The Knee Fairy

“Why do we have to go? We’re not even English, we’re Scottish”

We’re not Scottish, we have Scottish roots and we love Scotland but we only say we’re Scottish to annoy my Dad. The Eldest coming out with this, when my dad wasn’t even about, made me roar. Clearly he was clutching at straws when thinking this would get him out of going to a St George’s Day do when we all know he just doesn’t want to leave the house, ever, for anything, under any circumstances.

I ignored him and continued to make jam sandwiches. Never take your children anywhere without a picnic, you don’t have to eat it, you can always hit the cafe if the mood takes you but I guarantee you if you leave the house foodless there will be no cafe or, like today, it’s queue will be longer than its menu.

We left. Jam and ham sandwiches at the ready. Only two out of the three of us were happy about this. Not the sandwiches you understand, no, it was the leaving that screwed up the third face. We pretended we hadn’t noticed, we were oblivious to the fact that we were soon to join him in his screwed upness.

Oh hell, it was freezing out, I’ve never eaten a picnic in such horrific conditions. We joked that the jam was freezing as we ate but it was us, we were freezing as we ate. We marched, it was the only thing to do. We marched and we giggled and we ate below minus degree jam butties and we decided we were getting the heck out of there, who needed to see St George slay the dragon anyway? Once you’ve seen one hearty dragon slaying you’ve seen them all.

We started to run.

“Go faster” shouted The Youngest.

But it was too late, The Eldest had seen some poo and had started to gag. Now, like most folk when a gag has occurred, it is tricky for The Eldest to prevent the ensuing chain reaction, the snowball effect if you will. The sighting of a poo on a full belly whilst running was a recipe for disaster but it was ok because we were already leaving, our trip out already pants could not become more ruined. We continued at a less vomit inducing pace.

“Oh look, fighting” squeals my four year old, who is now wearing a crown and wielding a plastic sword.

She’d spotted the gladiators and she loved them on sight.

“Go. Go get him. Oooh, good shot. Mum the red one is dead!”

She seemed rather too pleased about this. The Eldest was getting desperate by now.

“Can we go? He’s not really dead, it’s pretend for goodness sake!”

He had the right hump and was determined to spoil his sisters fun. She wellied him with her sword.

“Yes he is, he’s dead!”

It was more of a question than anything else. I nodded. Does a nod count as I lie?

Back at the car we turned up the heating. I’ve never been that cold. We were 15 minutes away from the arrival of the dragon but not one of us gave a damn. We go home and crank the heating up there too, eventually we thaw and I throw The Youngest in the bath.

The Youngest is the tougher of the two, she’s had some corking mishaps, the sort that make you go all unnecessary at the thought of them however long ago they happened. Thing is, she has a grazed knee, she cannot look at it, if she sees it she starts to limp. Not one of those limps that kids only have when they know you’re watching but one that is there even when you are not, you know, a not real but real limp. An intermittent limpette.

Anyhoo, the plaster hiding the graze came off in the bath and she came face to face with the week old scuff. We had real tears. Real tears from a lass who once ran so fast into the corner of an open car door that her feet left the floor and she landed on her bottom. For this she complained a tad but this smudge on her knee, just by being in plain sight, had weakened her. My mum told her a fairy would come to kiss the knee as she slept and make it better.

“Mum, the mermaid will kiss it and it will be better” The Youngest sobbed.

I looked at my mum who mouthed the words

“Sorry, I said fairy”

Yes, that’s why I looked at her, to confirm which made up creature would be visiting us tonight.

What a bunch we are, can’t cope with the cold, a poo or a graze. Thank goodness we didn’t meet our patron saint today, he who takes down fire breathing beasties, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Knee fairies indeed.

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I wish I were more like Sir Gagalot.

The Eldest has panic attacks, has done from an early age, separation anxiety it seems, something we think only worries our very young, our babies and toddlers but never our bigger kids. I had the best job in the world, I was a postie I’ll have you know, but I left so that I could be there to take him to and from school, to be ready at a moments notice for assemblies, plays, walks to church and the likes. Despite this he is convinced that I will drop him off and never go back.

I’ve never even so much as been a few moments late but if the bell went and he couldn’t immediately see my cheesy grin he would start to gag and cry and lose his shit. He became affectionately known as Sir Gagalot, still is.

It is quite remarkable how quick he can go from calm to horrified, there’s not much build up, at least not to the lay person, a pro like myself can spot his concern a mile off and sometimes, but not all times, nip a good hearty panic in the bud.

Now, I have spoken to every single person under the sun about this and how to help him. I’ve read and I’ve read and I’ve read everything I could find regarding children and anxiety. We’ve tried everything we could possibly think of but to no avail. The doctor thought that maybe a move to middle school would do him the power of good, a bit of independence, a feeling of not needing me so much, he said to hold fire on the therapy that I was harping on about at the time.

I held fire.

