses and heeds nothing of the STOP, THINK, DECIDE ritual we’ve tried to impose on him.

And in an instant, with no warning to either of us: I snapped.

I saw red. I pinged across the room like an over-wound elastic band. I erupted like a volcano.

I’d had enough.

Enough of the constant lying.

Enough of the not trying.

The stealing.

Enough of the constant frustration felt by his sisters.

Enough of the manic outbursts.

The apparent lack of conscience.

Enough of hearing my own voice repeating the same instruction over and over again.

Which in itself is different to the not listening. Which is overbearing too.

Enough of the not caring.

Enough of the constant need for attention. And motivation.

Enough of my constant unfair division of time between four children.

Enough of having to apologise for him or to explain.

Enough of the looks. From both those who don’t know me and those who do.

Enough of the unhelpful, condescending advice from clueless busybodies.

But most of all I’d had enough of the fear. The fear I have every time I pick up the phone when he’s not by side. That’s he’s done something stupid. Hurt himself again. That he’s lying somewhere in pain. Or even worse. That he’s dead.

So I shouted.

He laughed in my face and didn’t care because he didn’t know. He didn’t know just how close to the edge I felt in that moment and he pushed just that little bit more. And I cracked.

And the words rolled off my tongue, so fast, and I couldn’t take them back, not even an instant after they were said.

“Go and live with your father! I’ve had enough!”

Shock smothered the room.

He looked at me, still laughing slightly and I ordered him to leave the room and pack.

Then the rest of us sat at the table, everyone silent, feeling the anger hanging in the room.

No-one knew what to do, including me.

Where the anger slowly left, the tears quickly began.

I breathed.

I climbed the stairs to see my one and only son, who after two short minutes of initial upset, had raced on to his next emotion.

Excitement.

Nothing I could say would sway him, from my sorrys to my sadness. His determination despite a prospective change in land, language, and school knocked me.

And for a brief moment, I started to consider the alternative. Being a mother who lived without her son.

I could see calmness and structure, harmony and rejuvenation but most of all I could see time. Time for me. Time for the sisters. Time to breath.

And then I felt the pain wash over me. The devastation of living without him cut deep into my heart.

I tried to see the whole picture. I thought of the girls and their needs. I looked at my son’s happy face. I saw the exhaustion in my husband, who is not his biological dad.

I sort opinions and I discussed until my throat hurt and my ears refused to listen any more.

I looked at my son and he smiled back at me. The argument gone. To him, it seemed the row had never existed, for me it felt like I would be devoured by the guilt and the shame.

My little boy who I’ve protected and fought for doesn’t want me. He wants his daddy. The daddy that he lost in the divorce. The daddy who lets you play computer until three in the morning. The daddy who lets you sledge down the stairs. The daddy who asks you if you want to go to school. The daddy that my children have not been allowed to see in two and a half years in another protective move from me.

You see, my ten-year old sons father also has ADHD.

And what I have discovered is that no matter how much I want it, or push it or encourage it, I cannot make my ex-husband, the creative genius that I once loved, take any kind of responsibility for his children in any way.

Daddy did not call at Christmas. He did not even send a card.

I called him myself, after the argument. I wanted to test the waters. I wanted to see if he could maybe, possibly live up to what my son needs him to be. He promised to call the next day. Several days later, we’ve still heard nothing.

He has not actually spoken to any of his children since October.

Last night I talked with my husband well into the night and he re-motivated me.

We had a fight. And I lost it. I am an emotional person and that happens sometimes. But that emotionality is what makes me me. My son is staying put. He is safer here. And he has the good fortune to have three lovely sisters, a mum and a non-biological but actually a proper father, to love him and try to guide him. And that’s all we can do.

I just have to convince him that the grass is not greener on the other side of the water.

Santa came during the night but I think he forgot something


Dear Santa,

This being the 6th of December means you flew by in the night with your lovely reindeer (hello Rudolph) and delivered presents all over Germany to grateful children such as my own.

