What a country….

Tonight son1 and I are in Nagarkot, a small conurbation about 20km from Kathmandu. We are staying in a hotel perched on a hillside with panoramic views over the Himalayas with (on a good day) a view of Mt Everest in the distance. People flock to Nagarkot for the beauty of the sun rising over the mountains, turning the ice of the Everest summit pink in the morning light. Sunrise tomorrow is at 06.50 or thereabouts, and we will be up, hoping for a clear morning.

In the last seven days we have really pushed ourselves. We have travelled to 4 different parts of the country and crammed in the most intense, immersive experiences. We have visited both Buddhist and Hindu sacred places, observed the funeral and cremation practices of Hindus. We have jumped off mountains, climbed to a world peace Stupa, rowed across lakes. We have ridden elephants, walked through jungles, canoed past submerged crocodiles and followed rhino as they went to drink.

What a country where all this is available …

it’s not easy in Nepal.. the water is not fit to drink, nothing has a fixed price, it’s dirty, dusty, and smelly. The roads have no markings, are full of potholes and being driven anywhere is an alarming experience if you are used to traffic lights and the Highway Code. The poverty is all around you, grinding desperate examples of humanity literally scratching a living from the earth. Cows wander the streets (they are sacred) and are avoided and venerated; stray dogs are beaten and have stones thrown at them. Electricity goes off randomly, there are no trains; buses are crammed to capacity twice over… hotels are SO variable, it’s pot luck (slightly improved by the power of trip advisor) … the Nepalese drop litter EVERYWHERE, and seem to care nothing for dustbins, they spit in the street, and double the price of everything the minute you walk into their shop…

But …. but: The Nepalese are friendly and welcoming, they are genuinely kind. They smile and try to help you, it feels very safe here. The scenery is breathtaking and the ongoing efforts at conservation of endangered species are really special. In Chitwan, for example, poaching of tigers has been eliminated by the stationing of significant numbers of Army living IN the Park, regular checks on visitors / permits and guides (four times in the day we were in the park) and rigorous prosecution of any offenders. Tiger numbers are increasing, slowly, but they are increasing. The new government is investing hugely in infrastructure – new roads, safe reliable internal air travel and there are a few small local co-operatives (eg in Sauraha there is one selling jungle honey where all the bee keepers join together, pool their honey to make the best and all charge a fixed price)

I’ve fallen in love with this country with all its problems, and below I’ve posted a few photos to give a taste of the infinite variety of experiences we have had over the last week.

There are so many more things I want to write about, to do with my relationship with Son1, about his maturation and experiences , about what I have learned about myself this week… but these can wait till the thoughts have percolated a little …

just a small word about alcohol. It has not crossed my mind to drink this holiday. I have not missed it at all. The one evening we went somewhere quite nice I had the most delicious minty, citrusy virgin Mohito … I could NEVER have done what I have this week with a hangover, fuzzy head or pre-occupation with the next alcoholic drink… I truly feel like an adult who does not drink because she doesn’t want to – and I have gained so much from this on this trip .. I wonder why I ever drank at all ?

Son 1

 

Yesterday was for me about son #1. Forgive this, and skip it if you either don’t have kids, or they have never given you a moments worry!! Son#1 ( I will call him B) was born to me as a single mother. His biological father has never seen him or had anything at all to do with him. He signed over parental rights to B (to my ex husband who adopted him) when B was 3. It took me a VERY LONG TIME, to see that it was not I, who failed B (although I take my share of less than perfect behaviour) but his useless feckless father who abandoned his responsibilities as a FATHER.  I have not yet forgiven myself for the “mistake” of conceiving a child in these circumstances.

So B and I were a unit, from the beginning. We lived in one room in my mother’s house. I had £50 a week maternity allowance and NOTHING else. B was prem, sickly and had reflux. He had apnoea one day and was blue lighted to hospital – that was probably the worst day of my life. But, I’m tough, and I was a qualified GP (family doctor) so from 3 months old I started working, part time, locum shifts to start with. Found child care, upped my hours and when B was 11 months old I applied for and got a partnership in a local practice – where I still am today. I bought us a small house, B thrived. All good.

Then I met my ex husband. He is the subject of another blog post. And the reasons why I married him are the subject of about 2 blog posts, I think. But I did, and sons 2 and 3, both planned, came along. All good you might think. Except that exH was a drug addict (cannabis – and later cocaine- and cannabis, like alcohol is probably OK for most people – but for some it is most definitely NOT OK) my exH fell into the latter category.  A messy, painful, frightening, desperate few years passed, and I divorced him.

to his credit exH has always treated B as his own son, and this continued after we divorced.

I identified early that B was not quite like other kids. He smiled late, he never had separation anxiety, his speech was a little delayed, he had odd phrases, and these persisted after you would expect them to have stopped. He was not fully and reliably dry till about 6. But, even though I am a bloody doctor, I never put 2 & 2 together to get the correct answer. I think I might have done if he had had an older sibling, but he was my first.  He went to school and struggled. Eventually, aged 9 he got a diagnosis of moderate dyslexia, followed swiftly by a positive assessment for Asperger’s syndrome.

