I previously wrote a blog post back in November titled Teenage Bullying and Opting out of Mainstream Education, all about my daughter Libby and the terrible time she had at school, being bullied my her peers, judged by her teachers and the drastic steps she took to try to deal with the nightmare she was going through. It has been about a year since Libby’s suicide attempt, I have no desire to remember the date, it just blurs into ‘a Tuesday sometime in late January’. The difference in her is so apparent and so wonderful for me to watch as her mother, it is a great blessing to us and another sign perhaps as to how mainstream education does not always know how to capture the creative energy and imagination of a child.
Last night a most incredible thing happened in amongst all of the heartbreak and joy we have had over the past year. We came home late and Libby brought tea and sat down with me, saying that she was thinking of going on to Sixth Form in September to study A-Levels in Science, English, Language and Maths. I tried to hide my overjoyed need to jump up and hug her as I didn’t want to overwhelm her with my hopes and wishes, I sat calmly and told her how wonderful I thought that would be. Libby had her world crushed by everything that has happened over the years, her self esteem was almost non existent after being judged by so many of her friends, abandoned by her peers at school and all the problems she has had trying to relate to her father. But the learning centre where she has been since last September, an educational environment designed for those children that haven’t been able to cope within the mainstream, has started to give it all back. Over the past few months she has been through many possible paths for furthering her education once her GCSE’s are completed this summer, none of them matching her academic ability and some playing with the idea of leaving education altogether, but that has not been an issue for me, she could do anything and I’d be happy, just so long as she is ok. Libby was always a high achiever at school when she was younger, something was completely trashed in her at her Upper School, apparently one of the best schools in the country and her confidence at being able to manage even a few A-levels disappeared. I am not a pushy parent, if she chose to take a vocational subject or an apprenticeship that would be fine with me, I gave up on my A-Levels and went to art college, but for Libby to just begin to rediscover her confidence in her ability is wonderful.
Whether she changes her mind tomorrow and becomes a sculptress, a singer, a car mechanic or a hairdresser it makes no difference, she’s beautiful. While Libby was having therapy last year, her therapist shared with me that he felt one of the surest ways to help Libby get back to balance and true health was through her education. He quickly picked up on how bright and capable she was, how let down she had been by her school and how tragic it would be if she became lost and didn’t use her talents and abilities to her best advantage. I am looking forward to sharing the news of her confidence returning with him. I hugged her extra tight as I said goodnight later on, told her how very happy I was for her for coming through so much and beginning to feel so sure of herself once again, told her how special she is for turning her life around, and also how happy I was for myself to have such an incredible daughter.
Libby started her first job today too. Working locally for a business making gorgeous craft sets, a few hours a week, fitting perfectly around the flexible timetable she has at the learning centre. So good for her to be in an adult working environment, earning her own wage and within an artistic setting that she can relate to and enjoy. Libby has gained much at the centre from working in the art department for two days a week, it has been like a therapy for her and I have always had faith in art and creativity as a healer, it has worked for my daughter a great deal. The job feels like another blessing for her.
Libby now has a lovely boyfriend, they have been together a while and he has become like a part of our family, often here, babysitting with Libby while I work late, joining us on mad family outings to the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, albeit begrudgingly as I woke them at 5am! He is a welcome addition and if anyone makes my daughter smile and laugh they are welcome. Both I and Libby’s younger siblings have commented on how happy she is when he is here and when he’s gone, how the sound of their giggling is one of the most joyous sounds we could hear. I worry of course, any mother of a teenager would. I worry that they are too wrapped up in each other, spending too much time, what if it goes wrong, will she hit the floor again, are they too possessive, too needy. But then I think of how hard it has been for Libby, for all the children, so much loss and grief around relationships. Their own fathers who have often been difficult over the decade I’ve lived alone, making things complicated and sometimes being unsupportive. The last partner I had who made himself a huge feature in their lives and then recently left without a word, leaving all the children with a hole and a question mark that I’m still not sure how deeply has affected them. I just know they are all angry, confused and their self esteem has taken quite a knock to be left so abruptly. It doesn’t matter how many excuses I make for him, theres a feeling of rejection that they don’t need at their delicate ages, particularly Libby at sixteen. Her younger siblings are still at an age where comfort can be gained by my maternal hugs and kisses, but Libby is moving away from the family bond. Perhaps Libby needs this kind of intense bond with someone her age, he is kind, funny, affectionate, caring and thoughtful, perhaps she needs that and I keep my concerns to myself, standing watchfully back ready to catch her if she falls, isn’t that what being a parent of an adolescent is all about? Isn’t our role simply to offer support, guidance where needed and if asked for, an open heart, an open mind and a never ending amount of forgiveness and compassion for all they do.