Unfortunately, it appears you forgot something. Perhaps you wished to particularly enchant us this year, with festive spirit. However, the half meter of snow that you left behind really does belong in Lapland. And not here.

A little dusting on your merry way, indeed, leaves a nice atmosphere. But last night I suspect you dropped all of your sacks on our village.

Unfortunately, that left me with the job of clearing it all up this morning. Making a way for postmen and bin men and other passersby. Thank goodness that my husband came and rescued me half way through. Frozen tears adhered to my face,  I felt relieved. Handed him the much kicked and shouted at shovel, that had been my tool for my thirty minutes of hard labour. My thermals, worn to protect me from the intense cold, had combined with my hard work to make me so hot, I had actually dehydrated in the cold morning air.

Back in the house, Akasha and I readied ourselves for Kindergarten, preparing first, with a nice hot chocolate.

Given that, as the Kindergarten teacher later described: on her dismount from the town bus (where you’d apparently deposited the correct amount of snow) she found herself knee-deep in snow and that Akasha is not much more than knee-high, I decided that the best plan of action would be to attempt the hill in the car. After all, a tractor had already been up and down in a bid to clear the road.

However, your very generous application of snow, had also been too much for the little tractor it would seem. As a whole heap of snow lay at the top of the hill, effectively blocking me from entering the main road. A few wheel spins later I slid, askew, down the hill towards the garden of our local pizzeria.

Braking heavily, I managed to bring the car to a standstill. But still it stood (apart from more wheel spins) and I could no longer go up or down the hill. I could not even go sideways Santa!

So I did the only thing a girl could do and called a man to come and rescue me.

Again!

By 9am hubby, who apparently had been naked and heading for the shower when I called 😉 was to be found rescuing his damsel in distress once again.

We arrived at Kindergarten just in time. We couldn’t be late this morning, knowing that you’ll be popping in for a little visit at some point in your no doubt hectic schedule.

But I think that when I left you were pretty close by. I’m sure because even though the sky above me was completely white (and as I taught Akasha, white sky = more snow), you sent some nice rain to try to clear up the mess you’d left behind. Even though we’d already shoveled it. *Sigh*

Perhaps next year we’ll leave out a little less whiskey and a replace it with a little more milk.

Yours Truly

Sarah May

A little bit of controversy


Recently I flew to Britain for a moment. The moment can be described in three sections: a wedding (the actual reason for my visit), glancing at a couple of friends (if you’re a friend and I didn’t have time to glance at you, please believe me, I am sorry, but you know, a moment only lasts for a moment and that is that) and a crazy shopping spree (which evolved into a trying to fit everything into a suitcase frenzy, involving such things as big bottoms on said suitcase and strained looking zips. In other words: it was not pretty).

Being British I’ve grown up with the phrase ‘rip off Britain’ and so my expectation followed thus: my pounds would not have the ability to buy me very much. But that assumption is very, very wrong. In fact, the more I saw the purchase power of my pound, the more I wished I had paid Raise Your Airfare Ninefold RYANair another thirty quid for a second suitcase.

Britain is cheap!

At least in comparison to Germany it is.

Let me give you an example. My 15-year-old daughter informed me she needed new jeans (I arrived with a full-blown shopping list, actually). After friendly consultation I ambled into Asda, already laden with bags. Wowed by low price party dresses, cheap nightwear and bargain-basement undies, nothing could prepare me for the denim department. Having reached my destination the price tag poking out at me screamed £2. No I didn’t miss any digits. Yes, you do read me correctly: £2!!!

No. I didn’t buy them. They were, in fact, the ugliest jeans I have ever seen in my life. I would not have insulted my daughter with them. But that’s not the point. The point is the original price (not the reduced price) of a full, adult size pair of trousers constructed in denim, with a zip and even rivets is £2.

Now, I’m no financial genius, but even I can work out that since the first jeans sold in 1885 for $1.50 and with some allowance for inflation over the last 125 years, the numbers just don’t add up.