It’s  mild. The aspergers, but it has shaped his whole life. You don’t see it when he is with adults, as he has trained himself to make pretty good eye contact and he is articulate. You don’t see it with younger kids, who will do as an older child directs, But you do see it with his peers, where he is “odd” and they exclude him. This happened again and again, and you can’t make kids be kind to each other. The full extent of the bullying he felt at junior school has only very recently come to my attention.

He started stealing, and lying compulsively. He started ordering things on the internet meant for adults, he skipped school. He was expelled from school for theft (on CCTV ) and arrested for possession of cannabis. By now he was 14/15. Academic study stopped. He got in with the wrong crowd because he was so desperate for friends. He failed all but 3 of his GCSE exams ( for my non UK readers, a child of his ability should have got 8-10 good passes) significantly he did not pass English.

He took a resit year. Did no work, spent almost  all his time with a girl I cannot say I was pleased with. Failed again.

In the meantime his weight has doubled, he had no motivation to exercise, was unable to find even a part time job, was sullen, uncommunicative and his future looked very very bleak indeed.

And all the time ( from aged 13 probably) exP has been imposing increasingly severe and unkind sanctions on him. Bullying him, humiliating him, criticising him, calling him ‘fat’ and ‘ useless’ . Not always, but enough. And he would not see that it was wrong. The fact that he has limited relationships with his own adult children, now seems extremely relevant.

Dont get me wrong, the compulsive lying and the theft – from family, friends, school, our friends, us, me his grandparents – has been very, very hard. I have hated it. But you can’t hold what he did at 14/15 over his head for ever. He’s now almost 18 and I don’t believe he has stolen anything for at least 12 months.

One of the biggest deal breakers for exP and I has been his relationship with B. We went to family therapy for a while, but exP would not really engage.

Until B and I went to the Army recruitment centre; until this last fortnight on the NCS programme, until he dumped the odious girlfriend (he has done so) I saw little hope. By letting go of ExP I have provided him with his safe space again, at home.

The future is still uncertain. It won’t be easy. But at least now there is hope.

Being a mother is hard. But I love him, and he is MY son. He is kind, can be very considerate, has learned to control his temper – he never ever scares me like exP does and he’s just as strong – he’s good natured, and given the right opportunity I do believe he will  thrive …

i know it will take me years to forgive myself for not removing exP from his life years ago.

First meeting with a different therapist tomorrow : and another on Friday. I need the right person.

 

 

 

Random thoughts about being Adult 

Looking back over the last 8 weeks or so, when I have been making a point to blog regularly, it’s quite obvious to me how my thinking has developed as I have more sober time ‘under my belt’ …

Some of my more esoteric posts about yoga or karma represent initial thinking about subjects I have not previously given any ‘air time’ – probably because far too much space in my brain was taken up with the emotional paraphernalia and fall out from drinking. Now that I am sober, and my mood swings have definitely calmed down, I seem to have a lot more ‘brain space’ for some of these more philosophical musings. At times I don’t think they come out clearly, and my own belief system seems very much in its infancy … But I’m interested, enquiring and reflective, and this represents progress to me.

In the last couple of weeks it has been the end of the school year, for sons no 2 and 3; and we have been to assemblies to celebrate the children’s achievements. Son number 2 attends a local state school with an “outstanding” Ofsted report (those in the UK will understand this, for other readers it’s a government assessment of the quality of education the School provides – or it’s supposed to be ! ) Attending the end of year assembly it struck me how consistent the messages were coming from all the staff. There were prizes for effort, achievement and attendance; some children’s musical or oratorical talents were showcased, but again and again the messages coming from staff were about respect (for yourself, peers, staff, property) hard work and commitment  (academically, in sport, in all endeavours) and self confidence.

Similarly, the leavers assembly at number 3 son’s school, was full of consistent messages promoting respect, reflection, responsibility, resourcefulness, resilience and reasoning (6R’s)

All of this has got me thinking about the role of adults, and particularly parents in promoting the values and attributes we wish children (especially our own) to adopt: not in a passive way – which to be honest is far to often how I have parented- but actively, firmly and consistently. About how to BE an adult who has a huge and direct influence on the way our children develop. I’m beginning to beleive it’s not enough to passively get on with ones own life alongside ones children, expecting them to somehow absorb the lessons we want them to learn. I have always fed, clothed,washed and loved my kids, I have supervised homework, taken them to clubs and parties, taught them to ride bikes and tie shoelaces. I am, at least, a good enough Parent..

BUT… have I really been present? Have I known what consistent messages I needed to deliver to bring up worthwhile adults, have I consistently made them complete tasks to the best of their ability, developed their potential, attended to their moral education? Yes at times, but consistently ? No. Because I have been drunk, and too drunk to do this , or even really understand that this is what needed to be done.

That’s shame. And there is NO-ONE to blame but myself, and no excuse , and it’s probably too late for son No1; but it’s not too late for son’s 2 & 3 who may now find their slightly easy going, lackadaisical mother has  developed some clearer ideas about effective , directional parenting, which might make their lives initially harder, but will, I hope, bear fruit in the end.

I need to think some more, about what I believe to be important. And then take steps to actively, consistently and clearly Instill those behaviours by accepting nothing less. Can I do this? Along with everything else I have to do ? Maybe it’s actually more important than anything else I have to do, and should be prioritised.

That will have implications, but …..