We’ve had many more ups and downs over the past year, concerns about smoking and drugs but I was young once too, my mis-spent youth spilled over well into adulthood and although I am like many modern parents in my lack of knowledge about legal highs and the other chemicals our teens are taking, I can also spot a pair of out-of-it eyes a mile off and sense a come-down mood swing before it has a chance to hit the wall. I’ve been worried, very worried but whatever was happening for a few months in autumn last year, it isn’t happening now. We’ve talked a lot about drugs, not just a ‘don’t do it’ chat but about being careful who you trust if you are going to try something, watching out for cheap drugs from dodgy dealers that might be cut with nasty crap, we talked about the reality of what to do if a friend gets really ill and messed up on something and how its always better to call me at 3am for help than to try to cope with any situation alone. But since she’s been with her boyfriend, I have been able to stop worrying so much. They spend most of their time here or at his house in the next village, I know his parents they are also kind and help a lot, taxi-ing them around, we laugh affectionately about them and how sweet and in love they are, it all feels nice, really nice.
For months after Libby’s suicide attempt I would sometimes worry day and night about where she was and whether she was ok, I had to call the police several times to try to find her and had strict boundaries on her staying away from home and calling me at 11 pm to let me know where she was and if she was alright. I had to have the numbers of where ever she was staying, sometimes I’d want to speak to the parents to make sure they were being supervised, it was an endless and heartbreaking stress and worry for me, trying to make sure my vulnerable child was safe, but also knowing she would push further and further away from me if I didn’t try to let her go. All that has changed, it feels like a distant memory now. I can trust Libby, I even left her and her boyfriend home alone a few weeks ago while I went to a Satsang gathering with Satyananda in Wiltshire, I came home to find too sleepy teens on the sofa surrounded by chocolate wrappers and a pile of dishes in the kitchen. The left over champagne and the sloe gin from Christmas untouched in the kitchen cupboard, I was left flummoxed at how responsible and lovely they are!
This weekend is also special because it is the first time in four months that Libby has gone to stay with her father in London. They’ve had ongoing teenage daughter-struggling father issues for a long time and their relationship completely broke down last autumn. Perhaps when my partner left Libby felt like she’d had enough of even trying with any of them, perhaps her pain about that loss only highlighted how difficult things were with her Dad. She stopped going altogether and even refused to spend Christmas with him. This felt like the ultimate rejection and caused me great concern. I want all my children to have relationships with their fathers, there is so much evidence to prove that the long term damage to a child who has no connection to a parent is far greater than that of having contact with a less than ideal one. I have no judgement of Libby’s father, I just want her to be able to know him, so I set about trying to help them heal their rift by taking all of the children up to London after Christmas and us all going out for a fun day and a supper on the south bank. Anyone who knows him and I will know that this was no mean feat! We had such a fun time, everyone enjoyed it, especially Libbys little sister who was so happy to be sat between her mum and dad in a restaurant being hugged and kissed by both! Being together and Libby feeling protected by having me there, meant that she had a chance to remember that her Dad is a funny, cheeky, energetic man who does love and care about her in his own way. Libby needs to know her father and he needs to give her the love and approval that she needs, I sit and pray that their weekend will go well and they will heal their estrangement ready for more time together.
So much has happened in a year, so much has been brought to the surface, so much has healed. We’ve had tears and sorrow but now there is so much laughter and joy in our house, we are happier than we have ever been, I cannot remember a time when all the children were so settled. I have learnt many lessons and will be so much more careful about what kind of man I allow into the children’s lives and who I keep away. I will continue to encourage Libby’s relationship with her Dad but also be there to support her if she needs to make a stand and whatever she decides to make of her future, I will be here. Libby said herself that I will be better prepared to deal with any problems her brother and sister have, either with school or with their dads, friends or with myself as their mother, because I have had to face up to so much through her. I am grateful for my blessings everyday, for Libby’s life, her smile and her loving heart x