I know some of the supermarkets promote subsidized products. But on my search around the shop the most expensive jeans I actually found were £4. The subsequent resulting image in my mind being that of a sweatshop in a far off land, employing three-year olds for peanuts. Or even crumbs…

Back home now, I’ve been searching for a snow-suit for our youngest so as she can embrace the upcoming cold weather. She needs something that will keep her warm enough even at temperatures of -15°C. Therefore, I wanted something of reasonable quality, so I set myself a budget of EUR 30.

You can laugh now.

I have spent the best part of the last week shopping. I have been to various towns and many, many, many shops. I even surfed the net. But in total I managed only to find two in my price bracket. One paper-thin number at just shy of EUR 10 and another that also seemed to be of poor quality, for the complete budget.

Yesterday, the temperatures dropped to below zero and I ran into a wall of panic. I had no idea where I’d seen the best cheapest solution, but after talking to a friend I had learned of some reduced winter articles in yet another shop, in yet another town. I ended up purchasing a winter jacket (note: not a snow-suit) reduced from

Please take a deep breath:

EUR 60 to EUR 45.

Truthfully, it is the Mercedes in terms of winter jackets. It has every possible function to keep her warm and dry. The sales assistant made sure she informed me of them all. And I bought each and every one of them… But now I need to buy snow trousers too. Even with the assistants wonderful powers of persuasion I managed to reject her EUR 40 trousers.

OK. I have a little more to confess. Ever the bargain hunter, I have throughout the week also purchased a few other articles. Long sleeved tops and trousers to be precise. All reduced, you understand.

Just so we’re clear, I’ll tell you a little more.

Thick cotton trousers. With a zip and a plastic button and pockets. Almost like a pair of jeans. Just no denim or rivets.

Original price EUR 19,95.

Reduced to? EUR 10.

Made in? China.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me the realization that my rather more expensive product (originally ten times the price of those Asda jeans, to be exact) leaves me a little confused and to be perfectly honest, rather pissed.

Could it be the reputable company who outsourced the manufacturing of my daughters new top to,  (let me read the label)  – Bangladesh, actually paid those workers a Western style wage? I suspect not.

But still we’re paying Western style prices.

So, having had the Asda shopping experience first hand, I have discovered prices in Britain nowadays to be particularly low. Perhaps even artificially low at times.  In comparison I suspect the German prices to be artificially high.

And whether or not you agree with poor working conditions being offered to those in the Far East is not the point of this article. The point is, that at least those at Asda are being quietly honest about it.

I’m not so handy…


No. I haven’t disappeared off into hibernation. Even though winter has well and truly arrived.

No. I had an accident.

Yes, another one.

This time I managed to fall UP the stairs. 😮
Smacking my hand firstly, on the metal banister, and secondly, on the wooden step.

Of course, the injured hand is my right hand. Because I am right-handed.

And, you know, I am REALLY right-handed. Not one of those souls who have the good fortune to have almost as much ability with one hand as the other. I definitely don’t fit into the ambidextrous category. My left hand, I would say, is just there to support my right hand. It is completely useless in any sort of solitary state.

In the past week, I have discovered, that my left hand cannot even master a small tick in a rather large box, that could be presented as legible.

It cannot stir soup without splashing the majority of the contents over the ceramic hob.

And it can only loosely operate a computer mouse when it’s guided directionally by my protruding tongue.

Fortunately, the doctor informed me yesterday, that I’ll have full use of my lovely hand again in four to six weeks. WHAT?????


Overnight I’ve figured out that my sentence will only take then, another two and a half weeks.

After all, I fell last Sunday, and it’s now Tuesday. That means I’ve already served around a week and a half. And no way, Jose am I suffering the full six-week stretch.

But even with my optimistic maths, in the next TWO weeks I have two birthday parties to organise (which includes baking and decorating cakes) and a wedding to fly to, with two suitcases and a three-year old to tend.

Shit.

But at least the two fingers and a thumb are now poking out of my bandage and have managed to type this article. With of course, some support from my afore-mentioned left hand. So it can’t all be bad.

