I don't often blog about my daughter. The additional needs that she has have proved, to some people, more contentious. The nosey want to know the details, what lies behind the public displays of behaviour at which they turn up their nose. I will never forget being approached by a woman I barely knew, in the park one day, who asked me to come to her house for a coffee as she and her friends were 'dying to hear all about her'. If I hadn't been so flabbergasted by her sheer front, I would have managed more than a death-stare a 'no thanks' and a haughty exit. One of my greatest regrets in life is that I didn't punch her.
This time last year I was still feeling rough from a flu-type thing that, for a fortnight, gave me a temperature I couldn't shift, a burning throat, shortness of breath and a cough that lasted for three months. 2020 has been a shocker for everyone. Many of us are finishing the year with fewer friends or family members than we started with and all of us have been hurt by isolation, distance and a lack of touch. God knows we are exhausted by it. The year has made a liar out of me - the badge that I was so delighted to receive from my friend proclaiming that 'I hate hugs' is currently not true - I miss them terribly, although I suspect that my awkwardness will return in time. Overall it has been a year when all behaviour has been governed and tainted by fear and I join the rest of the world in wearily sending it on its way.
There were, of course, some good things that happened. The first lockdown meant that I managed to turn the bramble-infested end of my garden into a wildlife habit, planting every left-over seed I could find and finishing the summer with lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and cosmos. As the world started opening up again I could get hold of flowering plants for pollinators and it became a haven for bees, hoverflies and butterflies, a visiting fox and several frogs and toads. My son helped build a bug hotel, my daughter painted bird feeders and a ladybird house. We aspire to a hedgehog. Hopefully by next spring there will be enough cover there to attract birds gutsy enough to out-wit our cats.
My kids have been heroic. There is no other word for it. Distance from their relatives has hurt them deeply and they are trying hard to believe that this will all end and we will be able to step inside their homes again. Both flung themselves back into school and have cracked on - my admiration for them, and for all the children who have managed to continue to learn anything at all despite being frightened, is huge. We have asked so much of them.
But if I had to pinpoint one positive moment in my year that rocked me to my core I need look no further than my little girl. Two days before the end of term she strolled up to the car with a curious look on her face. At first I put it down to her continued delight in her recent and hard-won privilege; permission to walk out of school with a friend and meet me three minutes later in the car - a necessary recognition of her growing maturity, that, for me, lasts for the equivalent of an hour of lip-biting, eye-straining and thoughts of 'what the hell was I thinking'. But something more had happened. Climbing into her car seat she thrust a small certificate into my hand. It was an award for the amount of home reading she had completed over the term. Some kids get these things all the time; for her it was her first and she knew that for once it wasn't an award for effort, or for trying hard. It was an award that she had been given because she had actually earned it. She, and the others who had read a similar amount, had been rewarded with a film, popcorn and squash in the school hall. It had been a revelation. This was what you got for a term's work and by god it was worth it. She announced that she planned to gain her certificate again next term. And then she said some words that I never thought I'd hear,
'I'm really proud of myself, Mummy'.
Roll on 2021. There will be good things ahead, I'm certain of it.
Photo credit to MB, of my daughter's school