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I now understand the white-hot rage that comes through protecting my daughter

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When I was in my last year of primary school, I had a sleepover for my birthday. It was all anyone could talk about. I went to a small countryside school, with only around 70 pupils and all the girls in ‘top class’ had been invited.

 

All but one.

 

You see, in my 10-year-old wisdom I had decided not to invite just one of the girls in my class. Her crime? To say that my sleepover might be boring. That was enough to strike her off the guest list forever. Dick move by me, but, like I said, I was 10.

 

What I wasn’t

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expecting was to be confronted by the girls’ mother in the cloakroom at school pick up just days before the sleepover event. She blustered into the cloakroom with the girl in tears behind her. I immediately felt the hot flush of shame creep up my neck and set fire to my ears.

 

‘So, I take it Ellie*’s not invited to this sleepover?’ she said. Even as a 10-year-old I could recognise the signs of a mum on the edge.

 

‘Well, um, she said…’ I faltered, hoping the mum would help me out, or at least one of the other girls in

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the cloakroom who were gaping, open-mouthed at the exchange. ‘She can come if she wants to.’ I finally blurted out.

 

‘Right, good, that’s settled then,’ said the mum, before turning on her heals and dragging Ellie behind her.

 

I’ve often thought of that moment. In those sleepless nights when you somehow manage to recall every single awful thing you have ever done in exquisite detail. However, 28 years on, I finally understand the white-hot rage Ellie’s mum must have felt that day.

 

Recently, my own

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daughter experienced something similar and, although I haven’t confronted the daughter (or her mum) in the same way, I have felt the rage. The thorough, gut wrenching pain of seeing your child go through something you have no control over.

 

Thankfully, her situation hasn’t brought her to tears. She seems non-plussed, in fact. She goes to a much bigger school and there are plenty of other things to keep her mind busy. Which is good because I feel as though, were she to show any signs of distress, I would channel my inner Ellie’s mum and

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let this volcano of emotion erupt all over the playground, destroying the new sensory garden.

 

I am well aware how silly this all sounds. They’re small. I’m 38 and should know better. But it’s primal. I was reminded by a friend that this need to protect our young from any type of harm doesn’t really ever go away. No matter if it’s friendship squabbles or oncoming traffic. It’s built in and we just need to learn how to deal with it.

 

I, by no means, think that confronting a 10-year-old girl in the cloakroom of her

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primary school was the right path to go down, but I get it now. I get it BIG TIME. What’s more, I kind of have a whole new respect for Ellie’s mum.

At the end of it all Ellie came to the sleepover and we all had a really fun time. Because, 10 year olds can be dicks. They’re allowed, they’re 10. And what’s more, mums can feel the pain for them. That’s what we’re for.

 

 

*Names have been changed.

 

 

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Gemma Barder

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- 21 Oct 19

When I was in my last year of primary school, I had a sleepover for my birthday. It was all anyone could talk about. I went to a small countryside school, with only around 70 pupils and all the girls in ‘top class’ had been invited.

 

All but one.

 

You see, in my 10-year-old wisdom I had decided not to invite just one of the girls in my class. Her crime? To say that my sleepover might be boring. That was enough to strike her off the guest list forever. Dick move by me, but, like I said, I was 10.

 

What I wasn’t expecting was to be confronted by the girls’ mother in the cloakroom at school pick up just days before the sleepover event. She blustered into the cloakroom with the girl in tears behind her. I immediately felt the hot flush of shame creep up my neck and set fire to my ears.

 

‘So, I take it Ellie*’s not invited to this sleepover?’ she said. Even as a 10-year-old I could recognise the signs of a mum on the edge.

 

‘Well, um, she said…’ I faltered, hoping the mum would help me out, or at least one of the other girls in the cloakroom who were gaping, open-mouthed at the exchange. ‘She can come if she wants to.’ I finally blurted out.

 

‘Right, good, that’s settled then,’ said the mum, before turning on her heals and dragging Ellie behind her.

 

I’ve often thought of that moment. In those sleepless nights when you somehow manage to recall every single awful thing you have ever done in exquisite detail. However, 28 years on, I finally understand the white-hot rage Ellie’s mum must have felt that day.

 

Recently, my own daughter experienced something similar and, although I haven’t confronted the daughter (or her mum) in the same way, I have felt the rage. The thorough, gut wrenching pain of seeing your child go through something you have no control over.

 

Thankfully, her situation hasn’t brought her to tears. She seems non-plussed, in fact. She goes to a much bigger school and there are plenty of other things to keep her mind busy. Which is good because I feel as though, were she to show any signs of distress, I would channel my inner Ellie’s mum and let this volcano of emotion erupt all over the playground, destroying the new sensory garden.

 

I am well aware how silly this all sounds. They’re small. I’m 38 and should know better. But it’s primal. I was reminded by a friend that this need to protect our young from any type of harm doesn’t really ever go away. No matter if it’s friendship squabbles or oncoming traffic. It’s built in and we just need to learn how to deal with it.

 

I, by no means, think that confronting a 10-year-old girl in the cloakroom of her primary school was the right path to go down, but I get it now. I get it BIG TIME. What’s more, I kind of have a whole new respect for Ellie’s mum.

At the end of it all Ellie came to the sleepover and we all had a really fun time. Because, 10 year olds can be dicks. They’re allowed, they’re 10. And what’s more, mums can feel the pain for them. That’s what we’re for.

 

 

*Names have been changed.

 

 

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Gemma Barder

Freelance writer of books and magazines for small people. Mother of two delightfully dotty daughters.

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