How do you think they will cope with constructing a princess cake?

At this point the writer would like to thank her husband, and four children for all of their help with the washing, cooking, chopping, and general chores and looks forward to using your hands your assistance in the near future. 🙂

Back to school today


It’s the first day of the school year. And already I’m shaking.

Is it the homework that we’re instantly faced with?

Is it the condescending attitude of the almost teenager in our midst? Who, on being told I’d made her snack for her, snapped, “Great, I’ve got the leaky cup!”

Is it the rush from the doctor’s office to the nursery? I, stupidly, made a developmental check up for Akasha on the first day of term. Worse still, at about the same time as Aden needed to be delivered to school. With all his luggage. No, he’s not at boarding school. Though you may suspect so, with the amount he had to carry to school on his first day. Paints. Exercise books (at least a million of them). Glue. Scissors. A crochet needle. Folders. The list goes on.
Anyway, the two appointments clashed. Husband to the rescue. He accepted responsibility of delivering Aden to school. Meanwhile I would take the little one to the doctors. Sorted.

Except we didn’t plan for the rain.

So this morning the car has already driven more than enough kilometres. Bringing Akasha and I to the doctors. Doubling back to take Aden to school. Returning to pick me up from the doctors. Then dropping Akasha at nursery.

I guess you could think it should be Reini who’s wobbling around, instead of me.

So I’ll inform you.

Nervous of Akasha’s reaction at being separated from mummy at Kindergarten (after last year’s many tearful moments), I bribed her with a dessert type snack on her return home, not to cry. Am I digging myself a hole here?

On entering the facility though, she looked excited to see her friends, even gave the teacher an unfriendly look at the offer of sitting on her lap.

Phew!

Home.

Time to call the child psychiatrist for Aden’s desperately needed prescription. Naturally, after three weeks holiday her line is continually engaged. I so hate calling there. The receptionist mostly makes me feel like I should crawl into a hole. And die.

Washing.
Pairing of socks.
Dishwasher. Emptied and filled.
Done. Done. Done.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Coffee.

A quick call to a friend to confirm an appointment.

And all the time I’m trying to prepare myself, mentally, for what’s to come.

Meeting Aden’s new teacher.

My stomach has started to cramp. I feel a little nauseous. The time has come. 11:10 and I already have to collect Aden from school.

My introduction is nigh.

Then: BANG!

I sometimes think that I should not be allowed to reverse. Or, actually, drive forwards for that matter. Only last week I scratched the mirror on the ticket machine at the multi-storey car park.

Today I have (yet again) hit the dustbin. Recyclable paper is now scattered all over the road. And the rear light casing is completely smashed. *Sigh.*

Adrenaline-ised. I tidy the paper and jump back in the car. Avoid the bin that I previously hadn’t seen. And race to school.

Accosted by a friendly mother, I delay my fate.

I even debate internally that I could, potentially, leave ‘the getting to know her’ today. She’s probably stressed enough. First day. Learning all those names…

But Aden does not come out of school.

I panic slightly. Has he got detention on his first day in fourth class?

I pull myself together and be the adult that I am. And head into school.

There she is. The new teacher. I shake her hand. She smiles.

“I’m Aden’s mum.”

The smile drops.

Her face is filled with dread.

I tell her Aden has ADHD. She knows. She has composed herself. But I know that she’s heard of me. The horrid mother who causes trouble and does everything she can to protect her son. The one who fights back.

I am still smiling but I feel weak.

She informs me that we have to keep in close contact and I agree. Furthermore, I tell her I am pleased to do so. Though truthfully, due to past experiences, I feel sick.

She explains to me that he’ll have homework every day and I should check he plays ball. I thank her politely.

She looks at me and for a moment I think I see a little surprise. Like, I didn’t seem to be the nightmare she expected. Maybe I imagined it, maybe it’s my optimistic self rearing her head again.

Probably. Because I would so like Aden’s teacher to take me as me. My son as my son. And just to treat us both with a little bit of respect.

