I regularly find myself fascinated, amazed and frequently speechless about the differences between Ellie and her step brother. There are lots of differences but for once, I’m not going to tell you what I’m talking about, I’m going to show you…because one simple, seemingly innocuous object perfectly demonstrates my point.
This is the contents of Ellie’s school bag this evening:
This is the contents of her Step brother’s school bag this evening:
Shall we play spot the difference? Well, you get the point.
What’s interesting is what this says about their different approaches to school and to life generally. Neither one of them is a better approach than the other, but they are just fascinating in their difference.
Ellie is very ordered about her school work, school bag and pretty much everything in her life. She likes to know where her things are, what she’s going to be doing and she likes things in their place. This makes her keen to do her school work, keen to help tidy and a touch over the top when things aren’t quite right – enter tantrum stage left.
Ellie’s step brother is much more relaxed about life in general, and whilst that can be frustrating because he won’t volunteer to do school work and usually can’t find his stuff…he worries less and is generally more relaxed about what’s going on around him.
What this reminds me is that no single style of parenting can ever be seen as the ‘right’ style – because different children need different things. There is no doubting the fact that Ellie and her step brother need totally different styles of parenting input. Of course knowing this is the easy part, but doing it…well, I’m learning.
By virtue of the fact that I’m no longer with Ellie’s Dad she obviously goes to stay with him regularly – every other weekend and then for longer holidays two or three times a year. This Easter, Ellie was away at her Dad’s for a week and a half, it was her 5th birthday and, I really missed her. The house was quiet and her room was empty.
Normally, when Ellie’s away I don’t write about it, primarily because it’s usually Ellie stuff I write about and I clearly can’t do that when she isn’t here. This time though I found myself wanting to write about how it feels when she’s away because it’s something I think people often don’t talk about and because, as always, there’s an element of self-therapy in writing about it.
The emotions involved are quite honestly complicated and it’s really difficult to describe. In the day before Ellie goes away it’s not unusual for me to look forward to it – it is after all a chance for me to sort stuff, have time to myself and time to spend with my partner.
Then when the time comes to wave goodbye, I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach, a kind of lurch, a kind of empty space. It’s particularly strong when, like on this occasion, she’s going away for longer than a weekend. It’s a feeling unique to dropping Ellie off and it’s a heady mix of sadness, happiness, excitement and guilt. I feel sadness because she’s going and I will miss her. Happiness because her excitement to see her Dad, step mum and new baby sister is as it should be and I love that she’s so settled with it all. I feel excitement because as I’ve already said I do make the most of the time and often appreciate the break and finally, guilt (the ever present parenting emotion) becauseI enjoy the time.
Whilst she’s away for longer periods of time I inevitably miss her more than usual and I have what I can only describe as a compulsion to make the most of the time. I fill my head with lists of things to do and achieve before she gets back – whether it’s relaxing, doing some jobs or whatever.
There are then some entirely new emotions which surface when it’s finally time to collect Ellie again. There’s always excitement and anticipation, but what you might not expect, is that after a longer holiday away I always feel a little anxious. Crazy as it sounds I worry that she might not want to come home, I worry that she’ll be inconsolably upset at saying bye to her Dad or that somehow our closeness will be affected. Now I’m not new to all this and I know in my sane head that the anxiety is not valid, but somehow it doesn’t stop me feeling it! Then again as always my little girl provides the balance and as I see her running up to me, any worries are forgotten and the only emotion I feel is simply love for her.