Nope. If anything he felt worse than ever. I spoke to the school and they said all the things I wanted to hear and then did nothing. He got worse. In their defence he looks fine, he is a good boy, his work is fine, there are no problems in that department, he has friends and a wicked sense of humour. They must look at him and think what a shame it is that his mother is a crazy lady but they can’t see how he feels, nobody can see how he feels, nobody can see how anybody feels.

I called a therapist. Within ten minutes of chatting to her she decided it might be a good idea if she saw us both. Odd huh? Ten minutes to work out I am a mess and I’ve passed it on. I decided she knew her stuff and booked us in. Sadly, as lovely as she was, and she was really very lovely, I could almost see her words washing over The Eldest. He’s heard most of them before, from me, he didn’t believe me and he didn’t believe her. The next morning he had the mother of all panic attacks. I told the school he wasn’t going back until someone listened to him.

They listened and things improved.

Now to work on the stuff that has nothing to do with school. The parties he’ll not go to without me. I have been to some lovely children’s parties, I’ve made pizza and been to the cinema. The kindness shown by some of his friends parents makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, they knew if they invited him they got me too and they invited him anyway. If I couldn’t go, because I wasn’t invited, he’d just not go and that was that. He doesn’t go to friends houses. He can’t sit in the car when I pay for fuel, he comes with me in case I leave him. I tell him everywhere I’m going, the garden, to the bin, to the bathroom, if he forgets and can’t find me within seconds he phones nanny in a panic.

We think we know when and why this all started and we think we know why it is still going on. To cut a long story very very short he’s been let down by a few grownups, important grownups, grownups that should have had his back but didn’t and now there are very few people he trusts, even those he can he doesn’t because of the actions of a few. He trusts me and because he trusts me he cannot lose me not even while I hang the washing. He recently told me that the best part of his day is walking into the house because he feels safe. I am now on a mission.

I contacted CHUMS. CHUMS is a place where children go for support, support through whatever it is that makes them unhappy, worried or scared. I thought CHUMS would, like many others before them, poo poo me, they didn’t. The best thing about CHUMS is that they listened to him, not me, him and now we go to Anxiety Club. The Eldest goes off with a group of similarly minded children (with my car keys so that I can’t leave him there) and they chat, play games and eat lots of biscuits. I’m hoping that knowing he’s not the only anxious kid in the land will help him feel less of a loon if nothing else. We’ve still a couple of sessions to go but I’m keeping my fingers, toes and eyes crossed that all will be well in his world or, in the very least, that he’ll be able to cope better when it’s not.

As for the Anxiety Club parents, we go off and chat, play games and eat biscuits and we try to find ways to help our kids. We wear name badges and we work in pairs, it’s not at all embarrassing. It is so embarrassing. The first week we had to introduce ourselves, oh the horror, my worst nightmare.

“Hello, I’m Tina and I’m a chocoholic”

I didn’t say that, I wanted to but didn’t. I’ll tell you what I did say though.

This week there was a bowl of Smarties being passed around. We had to take the bowl and tell the group which quality we have that we would like our child to inherit. Fuck! Nothing from me, I wouldn’t wish any of my personality traits on him. I love him too much for that. Please, please, any God or Godess out there, let him grow into a cute version of his father. Not that his father isn’t cute of course, that is the reason I married him after all, that and he had money. Oh did I say money? I meant a magnetic noughts and crosses set and a horrid blue jumper. That’s all he brought with him and once I’d ‘lost’ the blue jumper we were very happy indeed.

“Oh God” I thunked but said out loud.

The nice lady running the group said they’d go the other way around, give me chance to ponder on it. I plumped for sense of humour mainly because I know he already has one. He must have, we call him Sir Gagalot for goodness sake, he knows funny when he hears it. We then had to go around again and say the very thing we hope they don’t inherit. Boy the things I’ll do for a Smartie. This was far easier though.

“I have absolutely no self belief and I hope it isn’t catching” said I.

“Oh” said the nice lady “I wouldn’t have thought that of you”

I was pleased, it meant I had bluffed it pretty well.

On the way home myself and The Eldest were chatting about what we’d been up to, he spoke mainly of the biscuits. I told him about the Smarties.

“You don’t believe in yourself?” he asked.

“No, not much”

“But mum, you can do anything, anything you want if you just go for it. You are clever, if you want to do something you must do it. I believe in you”

He then talked me into a McDonalds.

“Go on mum, turn around in the next layby, I’m starving” he said with a belly full of biscuits.

He’s nine and he is awesome. Children with anxiety often have low self esteem apparently, not this one. Occasionally he will ask who I would be if I could be anybody. That’s a no brainer, Meryl Streep obviously. If I ask him he always says nobody.

“I would be me”

I told the nice lady at Anxiety Club this and she said I must be doing a good job bringing up The Eldest. Little does she know that everything I’ve learnt worth learning has been taught, inadvertently, to me by my kids. It is they that are doing a good job with me.

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