And understanding.

Whether from composure or surprise. The terror I saw moments before has left her face.

And she makes a friendly general comment as I leave.

That’s a good start.

But still, I’m shaking.

Happily living with Mr Fix-It


Mr Fix-It is in the bathroom, right now, repairing the light switch. It doesn’t matter that it is 1:10 in the morning. It’s of no consequence that he’s tired like hell, (to the point that his eyes are completely bloodshot). No. The important fact is, that the switch in the bathroom has, suddenly and mysteriously fallen out of its socket and now hangs loosely against the wall.

Mr Fix-It is faced with the ‘what if’ dilemma. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘just in case’ scenarios that could possibly happen in this six-person household between now and the breakfast time part of the morning.

So, he’s collected his tool kit and is busy working his magic.

I have to say, I’m with him on this one.

After all, our inquisitive ten-year-old ADHD son could be faced with many urgent impulses to fulfil on his next toilet visit. Especially before his daily dose of Ritalin. And, to be frank, we’ve already ticked the electrocution box at the local hospital.

Or, our charming three-year-old daughter could poke her little, tiny fingers somewhere she shouldn’t.

Shudder.

I doubt the older girls would do something stupid. But, after the ‘drink toilet water’ dare, you never know.

A couple of birthdays ago, the children and I bought Mr Fix-It a Mr Mischief t-shirt. There were no Mr Fix-It t-shirts in store. Or, for that matter Mr Tickle t-shirts. Which, if I found myself in a crazy gun-to-the-head situation, whereby my only salvation would be to list my good husband’s top ten Mr Men qualities, would hit the nail on the head. Along with Mr Tall, Mr Clever, Mr Cheeky, Mr Brave, Mr Funny, Mr Strong, naturally Mr Clumsy and Mr Lover-Man. Oh, that last one isn’t a real Mr Man? Pity. OK: it would have to be Mr Perfect. *Sigh*.

The tenth one? The t-shirt covers it: Mr Mischief, of course.

You may be fooled into thinking, that if my husband is the one and only Mr Fix-It, that I, as his wife, am the diligent and capable Mrs Fix-It. Sadly, you would be (very) mistaken.

Indeed, had I my own tool kit, it would most likely to consist of: sellotape and blu-tac (to stick things back together); a hammer and a few nails (to keep items in their place) and some coloured pens (to hide my mistakes).

Furthermore, were I to be named after one of the Mr Men, I would definitely be Mr Bump. You see, my primal tendency is to destroy.

The good news is, that Mr Fix-It and Mrs Bump is truly a perfect match. Because, Mrs Bump always keeps Mr Fix-It busy and entertained. With some assistance from her four children. Having her genes and all.

Mr Fix-It informs me that he doesn’t actually enjoy fixing things, but cannot stand when something doesn’t function properly.

Recently our projector started to distort its own images due to the presence of dust.

Mr Fix-It could no longer comfortably watch television or DVD’s in his own home. Therefore the dismantling of the projector became necessary.

First step. Vacuum inside and remove the dust.

Little success.

Second step. After much digestion of information available on the net, buy an air-spray, and blow out the dust, which would in turn be captured by a feckless assistant with a vacuum cleaner to hand (me).

Result: not mind-blowing.

Third step. A rerun of step two. With one exception. Well-meaning assistant off to town with a friend for sushi.

Consequences: Not good. Two cables damaged by sucking power of the Hoover. Thus, all images could only be seen in shades of green. One extremely stressed husband. Some swearing.

Fourth step: Mr Fix-It constantly fiddling, scraping, cutting, blowing, connecting, disconnecting, sweating. For several hours. While I commented on Facebook with helpful suggestions, in my ‘stay out of the way’ strategy.

Outcome: At last some shaky red! A relieved but unsatisfied man and his trying-to-be-consoling wife who offered up the possibility of watching television in funny colours. (Blue supposedly still astray).

Suggestion dismissed we moved to step five which saw more of step four, avoidance being my main objective, and perseverance that of my now somewhat intense husband.

Then came the shout. He had fixed it! Jubilation rang out all around the house.

The success of Mr Fix-It means that we can now watch telly not only in normal colours, but also dust free. Additionally, an old pair of tights has been transformed into an extra filter to help prevent dust from messing up further viewing experiences.

Although, we do now have a ‘dead pixel’ on the right hand side of the screen. A red dot to remind us of our adventure.

Mr Fix-It is under strict instructions not to attempt to repair the projector again.

Perhaps, in his gun-to-the-head circumstance, my Mr Fix-It would actually describe me as his Little Miss Bossy.

Truth is, living with Mr Fix-It brings out in me Little Miss Sunshine. He fixes not only our household goods (or those of other people we happen to visit). Not just the items that we unfortunately damage. But also the problems and difficulties we face in everyday life. Or at least, he tries to. Obviously, he doesn’t always avail. But having someone here, doing his best for us, every day. That’s something that I often feel the need to shout out loud about.

“This post is part of SOYJOY‘s What brings you joy contest. Learn more here.

How to embarrass yourself in as many ways as possible, at the gynaecologist


Today, my necessity is a trip to the gynaecologist. I’ve done a good job of putting it off. I’m almost a year late with my appointment. My faith in ‘lady doctors’ not being what it used to be.

I’d made an appointment for 10am, figuring, that would give me plenty of time to prepare myself. But I hadn’t allowed a contingency for Akasha. She apparently requires an incredible amount of time in which to be ready for Kindergarten these days. At times, I am forced to ask myself if she actually is my daughter. She requires “lipstick” (lip balm), hair styling, princess dresses, umpteen outfit changes; characteristics that cannot possibly be attributed to me. That’s on top of the time she takes to finish her puzzle, picture, book, magazine, toilet trip, eat three breakfasts, and chat about every possible subject known to man. OK, the final trait admittedly is from me.

In an attempt to hurry her up, I inform her of my upcoming consultation with the doctor.

My plan backfires.

Now, instead of a child distracted by all possible means. I have a focussed child. A concerned child.

She starts to cry. She wants to accompany me. Be there for me. She states that she will “not be going to Kindergarten today.”

Instead, she wants to “stroke me” at the ‘lady doctors’.

Hmm. I don’t think so!

So, finally, Akasha is released into the capable hands of her Kindi teacher, and I am on my way. Hurriedly.

I easily find the street of my new doctor, but for some reason, the building itself evades me. By the time I discover it, I realise that I must have walked past at least twice. Flustered, I enter the doorway.

My initial impression is a good one. The receptionist is friendly. She sends me to the waiting room, form and pen in hand. Then the trouble starts.

My spoken German is pretty acceptable now. But reading and writing, are still greatly below par. I attempt to read the questionnaire and fill in the blanks. Medical possibilities are offered to me. I guess, that if I’d had them, I’d know what they were. But as usual, a trip to the receptionist is necessary, an explanation that I don’t understand the form. I’m a foreigner, living in a strange land. And I require assistance. Yet again.

Paperwork complete. Time to pee in a cup.

What is it that when I’m given a plastic cup in which to pee, that I somehow manage to lose all urinating abilities? I could have been bursting two minutes before. But now, there’s nothing. I ask the receptionist for a glass of water in order to hasten things along.

In the cubicle, I sit waiting. Cup braced in between two legs. I wait. After a few minutes, I remove the said cup, thinking, maybe it’s ‘putting me off’. So I sit, cup hovering, ready to zoom back into place. In case, as sometimes happens, in these uncomfortable circumstances, that only the tiniest of all drops comes out. But nothing.

I wait.

I hover.

I imagine running water.

I try not to panic.

I panic.

Nothing.

I push.

I ponder.

I swear.

And I wonder.

I take the pamphlet I’ve been given out of my handbag. I’m bored now. As I start to read through the various optional extras available to me at this clinic, two thoughts hit me:

The first is: the NHS. Having lived in the UK for most of my life, I never thought about the cost of public health before. Here, we pay our health insurance and lots and lots of extras. For example contraception. Should a German opt for the installation of the mirena coil, the cost to that patient would be around 350 Euro’s. Until this moment I had never thought about the burden of contraception on the NHS.

The second thought is more a flashback to my questionnaire, and a question I’d filled in by myself. It went something like this: “What do you want from the practice?” Pamphlet in hand, the realisation hit me, they wanted me to express which services/treatments I required. Shit!

I had written: Understanding!

My attempts at even splashing into the cup, still unsuccessful, I waggle my numbing bottom around and try to think happy thoughts.

The external door creaks open and I hear the voice of another female. She has a strong accent and at first, I cannot comprehend her. I listen. She’s talking about where to place the sample when I’m finished. I shout, “I’ll do that, thanks.”

Another voice. Clearer this time. I lower my head as it comes to me, the accented one is another patient, asking where to leave her own sample.

She sits in the cubicle next to me. I concentrate on the sounds. She fulfils her task easily. Flushes. Washes her hands. All that running ‘water’ and I can deliver nothing.

I am as dry as a desert.

The receptionist enters the bathroom and calls my name. Loud and clear. I explain, from behind my cubicle door my predicament. My body is for some reason, inexplicable to me, refusing to play ball.

She calms me. No Problem. I can return with my cup later once the doctor has seen me.

I follow her into the treatment room. She checks my regularly low blood pressure. Normal. Heightened no doubt, by my recently failed mission. I smile. She takes a few notes. Then ushers me into the consultation room to await my doctor.

I start to squirm in my seat.

God, I really need to pee.

Stirrups ahead of me, I concern myself with possible inappropriate peeing and farting (my nervous stomach is making itself known).

Should I leave the room and chance missing the doctor, and probably not peeing anyway? Or, should I wait and risk an accident?

Dilemmas, dilemmas.

After around twenty minutes of actually needing to go to the toilet. My doctor enters and goes quickly through her procedures. She puts on an understanding front and then releases my plastic cup and I into the care of a nurse for blood tests.

Unsettled by my whole experience, my nerves rear their ugly head in the form of me chatting like a fully charged Duracell bunny, high on speed. No matter how loud the voice inside my head bellows for me to, “Shut up” the nerves, as usual, win the battle. Adrenaline explodes, as I hear one stupid statement after another racing out of my own mouth.

I return to the bathroom, pee splattering out, all over my own hand, to be precise.

A great end to the appointment: there is no more toilet paper.

Still, at least I’ve already shaken the good doc’s hand!

The art of manipulation


If you have read some of my other stories, or I am fortunate enough to know you; then you will already know that my youngest child is the three-year old Akasha.

She is, it would be correct to say, an adorable child. However, it is impossible to ignore, that she is an absolute master in the art of manipulation. With just one hand, she has for every one of the five of us, one very own finger for each of us to curl around.

I guess, with three much older siblings, she has much opportunity to learn. Five of us to feed her spongy brain. She is definitely smart and learns fast. But her winning ace has to be her massive brown eyes. One flutter of those eyelashes and I, anyway, fall.

The last few weeks have been mega shopping weeks. One birthday and one party after another, has thus obligated.

Akasha’s first issue, at the present time, is that she is the only one of our four children not to have a birthday, falling in the first two weeks of June. She’s been impatiently awaiting her birthday and therefore princess/pink party for several weeks. On each shopping trip she spots a new potential festive item to add to her list of requirements. No matter how hard I try to explain, she simply cannot comprehend how far away her November birthday actually is.

The nice part for her, is though, that a few people, have given her a small gift too. Always greatly appreciated.

Her second concern at the moment is money. Not only are the other children receiving mountains of cool presents. They also have a sudden influx of money. And they’re either constantly going on about, or actually buying stuff.

Akasha has found the sudden urge to become a purchaser too.

A couple of weeks ago, both Aden and Akasha procured football stickers in a supermarket give-away. In itself this prevailed as a highlight in Akasha’s week. She ‘had long watched’ from the sidelines as Aden, the only boy, received his stickers, (as simultaneously, I obtained the bill) at the checkout. Rendered too girlie, too young, Akasha waited, empty-handed. Jealousy glimmered. And Aden protected his precious treasure. His manly stash.

As Aden tore open his packets and declared which men he “really wanted”, Akasha clasped hers proudly in hand. Delighted by her unexpected windfall. Soon after, Aden discovered the man he particularly needed, had not been acquired. And his eyes started to wander to his little sisters unopened wrappers.

He began to bid.

“Akasha, Akasha! If you have Blah Blah Blah… I’ll swap you… I’ll give you… What do you want? I’ll PAY you!”

The head tipped up.

And the eyes sparkled.

“Okay. Okay, Aden.”

Opening.

“Yes!”

We arrived home. Money and stickers changed hands. I didn’t see it. But I heard of it.

Aden gave Akasha 60 cents for three stickers.

Akasha was ecstatic. Finally she had some cold hard cash.

We continued on throughout the month with our many shopping trips. There are other birthdays too. And a wedding. A school trip to Budapest. Our anniversary. Shoe requirements. And sometimes even food to buy.

Each time we’re in a shop, Akasha sees something that she desires. And wants to buy it. In the past I could always ask, “Do you have any money?” The situation would be immediately resolved. But now the answer is always the same:

“Yes! Aden gave me money!”

I stand in every shop and try to patiently explain that that, 35 Euro toy, can not be paid for with 60 cents. But she doesn’t get it. She, of course, has no sense of the value of money. She is too young to even try to understand. I have no chance.

Sometimes I buy her a little present. She’s always so pleased. I’m then joyful too. I do this for all the kids. Mostly individually. To make them feel special. But it’s just not possible with four kids, to buy them gifts all the time. Far too expensive. To be honest I wouldn’t want to anyway. It’s not necessary. There’s not enough space at home. And I find it better if they can appreciate what they are given. It doesn’t always work, of course. Especially in today’s throw away society. But I think it’s a good guide. All of the no’s make all of the yes’ much more appreciated.

Akasha, now armed with her 60 cents, has, if only in her own mind, the spending power of any millionaire.

And guess what?

It would appear that mummy is rich too. Always with a purse full of money.

This week in a local department store, Akasha announces that she would like that playmobil set. That one, right there. And that I should buy it for her. In return, she would give me the money back at home. From her 60 cents. Quite matter-of-fact.

Again explanations. No way. Your money just will not cover that. She listens. She cocks her head. She tries to follow. Eventually she sadly takes my hand, and lets me trail her to the checkout with my shopping basket full. On the approach she spots chocolates and juice. Can she have that then? No. She looks into my basket of necessary crap. Shampoo. Cards… She catches sight of wrapping paper… Can she at least buy that? Yes, yes… Happy with the compromise. The assistant babbles out some price. And I sign on the dotted line.

We leave hand in hand. Her carrying her gift wrap and me with my cloth bag.

We place all our wares in the car. She secures hers with a seat belt. Everything has to be protected at the moment. Toys. Kindergarten rucksack. Pictures. Even once: a leaf. No matter how late we’re running, she has to put the safety belt on by herself. Every time. Generally that’s why we are running late. She is completely independent and must do everything for herself. Or help with every job I do. No matter how difficult it is.

We drive to the supermarket and its neighbouring shoe shop. Food, and Akasha has outgrown her Kindergarten slippers.

I park. We walk together towards the shops. I look down at my daughter.

I’ve hardly heard the D-word from Akasha before. But then smiling sweetly, with those dangerous, colossal eyes:

“You have to buy me something, Darling mother!”

I can feel myself falling…

We leave the shoe shop sometime later. Akasha carries her own shopping bag. It contains one pair of Kindergarten slippers and one pair of pink and white ‘princess’ sandals…